Innovation matrix.

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

Navigating through all these different formats is not always easy. We’ve been asked many times 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 sense of 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 toward other areas of the matrix. Below, we’ve listed some common trends in 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 of the innovation matrix. Hunters 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. It is 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 buying and incorporating different start-ups in the past few years (see this map for a better view).

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

Builder   Lego


Builders sit at the top right corner of the quadrant. They have a high commitment to innovation but innovate mainly internally. This means they invest significant resources in transforming their organization and building 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.

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


The explorer is the low commitment variant of the hunter and is located at the bottom left corner of the matrix. Like the hunter, the explorer also mainly looks beyond their organization for new ideas. But they are still at the level of experimentation and don’t orient their entire organization towards innovation. An explorer might be a large corporation that is moving into innovation by having hackathons or initial contacts with start-ups.
These are generally organizations which see the need to explore new avenues for their business, but aren’t yet ready to go all-in. They also see that they don’t have enough internal capacity for innovation, so are mainly looking for inspiration outside their building’s walls.
To sum up, they invest less heavily in innovation, but still look beyond 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 beginning their innovation journey, but they also have enough resources within their organization to build this capacity internally over time.

To sum up, they invest less in innovation, but focus that attention internally to build the necessary capacities to innovate.

The 16 formats of innovation

An overview of innovation programs.

The matrix is comprised of 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 organization.

Structural partnership
A structural partnership is a formal collaboration between two 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 two 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 coordinate 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 two or more organizations to validate the solution fit of an idea.

External hackathon
A hackathon is a short initiative to create prototypes that could solve specific challenges by bringing together 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 whether an idea fits the solution.

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 employee knowledge and interest.

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 greater commitment.

Trend 2

PATTERN 2: From Experimenting to Building

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

Trend 3

Pattern 3: From one-off to balanced activities

In this pattern, organizations move from either the left or the right side of the matrix to the middle. Through experimenting, they notice that 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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