Thomas Edison Re-Considered

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Managers motivate. Leaders inspire. One without the other is incomplete when striving for sustainable performance. AND, no matter how powerful or forceful one might be, a leader cannot force you to commit nor compel you to create.

When times are tough, the need for the spirit to be sustained and nurtured does not vanish. Both “perspire” and “inspire” as well as “expire” for that matter are rooted in the Latin “spiritus” which means “to breathe in new life, to animate or energize”. Innovation requires inspiration as well as perspiration!

The earnest manager sometimes cites Thomas Edison when it comes to working harder. “Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” Edison’s statement describes what is required to move a creative idea forward to an invention, and then perhaps an innovation, where real socio-economic value has been established. He is not addressing what is required to invite and sustain a creative work environment which is animated and inspired, even when times are tough. People who are managed by others need more than admonitions to do more, faster, with less.

  • Mark Solien

    Aloha Steve,

    Implementation and innovation are two important phases of progress. It is important to remember that innovation comes first and that the skills to inspire this phase are different than the skills to implement. I beg to differ from Edison in that inspiration is at least as difficult and time consuming as implementation. Leaders and managers must be able to balance their emphasis on these two important phases of progress.