About the Book

The first thesis of How Transformative Innovations Shaped the Rise of Nations is that economic growth, national dominance and global leadership are fueled primarily by embracing innovations, in particular transformative innovations.


A transformative innovation is one that changes the lives of people, reshapes the structure of society, disrupts the balance of power within and among nations, and creates enormous wealth for its sponsors. The adoption of a transformative innovation spawns numerous other related or consequent innovations. It provides a competitive advantage to a nation and may propel a small, backward region to world leadership in as short a time as a century. Further, the transformative innovation can sometimes itself promote the positive environment that leads to further innovations. Thus, embracing innovation can start a positive cycle of wealth creation, economic dominance and a positive environment for further innovation. This positive cycle continues as long as the environment that spawned the innovation remains supportive or until another transformative innovation arises elsewhere.


The second thesis of How Transformative Innovations Shaped the Rise of Nations is that innovation is not adopted randomly across time and nations. Rather, it is sustained by an environment characterized by key institutional drivers within a country or region, three of the most important of which are openness to new ideas, technologies and people, especially immigrants; empowerment of individuals to innovate, start businesses, trade and keep rewards for these activities; and competition among nations, patrons, entrepreneurs or firms. Geography, resources, climate, religion and colonization probably played a role as well. However, past treatments of the rise of nations have overemphasized the role of these other factors; they have downplayed or ignored the role of innovations and the institutional drivers that led to their development and adoption.


Readership: Innovation experts and managers, historians, political economists, economists, business managers, public policy makers, innovators and lay people.


“A refreshing perspective on the importance of innovation throughout history that provides deep insight that is relevant for technology strategy today.”

—John R. Hauser, Kirin Professor of Marketing, MIT Sloan School of Management, USA


“This book is a timely reminder that the story of the world is one of eventual progress, powered by human ingenuity. […] Tellis and Rosenzweig offer powerful lessons from history for those who seek to drive progress and avoid the fate of those left behind. This is a path-breaking, gripping, energizing––and necessary––book.”

—Rajesh Chandy, Tony and Maureen Wheeler Chair in Entrepreneurship; Academic Director, Wheeler Institute for Business and Development; Professor and Chair, Marketing Subject Area, London Business School, UK