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Bell Labs and Propagating “True Innovation”

What can we learn about culture-building from institutions such as Bell Labs? We're reading a New York Times opinion piece looks at that very question.

Bell Labs photo by AT&T via Wikimedia Commons

At WID, we’re examining great institutions of the past and how they succeeded both culturally and scientifically. The Bell Labs, a 20th century scientific superpower, developed key technological products that now shape our lives. Arguably, its most influential invention was the transistor in 1947, which transmits electrical signals that serve as the basis for today’s cell phones, computers and most other electronic devices.

But, if your mind ventures beyond the inventions and output, we think Bell Labs’ most notable feature lies in its experimental culture that buttressed such monumental advancements. Scientist, leader and chairman of the board Mervin Kelly propagated this ideal until his departure in 1959. By grouping a “critical mass” of smart, inspired people in a creative, open environment, he believed scientific progress could flourish — an idea still respected by institutions around the globe.

WID also draws inspiration from institutions like Bell Labs, with our research and programs relying on experimentation and hacking across all disciplines.

Read the opinion article, “True Innovation,” via The New York Times.

Photo: John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain, the inventors of the transistor.



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