Last week I was in a creative funk. You know what it feels like — everything looks bleak, dull and boring. Business is the same old, same old. You’re fried from information overload. Rather than communications fueling your learning and growth, it’s become a huge distraction. Enough already! So I did what everyone should do when they need to get their innovation groove back. I dusted off my treasured copy of “Innovate Like Edison” by Michael J. Gelb and Sarah Miller Caldicott and re-read it. I walked away with nine mastermind collaboration secrets of Thomas Edison — all easily implemented through social media and networking platforms. Let’s take a look.
1. Assess and maintain your current network. Go look at your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. Surprised by the number of people in your networks? If you’re like Edison, you’re not. Edison would list his contacts in a special notebook. The intent was “to plan for regularly touching base to solidify relationships within a network.” In Edison's communications, he focused on something that might interest or benefit the recipient.
2. Focus on diversity. Extend your circle beyond people who think and act just like you. Edison realized, “sameness doesn’t serve your evolving mastermind collaboration efforts.” What matters is cultivating connections and conversations with people of different generations, industries, cultures, interests and backgrounds. For example, perhaps a colleague of yours likes Andy Williams and you prefer Lady Gaga. Think of the “stretch” possibilities if you can meet halfway! It certainly won’t be dull.
3. Target “key influencers.” Edison “targeted through careful research, the experts and key influencers in his special area of interest.” You can do the same through social media and social networking platforms. Make a list, map it out, and make it happen.
4. Stay visible. Even if business is crappy or you’re feeling blue, get out there! Edison attended major trade shows and conferences even though travel back then was expensive and difficult.
5. Work the room. When you go to a networking function or special celebration dinner, eat before you go because your time should be spent meeting new people. Do not gravitate toward people you already know! Like Edison, “keep informed, and you’ll always have topics for conversation.”
6. Act like a host. Wherever you go, be outgoing yet gracious. Take the lead, and as you meet new people, introduce them to others. This makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable and keeps everyone fully engaged.
7. Put others first. Edison was not self-centered. His gift, beyond intellectualism, was the ability to help others through introductions, ideas, recommendations, support, encouragement, references and information. Edison thought, “As you work the room, think about what each person you meet might want or need that you can provide.”
8. Follow up. Nothing is worse than meeting folks with supposedly brilliant ideas who you never hear from again. Edison was a stickler on following up. He always sent a friendly follow-up note to acknowledge the connection. Something to the effect of, “Glad we met. I was fascinated by your description of the patent process.” Yours might be, “Loved meeting you and enjoyed your energy. The idea to partner at some point sounds terrific.”
9. Keep it personal. With email, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, it’s much easier to stay in touch with people worldwide. But do you want to hear from your spouse, partner or best friend via LinkedIn, especially when it's your birthday? Edison felt there is no substitute for personal, face-to-face connections.
You may not be Edison, but there's no telling what light bulb might go off in your head should you apply some of his genius to your personal and professional life.
Author note: After re-reading “Innovate Like Edison,” I put my own innovative power back to work through my business and accessed some new creative potential with the above photo that I took. It was an awakening. Share your transformation with a comment!
Global business expert Laurel Delaney is the founder ofGlobeTrade (a Global TradeSource, Ltd. company). She also is the creator of “Borderbuster,” an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog, all highly regarded for their global small business coverage. You can reach Laurel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @LaurelDelaney.