Thomas Edison was an undeniable genius. His processes and inventions still influence the way we live our lives today. Today’s conversation is one that will turn the lights on (no pun intended) for you and your manufacturing team if you’ll open yourself up to some ways of thinking about how you run your business. Today’s guest is Sarah Caldicott, author and great grandniece of Thomas Edison. Her new book “Midnight Lunch” profiles many of the strategies of collaboration and innovation that came out of Thomas Edison’s work teams, and delves into the ideas you can draw from his example to make your manufacturing company a game changer in the industry.
Thomas Edison didn’t believe in a hierarchical company structure
Don’t misunderstand, he was entirely “in charge” of the companies he created, but he was never a dictator or one who felt he had to come up with all the answers. He fostered a climate of cooperation and peer relationships that served to spark innovation and creativity in ways most manufacturing companies today can only dream of. Sarah Caldicott shares stories of Edison’s amazing work habits and approach in this episode of Making Chips, and in doing so provides practical ways you can adjust your approach to innovation and product development that could transform your place and impact on the manufacturing industry.
What would happen if the teams within your company engaged in more dialogue and debate?
At first, the idea might sound a bit out of control, or difficult to manage. But we’re not talking about adversarial debate, here, we’re talking about challenging, constructive, goal-oriented debate that brings about new ideas and fresh ways of thinking. It’s the type of atmosphere Thomas Edison built into every one of his many companies, and the type of synergy that enabled him to bring so many world-changing inventions to the world. Sarah Caldicott highlights how that happened and provides ideas about how modern manufacturing companies can apply the same approach to become innovators in their niche of the manufacturing industry.
If you can cross-train your employees you’ll be able to create a greater synergy.
That’s a principle straight out of Thomas Edison’s own approach to building and working with teams. He found that having team members adequately trained to work in multiple areas and even on different projects enabled the team as a whole to come up with better ideas, see other options, and approach difficulties with fresh eyes. Nobody was allowed to stay locked in one area of expertise but rather was encouraged (even required) to step into other projects that grew and challenged their thinking and abilities. The end result is that Edison’s teams were able to pioneer 6 distinct industries within 30 years, all which are still with us today. Find out more from Sarah Caldicott as she discusses her newest book, “Midnight Lunch” on this episode of Making Chips.
What was the only reason Thomas Edison ever got angry with an employee?
Was it when they failed to reach a designated goal? Was it because they made a huge mistake? Was it because they failed to do what they’d been told to do? None of those are the reason. Thomas Edison only got angry with employees when they were careless. Carelessness means they weren’t “taking care” to think through the eventualities and possibilities of what they were doing and to safeguard against bad results as much as they were able. How does that approach shed light on your attitude toward employees? How can you adjust to make the environment in your company more amenable to cooperation and collaboration? Find out how Edison’s approach could help you grow in those areas, on this episode.
Outline of this episode
[1:06] Welcome and introducing Sarah Caldicott, great grandniece of THE Thomas Edison.
[1:40] Calls to action for this episode
[2:08] Introduction of Sarah, her background, experience, and current projects.
[3:47] Sarah’s summary of her newest book, “Midnight Lunch,” and how it came from the practices and experiences carried out in the workshop of of Thomas Edison himself.
[7:23] How a 5 person company could create great innovations in the Manufacturing Industry.
[8:00] The importance of hiring people who are not like you to be part of your team.
[8:20] The importance of dialogue and debate on a team.
[9:05] Trying to create “low social distance” in your manufacturing business – a non-hierarchical work climate.
[11:10] How Thomas Edison did cross-training and encouraged synergy among his teams.
[13:17] Taking the concept of the “midnight lunch” to a small manufacturing company.
[15:00] How dialogue and collaboration spark innovation in a company.
[16:51] Collaboration as “discovery learning.”
[17:38] How Thomas Edison created 6 industries in 30 years.
[18:36] The only reason Thomas Edison got angry with people on his teams.