As the year ends and we prepare to celebrate the miraculous disruption of non-virgin births that took place so long ago in Bethlehem, let’s take a look at a couple ways that others have innovated Christmas.
One of the earliest commercial uses of “innovation” I’ve found comes from this ad for the old Gimbel’s Department Store in New York, which advertised a model of wardrobe trunk called the “Innovation.”
Below the attractive trademarked logo, the ad copy reads:
Here is one of the most practical and welcome INNOVATIONS in Gift Giving that many years have produced. Nothing could be more practical than one of these splendid Trunks–known all over the world for their strength, roomy construction, convenience, beautiful finish and appearance. How DELIGHTED any one would be to receive an INNOVATION Trunk on Christmas Morning!
Three decades later, there was the foreman of Santa’s ceaseless Fordist production line, giving a master class on how to motivate an employee who doesn’t buy-in to your firm’s spirit of collaboration:
“Don’t want to make toys? Get back to work!”
More recently, there’s this “smart” set of Christmas lights that lets you turn on your Christmas lights via Twitter, allowing not only you, but anyone with your Twitter account, to manipulate your Christmas tree remotely. “The goal of the project,” according to this NPR report, “evokes an odd combination of world domination and holiday cheer,” which they say like it’s a bad thing.
But the real innovator of Christmas lighting was Thomas Edison. Here’s his great grand-niece, Sarah Miller Caldicott, who took to Forbes.com to regale us with the story of old man Edison’s “disruption” of the stodgy old Christmas candle industry one magical evening in 1879, when he provided “tech and awe” to the gathered multitudes:
While it’s been nearly 135 years since crowds first thronged to witness Edison’s electrical conjurings, we’re still drawn like fireflies to the “tech and awe” of disruptive innovation. Technological breakthroughs strike a universal chord of inspiration and delight within us.
Although Miller notes that lit candles continued to dominate home Christmas displays until well into the 20th century, that’s just a quibble. The main point, here, is her use of the deadly aerial bombardment of Baghdad–“shock and awe,” as it was called in 2004–an an analogy for the magic of Christmas, and for “disruptive innovation” in general.