We explore how whole-genome duplications (WGDs) may have given rise to complex innovations in cellular networks, innovations that could not have evolved through sequential single-gene duplications. We focus on two classical WGD events, one in bakers' yeast and the other at the base of vertebrates (i.e., two rounds of whole-genome duplication: 2R-WGD). Two complex adaptations are discussed in detail: aerobic ethanol fermentation in yeast and the rewiring of the vertebrate developmental regulatory network through the 2R-WGD. These two examples, derived from diverged branches on the eukaryotic tree, boldly underline the evolutionary potential of WGD in facilitating major evolutionary transitions. We close by arguing that the evolutionary importance of WGD may require updating certain aspects of modern evolutionary theory, perhaps helping to synthesize a new evolutionary systems biology.