This article reports on a case study of a language school in Greece, with a view to putting forward an understanding of the drivers that sustain or delay curricular innovation. Key to this understanding is the construct of intentionality, defined as ‘purposes’ that drive teaching and learning activity. In the article, we describe three main intentionalities that were present in the language school: (1) ‘credentialism’, an imperative to provide learners with certification; (2) ‘supplementation’, a drive to attain learning outcomes that students failed to attain in the state school system; and (3) ‘protectionism’, an unstated agenda of maintaining the status of local Greek L1 ELT practitioners. We describe how these intentionalities generated fluctuating dynamics, from which different pedagogical patterns emerged. Finally, we discuss the implications of this perspective for understanding and managing change and innovation in ELT settings.