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Alexander Graham Bell - Creativity and InnovationAlexander Graham Bell - Creativity and Innovation


Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)


Scottish-born American (pictured right), who invented the telephone in 1876.


Why was he so creative?


1. Hard work

He strongly believed in making the most of his talent.

“A man is what he makes of himself”, he said.

 Alexander Graham Bell - Creativity and Innovation

2. Speed

He registered his patent for the telephone, only hours before another American, Elisha Grey (pictured right).

The race against him to be first had spurred Bell on.


3. Determination

Bell (pictured right below with his family in c1885)  overcame several problems:

 Alexander Graham Bell - Creativity and Innovation

a) persistent failure

He had many failed experiments on the road to success.


b) lack of money

In 1876 he was short of money and wanted to sell his patent to the big telegraph company, Western Union.

It turned him down, and so Bell set up his own telephone company, which later became AT&T.


c) legal battle

When Western Union realized its mistake and put out its own version of the telephone, Bell brought a legal action against them.

Bell won and became a millionaire.

 Alexander Graham Bell - Creativity and Innovation

4. Continuous small improvements

Bell was a big believer in gradual improvement through:

  • continuous learning.
  • observation of the facts.
  • total concentration on his work.

“The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus”, he said.

(pictured right above is a Bell telephone in 1877)


5. Love of learning

From childhood, he was:

  • naturally curious (loving the discovery of new things).
  • a voracious reader.
  • interested in everything (particularly sound transmission, perhaps caused by observing his deaf mother’s ear trumpet) .


6. Purpose

His inventions had to be practical and useful, like his first invention, a wheat de-husking machine, when he was 11 or 12!

He worried that the wealth from the telephone would make him lazy

So he remained determined to keep on doing something worthwhile, particularly helping the deaf.

 Alexander Graham Bell - Creativity and Innovation

7. Support

He was selfishly dedicated to its work, but he had a very loving and supportive deaf wife, Mabel (pictured right).


8. Solitude

Despite his happy family life, he loved being alone, thinking, reading and working late into the night, when he thought best.

He usually worked from 9 or 10 p.m. to 4 or 5 a.m.

He was nagged by his wife, Mabel, if his night time piano solos disturbed their four children!


Key quotes on success

Preparation is the key to success.

A man is what he makes of himself

When one door closes another opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.


Key quotes on creativity

Perseverance must have some practical end.

Leave the beaten track occasionally and dive into the woods.

All really big discoveries are the result of thought.

Mr. Watson, come here, I want you – the first words Bell spoke on the telephone to his assistant.


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