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Edison on Innovation: 102 Lessons in Creativity for Business and Beyond by Alan Axelrod

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8.4. Lesson 68: "Genius Is 1 Percent Inspiration and 99 Percent Perspiration"

In this, the most famous—and most hackneyed—of his pronouncements, Edison meant to say that so-called genius is mostly an appearance created by hard work.

But there is more to it.

What happens when the inventor–innovator gives free rein to that 1 percent that is inspiration? It is hard to say. The fact is that Thomas Edison rarely did it. Typically, his inspiration began with an analogy to the familiar or an outright adaptation of existing technology and traditional processes. Typically, he innovated rather than invented, improving what already existed rather than creating entirely anew. But when, at the beginning of the twentieth century, he embarked on a radical ...

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