Makes sense - back in the day we used to assign a test set to an engineer and that would be his or her project. But the test set consisted of hardware, software, and mechanical components as well as customized test fixturing. The best test sets were often done in collaboration with other people that were stronger in specifc aspects than the engineer in charge of the project and the engineer was smart enough to leverage their expertise. I always said that a successful test engineer doesn't have to know everything - they just have to know how to find out what they need. Often times that would be asking a colleague for their input.
@TJ--I think it depends on the designer and the form of collaboration. For example, several successful creatives have discredited brainstorming. But, stealing (which Edison was well known for) is applauded.
Austin Kleon's book "Steal like an Artist" explains it very well.
Sarah Miller Caldicott's book, featured here, seems to be another good example of how to collaborate well. It's on my shortlist of books to read now.
I can see how collaboration is a better way in some aspects than working in a vacuum, but I also think there is something to be said for both methods, and it depends on what kind of person you're dealing with. Interesting to think Edison had so many collaborators, but not surprising. I wonder if anyone ever felt bad or jealous because he got all the credit for something they also contributed to?
Elizabeth, - Dittos on your "both methods" comment. Well said. There are times when you need to put your feet up on your desk, listen to your iPod, and think. And there are times when you need to collaborate. Knowing the difference is a sign of wisdom. Also, I have heard an urban legend that Edison highly valued the input of a particular technician of his, a man with far less education, who was actually the one who developed the method by which tungsten could be drawn into a filiment. Don't know if it is true, but his anti-collaboration with Westinghouse and Tesla were a marque of the age! If I were a betting man, I would wager that Edison followed your "both methods" comment.
Nice column. But if the intent of the author is to get rid of the stigma around her great-grand uncle, why does she pass one on to us: "Engineers ... fall in love with their technologies ... You should ... find out what the customer's needs are". True, but as far as customers go, let me ask you the following. Do you know of any engineer that is not concerned with his customers' needs? And if so, is that the rule?
By the way I believe Edison was brilliant ... No need to cover for his harsh work environment ...
If anyone truly becomes a more effective engineer from this book, I would certainly like to hear about it; and then I would know to stay away from that person.
Edison was a great man, no doubt about it. He invented things people didn't even know they needed or wanted. For instance who knew they needed a phonograph? So knowing what people want or need is not necessarily the best approach to inventing something great.
Edison did not have a good reputation as far as collaboration goes. For example, Nicola Tesla collaborated with Edison but it didn't turn out too well for Tesla.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.