Innovation matrix.

A complete overview of innovation programs: you define the benefits you expect from your innovation strategy, the innovation matrix will tell you the most suitable programs to activate.

What is this for?

Over the past 9 years, Board of Innovation has supported many large organizations in designing and executing a wide range of innovation initiatives. 

Now, navigating through all these different formats is not always easy. Multiple times, we’ve been asked by innovation managers questions like ‘what is the best innovation initiative for our organization? ’ or ‘how do others tackle this problem?’.

To reply to these questions we’ve created a matrix that compares innovation initiatives. Surprisingly enough, we call it the innovation matrix.

This tool aims to support you in making the right decision when it comes to launching your next innovation program so that you can make the most of your innovation budget.

Step-by-step guide.


Download this PDF and print it on an A4. 


For each of the 16 innovation formats, determine the level of maturity your organization reached on that specific format.


Now look at the big picture: in which area of the matrix can you find your initiatives with the highest maturity? This should give you a feeling whether your organization is a “hunter”, a “builder”, an “explorer” or an “experimenter” (read more about the 4 types of innovators). 


Next, consider whether your organization is interested in gradually shifting its focus on other areas of the matrix. Below, we listed some typical trends for the transformation of organizations over time.


Take concrete actions: how to start building new formats? We can give tailored support.


The 4 types of innovators

The hunter, the builder, the experimenter, and the explorer.

Hunter   Resource hunter


The hunter is the archetype located in the top left corner. They represent a high commitment to innovation with a focus on external sources. Often, these types of organizations place heavy emphasis on cooperation with start-ups, acquisitions, and corporate venturing.

Google is a great example of this archetype. They are a highly innovative company that pours significant resources into new technologies and business models. Interestingly though this innovation doesn’t only occur internally, but happens largely through acquisitions. They have spent billions of dollars on buying and incorporating different start-ups in the past few years (see this map for a better view).

In sum, hunters have a high commitment to innovation but translate it into practice by acquiring external expertise and products.

Builder   Lego


Builders sit at the top right of the quadrant. They have a high commitment to innovation but innovate mainly internally. This means they invest significant resources into transforming their organization and build highly innovative departments and even internal spin-offs.

Apple is a great example of a builder. They have a massive track record of new products and continue to set the bar for user experience and new technology. In contrast to Google though they focus more on building internal innovation capacities to build new products, than on acquiring external expertise.

In sum, builders invest strongly in innovation but focus their resources and time on building this capacity internally.
Explorer   Pink binoculars symbol


The explorer is the low commitment variant of the hunter. Like the hunter, they also mainly look outside of their organization for new things. But they are still at the level of experimentation and don’t orient their entire organization onto innovation. An explorer might be a big corporation who is moving into innovation by having hackathons or basic contacts with start-ups.
These are generally organizations who see the need to explore new avenues for their business but aren’t ready to go all-in yet. They also see that they don’t have enough internal capacity for innovation, so mainly looking for inspiration outside their building’s walls.
In sum, they invest less heavily in innovation, but they still look outside their organization for inspiration on how to do it.

Experimenter   Experimentation


The last archetype is the experimenter which is located in the bottom right corner of the matrix. Experimenters represent a low commitment to innovation with a focus on internal innovation. These organizations focus their attention on internal actions such as innovation training and design sprints. Experimenters are generally just starting their innovation journey, but they also see enough resources inside their organization to, over time, build this capacity internally.

In sum, they invest less in innovation but aim that attention internally to build the necessary capacities to innovate.

The 16 formats of innovation

An overview of innovation programs.

The matrix sums up 16 main innovation formats that large organizations can run to reach growth through innovation.

Venture capital fund
A (corporate) venture capital fund invests in external opportunities that could create growth outside of the core of the organization.

Structural partnership
A structural partnership is a formal collaboration between 2 companies with the aim to launch multiple joint ventures.

External accelerator
An external accelerator is a (physical) environment to support the growth and evaluate the value of external scale-ups.

Co-development track
A co-development track aims to validate the market fit of ventures created by 2 or more organizations.

Innovation lab
An Innovation lab is a separate entity that hosts internal ventures with high potential before they are profitable.

Innovation transformation
The innovation transformation team is a central group of innovation leaders responsible for knowledge development.

Internal accelerator
A sandbox is a virtual or physical space to grow internal startups outside of the core organization and validate the market fit.

Center of Excellence
A center of excellence is a formal group of  innovation experts , that coordinates innovation initiatives, to embed innovation in the organization.

External incubator
An external incubator is a program to support the validation of (early stage) external startups.

Co-experimentation track
A co-experimentation track is a joint test between 2 or more organizations to validate the solution fit of an idea.

External hackathon
A hackathon is a short initiative with the aim to create prototypes that could solve specific challenges by bringing together multiple external stakeholders.

Co-creation session
A co-creation session is a short ideation with customers or partners to turn mutual problems into ideas.

Spark interest.

Internal incubator
An incubator separates intrapreneurs outside of the organization to validate the solution fit of ideas.

Community of Practice
A community of practice is a cross-functional group of innovation ambassadors.

Design sprint
A design sprint is a short track to answer business questions through designing, prototyping, and testing with customers.

Innovation training
A short learning track to grow the knowledge and interest of employees.

Trends in innovation maturity

How to increase the strategic maturity of my company?

Trend 1

PATTERN 1: from exploring to hunting

In this pattern companies move upwards on the external side of the matrix. They move from simply discovering connections to meaningfully co-creating business solutions with external actors. Interaction with start-ups can act as a driver here for more commitment.

Trend 2

PATTERN 2: From Experimenting to Building

In this pattern companies become more committed on the external side of the matrix. An organisation moves from simply having an interest in innovation to transforming its internal operations. They do this by for example standardising tools, knowledge and language.

Trend 3

Pattern 3: From one-off to balanced activities

In this pattern organisations move from either the left or the right side of the matrix to the middle. By experimenting they notice a completely internal or external approach isn’t a great fit for them, and they start to balance their actions and introduce measures that are located both at the internal and external side of the matrix.

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