Edison the Innovator

 People Images Edison
I’m on a flight to Eastern Europe and browsing through a British magazine with a synopsis of a study on Thomas Edison, the famous American inventor. Several lines have caught my attention:

“Central to Edison’s success was his ‘invention factory’, bringing together great people, constant prototyping and a culture of innovation and enterprise … He believed that, while ‘books show the theory of things, doing a thing itself is what counts.’ He saw failure as part of the inventive process.”

I continue to be amazed at how movements can ossify and institutionalize. Organizational gravity inevitably pulls toward institutionalization. The justifications used by the bean counters, policy makers, and those who must have rules and regulation are legion: “accountability…stewardship…excellence”...can all be admirable labels for clubs that are used to beat innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit out of an organizational culture.

In my experience the only way to keep an edge and a step ahead of the maintainers is to recruit and empower a steady stream of what Edison called “muckers.” They are the trailblazers who simply need running room and someone to believe in them. That’s why recruiting such men and women in the emerging generation is one of my top priorities. I believe nothing has the capacity to bring about as much lasting, transformational change as this. It’s part of my own personal mission statement. Part of that to which God has called me is:

To challenge, recruit, sponsor and empower growing numbers of godly, high potential leaders into apostolic ministry and

To pioneer, nurture and grow apostolic structures which will multiply leadership for the Church in every nation.

6 Responses to “Edison the Innovator”

  1. Brian Newman Says:

    Isn’t it sort of fashionable in our time to take shot at institutions and the process of instituionalization? Dare I say that CRM is not only a movement but also an institution after some 25 years of existence?
    I wonder with your blog entry if there might be a couple of things going on (perhaps, I do not know you that well, so excuse my hypothesizing)
    1. You are gifted and called apostolically. Is it possible that there is some gift projection going on?
    2. You are reacting to the Church of the 20th century that in most parts of the western world has “fossilized.” Thus, there is an emotional or almost cathartic aspect to what you are writing.
    I appreciated your insights a lot. I just wonder sometimes if it’s too easy to use institutions as our punching bags.

  2. Sam Says:


    Some apostolic gift projection on my part? Absolutely. A reaction to the “fossilized church” in the western world? Undoubtedly.

    Probably more what I am emotionally responding to are those forces—internal and external—that pull CRM toward more insitutionalization as we have aged and expanded. We’ve not been immune by any means to the life-cycles that are inherent in any organization or movement. I find it a subtle but constant struggle to keep the entitity from slipping into a mantainence mode.

    So if I am punching, I am punching mostly at myself.

    Good to hear from you. Hope you’re doing well.

  3. Brian Newman Says:

    Hi Sam,
    I appreciate your honesty and openness! I am also struggling with seeing the local church in America being in maintenance mode, and trying to discern what alternative ways of being church look like.

    Blessings to you and the folks at CRM. I appreciate you guys a lot.

  4. Joe Cross Says:

    Great window into Edison’s life Sam. I love it.

  5. Sam Says:

    Joe: Thanks for the comment. Just visited your site and would be fascinated to interact with you more about what you’re learning regarding movements in the Latin world.

  6. Edison and his “Muckers” Says:

    [...] posts from Sam Metcalf on Thomas Edison, his “Muckers” and implications for movement leaders: Edison the Innovator Muckers This entry was written by Steve Addison, posted on at 9:43 AM, filed under Movement [...]

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