We studied thousands of innovations throughout time, starting with the printing press. We chose about 400 we think are the most impactful and wrote about them, one-by-one, in accurate, short, and easy-to-digest case studies. Finally, we decided to write about what we learned from them to help today’s innovators and those interested in innovation.

Some interesting factoids…

Louis Tappan was a zealous Christian abolitionist who reviled lending and slavery. While creating a network of tattle-tales to report illegal betting houses and brothels he ended up inventing the credit reporting industry.

On New Year’s Eve, 1899, there were more electric cars in the world than gas-powered cars.

Text messaging, plasma panels, touch screens, online forums, and massive multiplayer online games come from a computer system virtually nobody’s heard of, PLATO.

Literally or figuratively addicting customers to a product or locking them into a service platform works great, and customers oddly often don’t mind.

There are lists of famous inventions, lists of famous inventors, and comprehensive lists of all sorts of business and engineering related stuff. But they’re a hodgepodge where minor improvements are lumped together with earth-shattering ideas. Traditional wiki’s, including and especially Wikipedia, jumble everything together. Descriptions are oftentimes boorishly long and oftentimes inaccurate.

Searching high and low, into dusty old books and the minds of countless professors, we concluded there wasn’t a carefully hand-culled well-thought-out list of major innovations, with lesser innovations or incremental work removed.

So we set out to make one. And, from that, we found dozens of insights and patterns that span hundreds of innovations.

Studying patterns of innovations over time is the key to growth. Sustainable growth by meaningful innovation, not changing the color of the plastic, the packaging, or a cheap marketing scheme.