Look, it's in the Wall Street Journal, so it must be true. America's economic malaise in the wake of the Great Recession comes down to the fact that truly "big ideas"--ones like electricity, antibiotics, and aviation, haven't galvanized "total factor productivity" since about the 1950s.

WSJ writer Greg Ip describes our innovation flat-line this way:

Outside of personal technology, improvements in everyday life have been incremental, not revolutionary. Houses, appliances and cars look much like they did a generation ago. Airplanes fly no faster than in the 1960s. None of the 20 most-prescribed drugs in the U.S. came to market in the past decade.

At the same time, perhaps ironically, we see another view from New York Times business analyst Andrew Sorkin, who wonders why the president-elect's economic transition planners haven't dialed in one of the true innovators of our time, Elon Musk. Sorkin writes:

In the last decade, Mr. Musk has created nearly 35,000 jobs among his various enterprises — and most of those jobs are classic manufacturing ones. His Tesla Gigafactory, a 5.5-million-square-foot battery factory under construction outside Reno, Nev., is expected to employ 6,500 people in manufacturing jobs by 2020.

After the factory is complete, 95 percent of the parts contained in Tesla vehicles will be made in the United States. His company’s leading-edge advances have pushed the entire auto industry to innovate, with rivals seeking to copy many of Tesla’s best features.

If this is not an example of a way toward "total factor productivity," it's at least directionally accurate. Reasons people deny or fear the potentially revolutionary impact of Musk's initiatives is that they come with what some hold to be a menacing, fantasy-based, or fake impetus of purpose--which is to develop great transportation and energy solutions that halt humans' agency in the planet's life-threatening changes in climate.

I guess people once feared electricity in their homes too, thinking that it was more dangerous than a bunch of candles and torches for light and hearth fires for warmth. In the minds of many, perhaps even a few Wall Street investment advisors, Edison would have been regarded as a kook with a dumb idea that had no practical value to people.

But, I think Greg Ip's appropriation of Tyler Cowen "Great Stagnation"-type assessment that true, economic game-changing innovation is really more indicative of the media's intolerance of a time-takes-time way of looking at how the world works. Innovations across the ages--the big ones--don't necessarily come typically as fast as they occurred in the first half--say--of the 20th Century. It normally takes a couple of hundred years to get to the "big idea."

In housing, though, one of the things we've been thinking a lot about is the difficulty innovation has, even as the pressure-cooker of unmet needs--for more affordable, attainable, safer, more connective, more healthy, more secure, more sustainable, and, ultimately, more valuable--builds to a bursting point.

One of the reasons, of course, ties to those same fears sparked by the work of Elon Musk, who has the nerve to envision pulse-quickening new automobiles, ingenious battery-power applications, and aesthetically palatable solar roofing solutions that serve not only the purpose of transportation, energy, and shelter, but also do it in a way that limits "bad carbon's" flow into the atmosphere.

Another is simply this, it is well-nigh impossible to innovate a single, individual piece or part of a home without dramatically changing an entire ecosystem of interconnected pieces and parts, each with their own economies, labor forces, distribution channels, etc.

Many an innovative idea, product, process, and practice has foundered in home building because of the complex of decision-makers, stake-holders, intermediaries, local installers, complementary manufacturers, etc. can not get on the "same page" with a new way of doing things.

This is human. It's also the reason--given the enormity and intensity of unmet need that is clearly evident in our society around housing--why innovation ultimately will be disruptive. We grow to think things don't change because they can't.

We know there are innovators in housing who right now are working on the kinds of transformation that a large percentage of the industry community believes either "has been tried and doesn't work," or is simply impossible because of the way things do work. Stay tuned.