The light bulb didn’t just go off in Edison’s head, so to speak. The light bulb came about from the collaboration of industrial designers, engineers, investors, salespeople and others gathered by Thomas Edison in order to invent, produce, market and distribute the light bulb. In other words, his invention was the team and the team’s invention was the light bulb.
Sarah Miller-Caldicott analyzes Edison’s success in her book, Midnight Lunch (2012). According to Miller-Caldicott, Edison created using an evolving strategy which incorporated innovative collaborations between people with diverse professional backgrounds. He asked them to think using their own professional craft first and then create together. To lead, he kept the team ignited with a common purpose by apprising them of their step-by-step achievements in reaching the goal. To multiply the products’ potential, he went outside his team to build influence around the product that his team was still inventing. Edison’s inventions worked, she claims, because he relied on energetic networks, literally and figuratively, to bring his vision to fruition. Though Edison’s example is over 100 years old, his management tactics can still light a new direction for collaboration.