What Edison Learned in 1870 Might Work for You in 2020?

Thomas Edison, yes that light bulb maestro. He was a prolific inventor. By the time he died, he accumulated 1,093 US and 1300 foreign patents. He is well known for that. He is also known to have invented phonograph, build companies from startups (General Electric and RCA) and specialist in telegraphy.

Edison was the fastest transcribers of this day with Morse key. He did night duty mostly during that time. As a night-duty telegrapher, he was required to clock in every six hour to confirm he still manning the wire.

He did that for a while, until he invented an automatic solution that will clock in every six hour! So he can get away from his desk and spend the night on!

He was later fired from the job and started as a freelance telegrapher across US. He finally landed to New York where his creative genius about to take flight.

He realized he is unable to scale his invention with great idea alone. He was one of the first few inventor realized the false notion, “if you build it they will come.”

His first patent was an automatic vote recorder for the Massachusetts Legislature. While a brilliant idea in his time, it was never used and sold of at $100 to someone.

It is during his time in New York, Edison started to meet a lot more people and build his network. He started to partner with other engineers, mathematicians, lawyers, machinists and bankers. Edison started as a specialist, then he became a specializing-generalist.

Specializing-generalist is a term use to describe someone who is a specialist in his/her trade and at the same time also understand other parts of the business.

Who is a specialist? A specialist work for example computer programmer who only does programming, a mechanical engineer who only repair machines, an architect that only does architectural drawing and design, an HR recruiter that only doing recruitment role throughout her career or a sales person that only doing sales role in the career.

Who is a generalist? A generalist work example an HR executive started her career doing recruitment then move to learning & development then upskilled herself to do business development in the company and after 10–15 years she become a Company Director of that company or somewhere else. As for the engineer, he becomes a sales engineer next and realized his passion is actually in people thus he went on become the HR Director in his prime years.

Which one are you? Specialist or Generalist?