Look at your cellphone. Even if your particular phone isn’t as smart as an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S3, it’s still an incredible piece of technology. By pressing just a few buttons, you can talk in real time, at little cost and with no wires, to your children across town or to your friend across the ocean. France’s King Louis XIV could have offered his entire kingdom in exchange for that ability and still found himself unable to do what you do routinely with your phone.
And while lots of smart people — engineers, bankers, accountants, marketing specialists — were necessary to make your phone a reality, they weren’t sufficient. Smart human beings existed for tens of thousands of years without coming close to developing any of the modern marvels that we today take for granted.
Another indispensable ingredient for our modern prosperity is a process that not only inspires people to exercise their smarts, but also leverages those smarts into a whole that is immensely larger than the sum of its parts.