Thomas Edison and Software Innovation

Josh GordonIt all goes back to Thomas Edison. The relentless desire to invent and innovate is as much a part of American culture as hot dogs and apple pie. Edison is credited with the light bulb, the phonograph, and the vitascope (known as a movie camera, in its most recent iterations). Despite Edison’s many noteworthy and revolutionary inventions, perhaps the one he gets the least credit and attention for was his most practical - Edison invented a factory system for invention.

Menlo Park was famous for many things, but it was also a hub of inventing that was beholden to a lofty standard of ten small inventions, and one large one, every few months. In many ways, the invention of the Scrum Sprint can be traced back to the framework initially setup and applied with great success at Menlo Park. Based on that history, it is now the responsibility of software companies to create an environment and culture ripe for invention and innovation. Many companies do this already, many more should shift their culture.

It makes sense for us marketing software folks to get our collective heads out of “the cloud” for a moment and reflect on the importance of what we do. We are mandated not just with inventing new ideas and technology to make money, but also to improve the lives of customers by making shopping easier both online and in-store, or to improve and automate the check in process at a hotel, or to make the experience of going to a restaurant even better.

Perhaps our charge is not as lofty and splashy as what Edison pursued, but it is no less American, and no less important. We are fortunate to be working in an industry where the living, breathing identity is innovation. The metrics for thinking that Edison enforced at Menlo Park are sped up even more for those who work developing software-as-as-service. Edison set forth a standard that is no less vibrant today than it was in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. It is important that we ask ourselves, what are ten small innovations we can make over the next few months, and one big one that will have a significant impact?

So, as we near July Fourth in the U.S., let’s consider what our own standards of invention and innovation are, and what they should be. If you are in the marketing software industry, have you done something to improve the lives of consumers lately? Have you made it easier for marketers to connect with consumers? Have you removed barriers to shopping, or bits of an experience that can poison the consumer’s perspective?

At Knotice, we are big believers in continuous innovation and the inventive spirit. What are some innovations in marketing software that you would like to see?


  1. Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I want a nanotechnology solution that replicates safe edible food from raw atoms. Once we have eradicated hunger wee will have more time to jockey for power and control over one another.

    • Posted June 28, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      I can’t promise we’ll get right on that one, but I like the humorous comment!

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