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The Edison Doctrine

Why experimentation is key to survival

Thomas Edison, often touted as ‘America’s Greatest Inventor’, failed often and fast. More than 500 patent applications submitted by Edison during his career were either declined or abandoned. After more than 9,000 failed attempts to perfect a novel storage battery concept, he famously exclaimed: “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Edison would go on to file over a thousand successful patents during the course of his lifetime, a record only recently broken by another American inventor called Lowell Wood. The phonograph, the lightbulb, the earliest movie cameras, alkaline batteries… Just a handful of the world-changing inventions Edison bestowed on society, in large part driven by a trait we can all muster: iterative thinking.

Every year and at an accelerating pace, your association is being pulled, kicked, and shoved more and more outside of its comfort zone by human-made and natural forces. Stakeholders should always feel pressed to audit their association’s relevance and technological capabilities, and it looks like the pandemic has certainly had that effect. Beyond the existential angst this has thrust upon many associations however, lies vast opportunity.

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