Sunday, May 15, 2011


By Al Norval

“None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration” – Thomas Alva Edison

Fabulous quote from one of the greatest inventors of all time. Edison was very familiar with the scientific method and how it is embodied within the PDCA cycle. It starts with a deep understanding of the Customer, their unmet needs and the problems they are having. From this he was able to define the problem and form a hypothesis after which he would run a series of experiments. The key was the Check/ Adjust of each experiment against his hypothesis. The power of a hypothesis is in its binary nature which allows the scientist either confirm the hypothesis or rule out that experiment. In either case, Edison knew the power of knowledge gained from each experiment. In that way he didn’t see experiments as a failure as he learned something new from each one. What he learned allowed him to constantly refine his designs until he had one that met his hypothesis.

For the electric light bulb this involved over a thousand experiments until he finally came up with a carbon filament that would pass the test of time.

Perspiration indeed!

For us within the Lean community the same holds true. Rapid experimentation against the problems we are trying to resolve, leads to faster learning and ultimately better countermeasures.

Can we all learn from Thomas Edison – observe, set a hypothesis, experiment, check, learn, make adjustments, repeat.

Sounds simple, all it takes is a little hard work.

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