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The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

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The myth of the lone inventor

Everyone knows that Neil Armstrong was the first person on the moon. But how many people helped him get there? Of course there was the rest of the crew: Buzz Aldrin and the oft-forgotten Michael Collins. Then, just like in the movies, there were the dozens of worried-looking mission-control staff on the ground, and notables like Van Braun—intellectual forces who drove the entire program. [97] But what about the people who made the many complicated parts needed to construct Apollo 11? And what about the managers, designers, and planners who conceived the ideas, organized engineering teams, and coordinated years of work? The numbers add up fast. More than 500,000 people worked on the NASA effort to put a person on the moon. For Armstrong to succeed required contributions from an entire metropolis worth of people, not including the millions of taxpayers who paid the bills, and the president who challenged a nation to believe. Neil Armstrong is a household name only because his contribution was the most visible. However, the most visible contribution isn't necessarily the most significant.

The fact that we know the names Neil Armstrong, Leonardo da Vinci, or Frank Lloyd Wright is an innovation all its own. If you want to know who designed the Egyptian pyramids, the Roman Coliseum, or the Great Wall of China, you're out of luck: no one knows. It wasn't until the 1500s and the rise of the Renaissance that Western cultures grew comfortable acknowledging people's ...

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