AMERICA, THE GREATEST economy in the world, is the incubator for most of the greatest ideas and revolutionary inventions in history. And it may be safe to say “You haven’t seen anything yet,” as a new generation of possibilities promise to disrupt the way we live, work and play.

The United States has an enormous wealth of creativity plus a unique and ingrained spirit of ingenuity. Investment capital is readily available.

Historians said many British engineers and German scientists immigrated to the United States and that built the foundation for the Industrial Revolution. It developed the key principles in the world of physics.

Today, a new age of brainpower is coming to America from around the world, lured by the opportunity to fulfill their visions and achieve the “American Dream.”

What were some of those greatest inventions? There have been tens of thousands of life-changing inventions and your answers to that question depends on the time frame.

You could say the harnessing of fire, the wheel, the printing press, pasteurization, penicillin, the internal combustion engine (automobile), the light bulb, wireless telegraphy, the steam turbine or the airplane.

You also could say compound interest, the computer chip, cosmetics/full-coverage foundation makeup, fast food and interstate transportation (the highway system); and more recently, the internet, the personal computer, the mobile phone, email, GPS, LED, the laser, the assembly line and social media.

But no matter how great the invention, the management of the company with the product has to do its job in an efficient way that maximizes the invention’s potential. It often takes time for others to figure out how to best use the product in a way it benefits the consumer.

With every step we take forward, there are often unintended consequences that need to be resolved. When we solve one mystery, we create disruption for many others. We are challenged to adapt to the changing times, otherwise, we run the risk of being the victim of obsolescence.

About a month ago, I was sent the following modern parable with a lesson in economics. It is just too good not to pass along. I don’t know who wrote it, but it illustrates what can go wrong when a management structure fails.

A Japanese company and an American company decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

The big day of the race, the Japanese team won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior executives was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had eight people paddling and one person steering, while the American team had seven people steering and two people paddling.

Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion. They advised that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were paddling.

Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team’s management structure was totally reorganized to four steering supervisors, two area steering superintendents and one assistant superintendent steering manager.

They also implemented a new performance system that would give the two people paddling the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the “Rowing Team Quality First Program,” with meetings, dinners and free pens for the paddlers.

There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and performance bonuses for the managers. The pension program was trimmed to “equal the competition” and some of the resultant savings were channeled into morale boosting programs and teamwork posters.

The next year, the Japanese team won by 2 miles.

Humiliated, the American management team laid off one paddler, halted development of a new canoe, sold all the paddles and cancelled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the senior executives as bonuses.

The next year, try as he might, the lone designated paddler was unable to finish the race, having no paddles, so he was laid off for unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year’s racing team was out-sourced to India.

Here’s something to think about. The American company has spent the last 30 years moving factories out of the United States, claiming they can’t make money paying American wages. The Japanese company has spent the last 30 years building more than a dozen plants inside the United States.

In 2017, the Japanese company made $2.5 billion in profits while the American company racked up $4 billion in loses. The executives at the American company still qualified for their year-end bonuses.