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Charting the Innovation Landscape Cheat Sheet by

innovation     landscape     charting


The concept of the innovation landscape serves to charac­terise and describe the many different aspects that influence and shape innova­tion. The innovation landscape provides a powerful tool to understand the interr­ela­tions between those aspects, it sketches the lay of the land. Of course there are numerous ways of struct­uring and presenting such a landscape; this approach is built on the working definition that an innovation is the develo­pment and implem­ent­ation of an unprec­edented problem solution.

The innovation landscape is shaped along two axes: problems that demand for a solution, and ideas for potential solutions. Within that landscape, we then find four different quadrant: disrup­tive, research, business as usual, and wicked. The decent­ral­isation of resource flows has different effects on each of them. So what are the changes and challe­nges, and what remains unchanged?

Disruptive Quadrant

Applying known ideas and concepts to solve new problems is the tradit­ional domain of the entrep­ren­eurs. Usually positioned outside the establ­ished structures and organi­sat­ions, they are less tied to conven­tional approa­ches. They are well equipped to anticipate future challenges early, and they are open to take risk, e.g., to test and try ideas quickly rather than thinking them through in every detail.
The decent­ral­isation of resource flows will reinforce those charac­ter­istics and strengthen the role of the entrep­ren­eurs. The combin­ation of makers movement, crowd funding and crowd sourcing create the condition for many more entrep­reneurs to follow their vocation.
As a result, the disruptive quadrant will be more densely populated, buzzing with activity at higher intensity than ever before. Such activity will yield faster evolution of disruptive innovation and a wider coverage of potential problems. Collec­tively, the entrep­reneurs will reach out further, ultimately expanding the landscape to the right, antici­pating further innovation demand. At the same time, they’ll stretch over to the wicked quadrant. But most import­antly, they will increase the pressure on the establ­ished actors in the business as usual quadrant.

Research Quandrant

Finding novel ideas to solve known but challe­nging problems is the focus of dedicated research establ­ish­ments like labora­tories or univer­sities. These organi­sations are the result of long-term invest­ments, which took time and absorbed signif­icant capital resources to establish. They are well positioned to pursue basic as well as applied research for the benefit of their customers, either society at large or corpor­ations funding their research progra­mmes.
The decent­ral­isation of resource flows creates a new actor in the research quadrant: citizen science. The internet has enabled an agility and reach of inform­ation flow that offers truly innovative ways for doing science. Though citizen science will not simply replace tradit­ional science, it can augment the tradit­ional method­ology.
As a result, the research quadrant is likely to become more dynamic. As citizen scientists are less closely tied to establ­ished scientific paradigms, they will act in unconv­ent­ional ways, challe­nging establ­ished rules, and seeking ideas in previously uncharted territory. Hence they will extend the landscape further to the left. At the same time, citizen science has potential to succes­sfully reach over to the wicked quadrant. While the delivery of sustaining innovation to the business as usual quadrant will continue rather unchanged, the key question is: How will the relation between the two actors in the research quadrant be like: compet­ition or collab­ora­tion? While there are arguments for both reactions, there is ample opport­unity for beneficial collab­ora­tion. Let’s combine the best of both worlds, the patience, rigour, and well-d­efined exploi­tation paths of the establ­ished scientists with the agility, energy and uncons­trained imagin­ation of the newcomer citizen scientists

Innovation Landscape

Business as Usual Quadrant

Tthe domain of corpor­ations, focused on efficiency innova­tions that recombine known ideas and known problems to find faster, cheaper, easier solutions. They essent­ially rely on the research quadrant to supply new ideas for potential soluti­on.The disruptive quadrant poses a potential challenge to establ­ished business models.
The decent­ral­isation of resource flows has little direct effect on business as usual. However, the combined effects on the disruptive quadrant and the research quadrant imply signif­icant indirect effects such as a loss of the tradit­ional grip on resources.
The increasing dynamics and growing numbers of actors all around the business as usual quadrant will rebalance the innovation landscape. Previo­usly, business as usual was the unrivalled centre of gravity. In the future, this dominance will cease to exist, as citizen science, makers movement, crowd sourcing, crowd funding and other similar trends become more and more productive in the innovation landscape.

Wicked Quandrant

This is the area of the as-yet­-un­known, of emerging ideas as well as emerging problems. It is charac­terised by signif­icant uncert­ainty, and it usually outside reach for establ­ished rules and tools (even though they might be applied in part through extrap­ola­tion).
With the decent­ral­isation of resource flows, the wicked quadrant becomes more access­ible. It will be easier than ever before to attract the attention of unusual combin­ations of experts (citizen science), to draw funding for really excentric ideas (crowd­-fu­nding), and to test them in almost in real-time (makers movement).
The same forces that will put business as usual under pressure are at work to build bridges to the unknown. It is not necessary anymore to convince “the establ­ish­ment” to provide the resources for innovative solutions in the wicked quadrant. And with that, more of those truly wicked challenges can be addressed.


In summary, with the decent­ral­isation of resource flows the fringes of the innovation landscape become more access­ible, while at the same time innovation in the business as usual quadrant will play a lesser and lesser role. But this new innovation activity in the fringes of the landscape poses challenges for our instit­utions as well, namely for our forward looking innovation policy.

Previo­usly, innovation policy was required to broadly encourage invest­igation and explor­ation in the fringes, especially in the wicked quadrant. Today, the emerging trend of decent­ral­isation actually enables and facili­tates such explor­ation, so that the general encour­agement is not needed anymore. Rather, the increasing agility towards the fringes requires innovation policies that carefully consider the approp­riate balance between freedom and control, avoiding undesi­rable constr­aints as much as unhealthy volatility

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