Prolificacy is a dynamic process of increasing returns


Edison was affectionately referred to as the young man who kept the path to the patent office hot with his footsteps.

To suggest that he was a prolific inventor would be the understatement of the century.

According to recent data from the patent and trademark office, the average number of patents per inventor is approximately three. And to secure your spot on the list of the world’s most prolific inventors, there is a minimum threshold of two hundred.

Edison had over a thousand.

Can you imagine executing that level of output in your life? It’s as inspiring as it is intimidating. But it’s also not as mysterious as you might think. Edison was so prolific because he was the first person to pursue invention systematically, rather than intermittently.

He had an industrial research laboratory where accidental discovery was recurrent. There was no dependence on luck or providence, it was simply a function of volume.

It ain’t magic, it’s math. Even in today’s marketplace, corporate innovation labs and startup incubators are approaching invention in that systematic way. Because they trust the process. They know that if they just keep coming with new ideas, everything else just falls into place.

Reminds me of the study that researched the traits of world’s most prolific inventors. The scientists found that quantity begets quality. That the effects of someone’s accumulation of patents has a profound impact on the overall value of their inventions.

To put it simply, prolificacy is a dynamic process of increasing returns. The more things you make, the more valuable they become. This then, might be the advice of our inventive predecessors.

Keep your head down, keep making things, keep exploring new ways to make them, keep finding new people to make them with, keep finding new people to make them for. In short, keep the path to the patent office hot with your footsteps, and the world will take notice.

Just make sure to derive meaning from the journey, because it’s possible the world may not.

What did you make today?