Sitting outside around a pit-fire enjoying an early fall feast, a group of us realized that business books were oftentimes long on advice but short on data. They’d reference studies of 50 companies, 70 companies, 150 companies, but they’d never list the businesses.
Consultants were no better, offering pages of PowerPoint with no real substance.
Business school academics might cite a few cases but we couldn’t find any who created a comprehensive published list of businesses they derived insight from.
Real-world impact based on major innovation matters a great deal. Theoretical, not so much. With fireflies buzzing around, we committed to searching for patterns of innovation over time.
We researched and, sure enough, there were a limited number of lists of innovations but they were constrained to a time era or geography. None created a continuum or searched for patterns. Furthermore, the vast majority of business books simply asserted these lists existed, unpublished somewhere, and the authors should simply be trusted.
How hard could it be to create a list of major innovations from, say, the printing press to today and write brief entries on each, we wondered? A week? Maybe a month? So we set about doing just that. It’s been years collecting, reviewing, and analyzing thousands of major innovations.
Wikipedia entries were sometimes useful but oftentimes wrong and tended to ramble on with irrelevant information. Initially, we tried updating the Wikipedia entries but delitionists — that’s a Wikipedia term for “editors” who want a high edit count by deleting willy-nilly — made that a miserable experience.
Instead, we started writing it into a large Word document. That proved difficult to scale to our increasing number of contributors so we transitioned it to WordPress.
We write under the name of our founding member, Ruby Day, though at this point there are a sizable number of us. Our entries are not finished but they’re good enough for the world to see and think about and challenge. We’ve only just begun to publish our insights.
If you want to use our work in a classroom or consulting practice, go ahead but please attribute it. Consultants are welcome, especially those who wish to cite verifiable cases rather than spouting off long lists of mush. If you’re looking for a consultant involved in this project, please let us know.
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