The following is excerpted from my 2020 book Conscious Leadership, coauthored with John Mackey and Steve McIntosh

“Innovation” is a term on the lips of many pundits these days. We hear it everywhere — in old and new media; in talk shows, podcasts, and panel discussions; at global summits and academic symposia; on broadcast news and social newsfeeds.

Could such ubiquity really be deserved? Well, consider this. University of Illinois economist Deirdre McCloskey credits this single human virtue as being largely responsible for what she calls “the Great Enrichment” — the exponential increase in societal wealth that has occurred over the past 250 years, in tandem with a dramatic fall in poverty rates. (In 1800, 85 percent of humanity lived on the equivalent of less than $2 a day. Today it’s less than 9 percent.) After tens of thousands of years of grinding, relentless poverty (with only a few rare, brief exceptions), humanity has undergone massive economic growth and global trade, with billions of people lifted into the middle class, and some beyond that. There is much talk today about inequality and distribution of wealth, and these are important issues. But the larger question here is: How was so much wealth created in the first place? “Our riches did not come from piling brick on brick,” McCloskey claims, “or bachelor’s degree on bachelor’s degree, or bank balance on bank balance, but from piling idea on idea.” Ideas. Creativity. Resourcefulness. Imagination. Innovation. That is the real secret of our collective success. So how do innovative ideas result in a historically unprecedented upsurge in overall wealth? It comes down to a tacit agreement that would-be entrepreneurs make with society that allows breakthrough ideas to take root and thrive. . . . 

Read the full excerpt here in the National Review














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