A Really Brief History of Innovation

All in 10 short points, I promise.

Natalia Babaeva
3 min readFeb 2, 2022


  1. In the 19th century economists believed business is only about operations.
  2. In 1911 Joseph Schumpeter found there’s another thing beside operations called innovation. And that each part of business requires different approaches, types of ppl, etc.
  3. The 20th century business books were still more about operations, ignoring the innovation part. All because the share of innovation work in business was disproportionally small and thus could be handled by rare outstanding talent and miracle.
  4. By the end of the 20th century the share of innovation part grew to the extent when miracle was not enough. Especially in some areas like IT. Innovative work was managed by same principles as operations, and it obviously sucked.
  5. In the early 2000s the Agile guys brought the innovation principles of work to the main stage. They highlighted it to the extent when they almost ignored the operations (or sounded like that).
  6. In 2012 Gartner Bimodal went all the way back to Schumpeter and stated once again that both operations and innovation are valid and important. They are just different modes of work, requiring different instruments, ppl, etc.
  7. Phew… Finally it all looked simple and nice. Each approach was given its place in this system. It sounded like it should work but it didn’t quite.
  8. One of the answers came from Dave Snowden and Simon Wardley who pointed out it’s not just about operations and innovation. There’re not 2 but 4 stages of development = modes of work.
  9. Gosh, the two guys made it all complicated again! People haven’t yet realized that work has any modes/stages at all. Looks like the 4-stage guys came a decade ahead of time.
  10. The history of innovation is not yet finished. The funny thing about it all is that in 2022 the spectrum of believes about innovation is huge among people we work with:

(1) some of us are a century late — thinking that business is all about operations. They believe innovation is just one of the operations as well,

(2) others are just two decades late — saying agile is the-one-and-only answer,

(3) there are some that are a decade late — saying it’s all bimodal Change/Run,

(4) and finally there those who are either a decade ahead of time or wrong— bigger evidence will show.

What do you think?

I’m Natalia Babaeva, the founder at the School of Changers and a writer. I innovate education and educate on the topic of innovation ;-)

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Natalia Babaeva

Founder at School of Changers, Change Consultant, Medium blogger