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THF Magazine Summer 2014

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40 JUNE-DECEMBER 2014 MENLO PARK XEROX PARC by Jeffrey Phillips A century may divide the two, but these powerhouse innovation factories have lots in common History, Mark Twain said, doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Where innovation is concerned, it seems we constantly rediscover what has worked in the past and return to those models to innovate for the future. That's why it's not a stretch to compare Xerox PARC (where the personal computer was born and Bob Metcalfe invented Ethernet in the 1970s) and the Menlo Park laboratory from almost a century before (where Thomas Edison "toyed" with this notion of electricity and hundreds of other ideas). MENLO PARK In just a little more than six years, Edison and his team at Menlo Park in New Jersey penned more than 400 patents in what he called his "invention factory." Ever since, Menlo Park has been the ideal many R&D-centric corporations are modeled upon. Study Edison's insights for his invention factory, which may seem obvious today but were novel at the time, and you'll see why his model stands the test of time. 1. House a number of technicians and engineers in one lab. 2. Purposefully explore several new technologies in different fields simultaneously. 3. Create plenty of opportunities for cross-pollination of different fields of research. 4. Experiment constantly. 5. Define specific goals for innovation produced on a regular basis. 6. Understand the value of marketing, which helps launch new technologies. 7. Create a process for managing, documenting and protecting discoveries. 8. Commercialize the discoveries as quickly and effectively as possible. 9. Have active, engaged sponsors. Marc Greuther, chief curator of The Henry Ford, says Edison was an excep- tionally practical innovator as well as a savvy marketer. After his first invention, an automatic voting system for Congress, failed, he vowed never to create an invention unless there was a demonstrated market for it. He knew how to recruit people with a variety of skills, while he also mastered how to curry favor with deep-pocketed sponsors in New York. Edison even let his proclivity for good marketing, and a sense for the com- mercial, determine the location for his lab, identifying an address that was close enough to New York and wealthy sponsors, markets and customers, but isolated enough that he and his team could work in peace while creating a healthy curios- ity with the outside world. Edison also understood the value of teamwork and fostering a collaborative culture. While he could be demanding in the lab, he encouraged his workers to be social with one another and frequently joined the muckers for food and beer in the evening. He was even known to play the organ for their enjoyment. FROM THE COLLECTIONS OF THE HENRY FORD LEADERS AND LIGHT BULBS Thomas Edison and employees in Menlo Park Laboratory, Edison, New Jersey, February 22, 1880. Stories From Today's Visionaries

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