I Have Not Failed…

I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.

Thomas Edison

I have been to most of Thomas Edison’s historic sites and have marveled at his ingenuity and perseverance. They say it took him 10,000 tries before he invented the lightbulb. Amazingly it took about a hundred years before that invention was eventually replaced. But, that is not what this post is about. It is about how Edison’s approach to innovation is as antiquated as his lightbulb.


In today’s technology, one-hundred years is a very very long time. As an example, we have been through eight basic types of computer storage in the last 40 years.

  • Tapes.
  • Floppy Disks.
  • Hard Drive Disks.
  • Compact Discs (CDs)
  • DVD and Blu-ray Discs.
  • USB Flash Drives.
  • Secure Digital Cards (SD Cards)
  • Solid-State Drives (SSDs)

The original floppy drives in a 1977 TRS-80 computer disk held 0.15Mb of data. Today, typical storage space is 100,000 time bigger in storage capacity and one-tenth the size. Edison’s second most successful inventions was the phonograph. We are now four generations beyond that device. The way we view our entertainment is changing almost monthly now. TV channels are giving way to streaming. Most transactions are being done digitally now. The post office will likely be a thing of the past, at least as it currently exists, before the end of this decade. We just can’t afford to spend the time to try 10,000 ways of doing anything now. Edison’s approach to new things just doesn’t work anymore. So, what is the new paradigm?

Perspiration vs inspiration vs education

I’m not saying “never”, but perspiration just doesn’t work any more as far as new paradigm shifting inventions go. Let’s look at a major invention of our times. The Internet would not be what it is today without the algorithm invented by the Google founder. That tool allowed us to search an infinite amount of data to glean the information we search for in a small fraction of the time previously used. That turned trillions of pieces of data into usable information.

The Invention Process Is Just Not The Same Anymore.

Edison’s method of invention is as antiquated as his lightbulb is now. But, you gotta admire the guy for his diligence. He used the tools that he had at the time. That’s all he could do. I’m certain that 50 years from now people will wonder how we ever got anything done with our antiquated discovery processes. That is normal, that is progress.

Inspiration spurred by education will trump perspiration any day.