How Transformative Innovations Shaped the Rise of Nations

How Transformative Innovations Shaped the Rise of Nations

From Ancient Rome to Modern America

By Gerard Tellis & Stav Rosenzweig

Over the last 2,000 years, critical innovations have transformed various small regions into global powers. But they have faded when they did not embrace the next big innovation. Gerard J. Tellis and Stav Rosenzweig argue in ‘How Transformative Innovations Shaped the Rise of Nations’ that openness to new ideas and people, competition and empowerment of individuals are key drivers in the development and adoption of transformative innovations.

Hardback, 332 Pages


May 2018

£27.99, $34.95

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
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  • Table of Contents
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About This 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.


“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

“A brilliant and captivating journey of the rise of nations from ancient Rome to modern America due to transformative innovations nurtured by openness, empowerment and competition. The authors provide a compelling conclusion that no nation can sustain world dominance unless it extends the breakthrough innovation further.”
—Jagdish N. Sheth, Charles Kellstadt Professor of Business, Emory University, USA; Author of Chindia Rising

“The intellectual and empirical sweep of this book is truly impressive. […] Gerard Tellis and Stav Rosenzweig have produced a tour de force that combines history and geography with economics, politics, business and innovation studies.”
—Jaideep Prabhu, Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Professor of Marketing, University of Cambridge, UK

Author Information

Gerard J. Tellis is professor, Neely Chair of American Enterprise and director of the Center for Global Innovation at the Marshall School of Business, University of South California, USA. He is an expert in innovation, advertising, social media, new product growth and global market entry. Associate editor of the Journal of Marketing Research, Tellis is the author of 6 books and over 100 articles ( and has won more than 20,000 citations and 20 awards for his publications.

Stav Rosenzweig is assistant professor of marketing and business strategy at the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. An expert in innovation management and knowledge creation, Rosenzweig’s research focuses on the interrelations of innovation, knowledge and public policy in business strategy and consumer behavior.


No series for this title.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations; Acknowledgments; 1. Global Influence of Transformative Innovations; 2. Roman Concrete: Foundations of an Empire; 3. Swift Equine Warfare and the Rise of the Mongolian Empire; 4. How Gunpowder Shaped the Fortunes of Nations; 5. Golden Age of Chinese Water Navigation; 6. Venetian Shipbuilding: Mastering the Mediterranean; 7. Portuguese Caravel: Building an Oceanic Empire; 8. Fluyt and the Building of the Dutch Empire; 9. Patenting: Institutionalizing Innovation; 10. The Steam Engine and the Rise of the British Empire; 11. American Mass Production and the Rise of the USA; 12. Lessons; Notes; Index.


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