Charles H. Duell was a bad, bad man. No doubt you've heard his famous quote: "Everything that can be invented has been invented." Duell made that statement in 1899, insisting that his office be shut down just before he resigned as the U.S. Commissioner of Patents. You can't help but wonder how our world would be if his words had been true. In what would have been a much less wonderful life, think of what wouldn't have been born: E-mail. Television. Paper towels. The microwave oven. Cat litter. Defibrillators. Viagra. And Joey Reiman would never have created BrightHouse.
BrightHouse is one of those companies where innovation is the rule, not the exception. Because many businesses get bogged down in business, CEOs and management teams hire Reiman and his 12 employees to come up with everything from new products to new mission statements. Because most of the ideas are confidential, exactly what Atlanta-based BrightHouse has done since its founding in 1995 will have to be left to our imaginations, but clients include Coca-Cola, Georgia-Pacific Corp., Home Depot and McDonald's. Reiman, 49, and his team are paid big money--half a million for a 10-week brainstorming session, and $50,000 for a four-hour quickie. BrightHouse is poised to bring in $10 million in revenue this year, simply by doing what all entrepreneurs and their employees should do.
They innovate. They tinker, they think, they improve. They dream. They understand that nothing is ever what it seems. Even a famous quote. Duell never said, "Everything that can be invented has been invented." The person who started the rumor was the first person to utter that infamous sentence. In fact, Duell kept his post until 1901 and remained interested in patent law until his death. He was an ally of innovation, and would have admired Joey Reiman, BrightHouse and its battalion of brainstormers.
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.