The ART Of Business

When Innovation Became Cool

The creation of new products and services is regularly celebrated around the world.  Think about the hype surrounding the release of the new iPhone 5…

Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Alexander Graham Bell: these are names every school kid learns right next to Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.

And yet, it is a relatively new phenomenon in human history to celebrate innovators and entrepreneurs.

Throughout most of civilization, these kinds of people were left to the fringes of society. They were viewed as necessary evils more than anything else.

Aristotle barely mentioned them. For him, the only three professions of note were teacher, farmer, and physician.

During the Christian era, the story that Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the Temple was repeated over and over as a way to discount and demean those who sought profits.

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven.”

As a result, entrepreneurship was scorned and relegated to the dirtiest amongst us.

It is no wonder, then, that human progress was stifled; and, most people in 1600 BC lived similar lives to those in 1600 AD. Life expectancy was about the same and existence was often brutish, nasty, and short.

Then something happened.

It was the birth of an idea.

Starting in the Netherlands and England in the mid-1600’s, and later spreading across Western Europe and then to America, the notion that inventors were important to society began to blossom. Those who tinkered were not doing the devil’s work, but actually something of value.

As the idea spread, a wave of pent-up entrepreneurship was unleashed across the Continent, and then the New World, which provided the foundation for the Industrial Revolution.

Consequently, more and more human beings every day were lifted out of the dregs of poverty. It continues unabated in the present.

We are the inheritors of this idea. And, the Creative Destruction it let loose is what makes our lives so rich today.

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