Woman accepting Edison Award

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann accepts the 2009 Edison Achievement Award for her work as the president of new product development at Genetech. The awards annually honor the top cutting-edge products, organizations and business executives.

Courtesy of Edison Awards

If we subjected Thomas Edison to a modern-day, corporate performance review, it would be difficult to begin describing his life. How could you capture Edison's impact when he held 1,093 U.S. patents and 1,239 non-U.S. patents in 34 countries on such inventions as the phonograph, electric lights, electric automobile and the moving picture apparatus?

In fact, if we think we have a lot on our minds, imagine being Edison -- a man who had 19 experiment ideas listed on just one of his journal entries from 1875, and who was known to work 60 hours straight with just naps and periodic snacking [source: Watson].

However, capturing this hard-working inventor's impact is just the point of the Edison Awards, a program that recognizes, honors and showcases innovation. As such, the awards are very much for those people who might not imagine being Edison, but certainly may imagine like he did.

The Edison Awards, which have been noted in such publications as Fast Company and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission newsletter, are given to people, products and organizations for such attributes as ingenuity, creativity, sustainability and having a lasting impact on our global society. Examples of past winners include Martha Stewart, J.W. Marriot Jr., Apple iPhone, WiiFit and Tide to Go.

So how does one strive to join the roster of winners? And what is the inside scoop on the Edison Awards -- awards that, per the program's mission, "symbolize the persistence and excellence personified by Thomas Alva Edison" [source: Edison Awards: Facts]? Take a pause from your own imagining to journey through the inner workings of this program. In this article, we'll talk about the judging criteria, catergories and awards process, but up first, learn about the types of Edison Awards.