02 Feb

The Great Improver???

When was the last time you looked at what you did and how you did it and asked if there was a better way? And if you did find a better way, even if it was based on something that had been created by someone else, would you still use it? Or would you feel you needed to invent something completely new? Is there credibility in an improvement or only in an invention? The answer may surprise you!

On my desk are two quotes I hold important as a trader and business owner. I believe they communicate the most important guidelines anyone should consider. I encourage you to etch the first of these quotes into your heart, soul and mind right now.

“My principal business consists of giving commercial value to the brilliant, but misdirected, ideas of others … accordingly; I never pick up an item without thinking of how I might improve it.”

~ Thomas Edison ~

When I first heard this quote, I was immediately taken aback. Thomas Edison was actually advocating taking the ideas of others and improving them. Isn’t that copying or stealing? Isn’t industry driven by invention?

I think that many of us think the same; we have to be inventors … be originators, to make our mark and build our legacy. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that what he was saying made sense.

The ability to improve vs. invent has created millions of dollars for many, many companies and it has the potential to improve your bottom line in business and in trading. The problem is, that it isn’t as sexy to be known as an improver vs. an inventor.

Take heart, innovation; not invention is, perhaps, what we should aspire to … and innovation is not the same as improvement. It’s about being able to look at what exists in a new way and developing new methods. Innovation is about introducing new or different ideas, making revisions to what exists based on new or better knowledge, and converting the purpose of something or adapting it to create something entirely new. Innovation embraces improvement as a means of developing new approaches. And innovation is very sexy!

I want you think about this distinction as you consider the following innovators who were known more, for improving on the ideas of others than developing inventions of their own. Many of you have heard of Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, or Henry Ford. They are commonly thought of as inventors. But, throughout history, many improvers were, actually, known as being brilliant inventors. Although true, many of their “inventions” were improvements of existing ideas.

As you look at each example below, you will see that each had a different angle on those improvements. When you’re done reading them, ask yourself if they should go down in history as, “improvers” or “innovators?”

Thomas Edison:
(Improvement via Revision)

Tesla brought his experiments to Colorado Springs a century ago. There is a museum there, dedicated to his work. But in the end, it was Edison who improved on Tesla’s work, improved it and filed patents for his final designs. Tesla died, impoverished but Edison died a millionaire.


Henry Ford:
(Improvement via Re-purposing)

Many consider Henry Ford the modern day inventor of the first assembly line. Yet, it was while Henry Ford was visiting a meat packing plant in Chicago that he learned of the assembly line. He observed that each butcher had a specific and very specialized task. He took this idea of different workers doing specific tasks and applied this same assembly line approach to building cars.

At the time, there were over 2000 car manufacturers. His single “improvement,” made Ford one of the largest, dominating, car manufacturers in the world. Again, Henry Ford did not invent the assembly line, he improved it.

Steve Jobs:
(Improvement via Inspiration and Adaptation)

The last example is Steve Jobs. Jobs, has been credited with creating the graphical user interface (GUI) with the invention of the Macintosh and mouse combination. Jobs, was actually exposed to these two inventions at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in California. Steve quickly saw the technological benefits then, set about improving both technologies and adapting them to his computer concept. Thus, the Apple Macintosh computer was born.


One of the greatest, income-producing products today is the iPhone/iPod. Again, Steve Jobs did not invent either. I believe one of the first portable mp3 music players was created by Sony. Motorola invented the first mobile cellular phone. Steve had a vision that allowed him to massively improve both inventions. The iPhone alone accounts for half of Verizon’s income as well as over half of Apple’s income. Apple is now the most valued company in the world. Its income alone is greater than many large countries. These increases in value were due to improvements of existing inventions.

About Improvement:
Consider this, in North America, 90% of the population has only a seventh grade reading ability. It was discovered that many reach proficiency at reading at the seventh grade level then, fail to improve any further.

Do you spend your time trying to invent or improve your trading?

Do you invent or improve your trading/business?

Many reach a certain level in their trading then, really fail to make the effort to improve. But, they will spend vast amounts of money trying to invent new trading ideas and methods. Massively successful traders will tell you, the method is the third most important aspect of trading. Yet many will spend much time and money trying to invent a new trading method.

This brings me to another great quote of Edison’s (embraced by my marketing director),

“There is a way to do it better … find it!”

My challenge to you this month is this: Step back and honestly answer these two questions:

1. Are you trying to invent some, “Holy Grail” that never has a losing trade?


2. Are you trying to improve yourself and your trading abilities?

I suggest you be concerned as to whether you are going along with the flow or improving. And, get less hung-up over how comfortable you are with being an “improver” and start embracing the concept on being an “innovator” … focusing on your goals and what you want (and need) to achieve.

Then ask yourself, “What will you improve this month?”

Revise, Re-purpose and Adapt. There is a better way … find it!

Good Trading

P.S. Next month be sure and come back so I can share the only other quote I have on my desk.

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