Last week Logan was in day camp at Greenfield Village. If you are unfamiliar with this place it is a collection of homes, churches, schools, and more spanning 300 years of history. The Village itself is historic as the opening was in 1929 and attended by Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Marie Curie, Orville Wright, George Eastman, and many others. Ford started the museum because he was tired of studying history from the perspective of the kings and queens. After all, how much did a change in leadership change the way the peasants lived? He knew that America was different. In America anyone could study hard and rise up to achieve great things. And he had seen it happen. He had lived it. Look at that list of people invited - all regular people, brilliant perhaps, but definitely not royalty - and think of what they had accomplished. Their hard work and dedication to their area of study had changed the world.
“We’re going to start something. I’m going to start up a museum and give people a true picture of the development of the country. That’s the only history that is worth observing, that you can preserve in itself. We’re going to build a museum that’s going to show industrial history, and it won’t be bunk! We’ll show the people what actually existed in years gone by and we’ll show the actual development of American industry from the early days, from the earliest days that we can recollect up to the present day.”
During the days Logan was at camp I wandered through the Village, writing and asking all the questions that I can't ask with kids and a group in tow. My love for the Village was rekindled and I was in history heaven. Seeing how people lived centuries ago can make me thankful for technologies (indoor plumbing is spectacular), but this past week I was struck by the incredible technology apparent in the homes. From a tool to keep windows open to the desired height to a house designed to enhance the air flow and thus cool the home I saw marvelous examples of ingenuity and innovation.
And there it is. That word. That totally and completely overused word. Innovation. Innovation is one of the most overused words in business today because everybody claims to be innovative, but what exactly is innovation?
Today's Word: Innovation
Four syllables. Pronounced in-uh-vey-shuh n. Defined in the OAD as 1. the action of introducing new methods, ideas, or products. 2. a new method, idea or product. Using this definition it is easy to see why innovative is such an overused word. This definition is a little too broad so I did some searching and found this definition which is more narrow and specific. "Executing an idea which addresses a specific challenge . . ." This definition (link here) goes on to describe how it applies to business, but that is not the only place innovation is found.
At Greenfield Village I saw numerous examples of innovators, after all, that's what the museum is all about. They saw a problem and used ingenuity to fix it. Sometimes, as in the case of the Wright brothers and Henry Ford, they started businesses, acquired patents, and became wealthy off these ideas. Sometimes the innovations just made life easier. In the photo you see a bundle of flax on top of soap. When we asked what this was they showed that the flax bundle fit the groves of the pottery so that is how they cleaned their dishes. It is a 17th century Scrub Daddy if you will. Isn't that so cool!?
As you go about your day today, take some time to be grateful for the innovations of the past and the regular people who solved problems big and small. Next post I'll be writing about our perception of those people and hopefully challenge your perception of genius.
The Henry Ford, which is made up of several parts including Greenfield Village and the Museum of American Innovation, is a fascinating place. The button below will take you to the page I referenced regarding Henry Ford's desire to open a museum dedicated to innovators. From there you can follow the links to explore for yourself. I recently got a membership to the museum so if you want to check it out maybe we can do that together. I have guest passes!
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."