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Last Update: Sunday February 25, 2018

Key Idea: Find Solutions To Problems

Meet theologian and winner of the Templeton Prize, Michael Novak.  He says that capitalism rewards visionaries.    More...

Key Question:


New products solve a problem and the bigger the problem the more successful the product will become.  Life is just one big problem-solving laboratory. Yet, look at all the problems that surround each of us. Solutions are elusive. So, it is in how we understand the problem -- the inner workings and fine details -- that are the apparent blocks to find solutions.

Quite intentionally we introduce you to Sohrab Vossoughi in this opening segment. He's Persian and also Muslim. He immigrated from Iraq as a junior high school student. And since that time, he has become one of the world's leading industrial designers. His business is one of the most diverse we have found and that diversity is the core engine that drives their deep insights.

Could that have happened if he stayed in Iran?

Are you typing on a Microsoft keyboard; he designed it. Do you have an HP printer? He probably designed it. He says, " I never had limitations in my line of work -- what can be done and what cannot be done. I always question things. What if? The word 'what if' is very important."

  Why is Sohrab a penultimate visionary? He doesn't come out of a Judeao-Christian background. Is Michael Novak wrong?

We believe Novak would answer "cultural adoption." And now with the internet looming over all cultures of the world, there are growing fears that de facto unique cultural identity is being lost. Novak's research goes back into the 15th and 16th centuries when science became science and into the 18th and 19th centuries when capitalism became capitalism.

Both capitalism and science are inherent problem solvers. That's an essential part of their basic conceptual framework. Both are driven by actions.

The history of the emergence of both from out of Judeao-Christian mindset is interesting but what is profoundly important is to discern "the something" within both that is deeply attractive, even seductive, and totally practical that pushes both forward with ever greater rapidity.

Think about it

Are you a problem solver? Is there something deep within you that moves you to want to make something work well? right a wrong? What are the basic components of the mindset that open the way to a scientific method and democratic capitalism?

Clip from: Innovation and Invention with Michael Novak

Washington, DC and around the world:  What drives people to challenge the status quo? go out into the unknown? try to create things that have never been seen before? Why do these people work so hard and stretch so far? Everybody talks about them, saying things like, "Crazy!" "They'll kill themselves."  "They're in a world of their own."  Yet, these daring people, driven by principles and dreams, are changing our world for the better.

We turned to scholar, Michael Novak, of the American Enterprise Institute for insights.  Novak would like to see this innovative spirit take root throughout the world. And, it is.

American Enterprise Institute

Michael Novak, Author

1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
202 862 5800

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Office: 202 862 5800

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Year Founded: 1947

Find Solutions To Problems

HATTIE: Hi, I'm Hattie Bryant. In every one of our weekly case studies, we look at the anatomy of prosperity and much of that prosperity is the result of innovation. The USA has become the world's largest economy, mainly because of the new ideas hatched into being here.

In an earlier episode you met a favorite mentor of ours, Michael Novak, and he talked about the soul of the American Economy. Today we want to revisit with our mentor to look at how ideas are taken from mind to market. We'll explore his thoughts on the theology and economics of innovation.

Remember, Michael Novak is the author of well over 30 books translated into most major languages and many, many articles about business, ethics, morality, capitalism and corporations. He holds the George Frederick Jewitt chair of religion, philosophy and public policy at the American Enterprise Institute. And in 1994 he received the million-dollar Templeton Prize for progress in religion.

MICHAEL: Our founders understood that if you're going to build a free republic, you have to build it on commerce and industry. And they, of course, trusted best the small. And that's the basis from which you get an independent citizenry who can act like sovereigns, who are masters of their own destiny and who know the world because they're interacting to try and create things in a very tough resistant world.
HATTIE: (Voiceover) And create we do. American business innovates.

JAMIAN COBBETT: America's very attractive for our profession. Basically industrial design was born in America, Raymond Lowie, etc. It was kind of developed here, so this is kind of like coming to Mecca. You have to come to America to see where it's all come from.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) There are more than six million patents on file at the U.S. Patent office.

SOHRAB: I never had limitations in my line of work. What can be done and what cannot be done. I always question things. What if? The word 'what if' is very important.

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