Innovate like Edison….. or Not….

I was reading an article in EE Times about Thomas Edison and Innovation in April, and I began noticing that there has been lots of talk about Edison and his drive to innovation and that many of his methods should be deployed today. It got me thinking, is the Edison approach really applicable to today’s world?

Thomas Edison was a major engineering icon and exemplifies the best in innovation, risk-taking, inventiveness, and perseverance. This is a man whose legacy will span time from both his inventions through his founding of General Electric, the industrial powerhouse. Thomas Edison represents the best in the American entrepreneurial spirit.

However,  I do think, in light of today’s hyper-competitive world the quote attributed to Edison’s methodology about making 10,000 mistakes is not completely accurate for today’s process of innovation. Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I think in today’s world we should say that we have 10,000 ideas that we rejected and focused on just one good idea to bring to market as quickly as possible.

Obsolescence is a huge issue in the electronics industry, today’s hot product is quickly eclipsed. As PCB developers we focus on that one good idea and get it developed in an efficient and productive way that allows us to take full advantage of market opportunities. We need tools and technologies that facilitate this process of innovation.

We, at Mentor Graphics, like to think of ourselves as “enablers” – we enable you to push the process of innovation forward. One area we do this in PCB is through multi-designer simultaneous layout with our Xtreme PCB and Auto Routing solutions. This enables multiple designers in distributed teams and geographies to simultaneously layout and route PCBs.  The result is significant cycle time reduction for layout and routing. Peter Dill, Sr Engineer of IBM Laboratories in Zurich was a winner of the 2007 Technology Leadership Awards. The board was highly complex and time constraints during routing risked or eliminated the ability to test.  By enabling a multi-designer approach, Dill and his team were able to go from 3 days for a pass to 7 hours. Another example was Alcatel Shanghai Bell reducing layout time by 60%.

So, enabling innovation is really what our jobs are about. The speed of change is getting faster. What is new today will be obsolete tomorrow. We don’t have time to make 10,000 mistakes. I think we need to quickly identify the one out of 10,000 ideas and get that idea developed and move on to the next innovation. Being able to connect a team is one piece of the puzzle.

Stay tuned, this blog will look at other ways we can facilitate the process of innovation.

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Posted June 11th, 2009, by

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Commented on July 1, 2009 at 3:36 pm
By Sean Murphy

Ed, looking for customers using Xtreme who would like to take part in a Synopsys Conversation Central conversation at DAC. I am facilitating sessions Mon, Tue, and Wed at DAC on “Global Teams” and believe that Xtreme offers a compelling paradigm for electronic systems design, especially for global teams. I am an independent consultant not paid by Synopsys but asked to facilitate sessions on a topic of my choosing, so I chose “Coordination and Collaboration in Global Teams”. Interested folks should contact me at For more info on Conversation Central see There will be no sales presentation by Synopsys at any of these sessions, anyone with a DAC badge, whether exhibits only or more expensive, is welcome to attend.

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