Monday, June 16, 2008

Tom Edison: Master catalyst, motivator, and idea generator

I came across the book Innovate Like Edison by Michael Gelb recently. Thomas Edison was a pretty amazing guy. But his legend goes beyond his inventions like the light bulb and phonograph.

Like many successful coaches, he was optimistic and a good story-teller. He was also a big believer in hustling -- making the most of every moment.

In the words of Abe Lincoln, "Things may come to those who wait... but only the things left by those who hustle."

As Edison put it, "I have got so much to do and life is so short, I'm going to hustle."

I love Edison's optimism and zest for life.

"Optimists get better results than pessimists in most areas of life. Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

Edison claims that when confronted with obstacles, road blocks, or bad news, pessimists tend to focus on the negative.

As I've discussed on this blog in the past, successful leaders tend to surround themselves with people who can "illuminate his blind spots and complement his talents. [Edison] cultivated his inner circle, brought together individuals from diverse disciplines. The teams were bound together by common values of respect, integrity and desire to be the best in the world."

According to the author, "Edison was general manager, coach, and star player of a championship team. He was master catalyst, motivator, and idea generator; he placed value of team accomplishments at the heart of his labatory. His collaborators had complimentary learning styles and came from diverse disciplines. All were commited to Edison's philosophy of team accomplishment."

Edison was like a successful coach in other ways. He wasn't afraid to experiment or try new things and he kept exhaustive notes, something I really feel strongly about. Mike Fratello, a terrific coach who I worked for in Memphis, was also meticulous when it came to notes.

Finally, Edison's energy and positive attitude was amazing:

"Edison's optimism created an irresistible magnetism that drew others toward him. He inspired confidence in colleagues. Even when Edison was not getting results, he cheerily replied, 'Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work.' Edison viewed negative events as temporary set backs on his inevitable path to success."

This is a great lesson for coaches at every level. Imagine a coach having the same outlook on his team after a loss. What if we judged "results" as more than just wins and losses? What did we learn from the loss? How can we apply that knowledge in our next game? How did we improve? How are we smarter -- as a player, team, and coach?