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The 3 Core Elements of an Innovation Ecosystem

The Framework to Develop an Innovation Capability within a Large Organization

Frederic Etiemble

Developing an innovation capability within a large organization is a daunting prospect. In the past, many have tried but few succeeded. Often difficulties are linked to a too narrow and shallow approach, such as training a group of employees in an innovation methodology and expecting the organization to turn into an innovation powerhouse as a consequence. It’s become clear in the last few years that building a sustainable innovation capability requires a more systemic approach. With our clients, we use the term innovation ecosystem to help leaders take a wider, more systemic, approach to building an innovation capability. 

But what is an innovation ecosystem?

In this post, we introduce the three elements leaders need to build a thriving innovation ecosystem in their organization.

Innovation ecosystem =

Explore portfolio + Innovation programs + Exploration culture

Explore Portfolio

Definition: Your Portfolio of innovation projects, new business models, new value propositions, and new products and services, all mapped out in terms of Expected Return and Innovation Risk.


To better understand the Explore portfolio of an organization we also sort projects in the portfolio according to the three types of innovation: efficiency, sustaining and transformative innovation. This helps assess if the portfolio balance is aligned with the strategic objectives of the organization, or if adjustments to the innovation ecosystem are required.

Another important aspect we consider here is the innovation framework.

Definition: Your innovation framework consists of the process, business rules, governance, etc. that you put in place to manage your Explore portfolio.

In the below visual you can see an innovation framework geared towards transformative innovation that we use as a starting point for the design of a customized framework with our clients. We help leaders design and implement the innovation framework that’s best adapted to their portfolio objectives.

 GrowthPortfolio  - FINAL TEMPLATE.001

Innovation Programs

Definition: Innovation Programs are all programs taking place within the organization that are related to innovation and aim to create value (i.e. revenue/profit), change the culture (i.e. structure/processes) or do both.

This article lists the 10 most common corporate innovation programs.

In our client work we use the Innovation Ecosystem Map to Assess how your Innovation Programs are Performing.

We map existing innovation programs in a company on this map to identify if those programs, and the resource allocation they get, are aligned with the strategic objectives of the organization, or if adjustments are required to improve the overall innovation ecosystem.

Exploration Culture

Definition: Your exploration culture cultivates the creation, discovery, validation and acceleration of completely new ideas that are foreign to an organization.

We use the culture map to visualize the exploration culture, and assess enablers and blockers in the most critical categories of leadership support, organizational design and innovation practice.



This helps us identify quickly the blockers that could derail innovation efforts, design culture interventions to overcome them and put in place the enablers for a sustainable and thriving innovation ecosystem. 


So what makes your innovation ecosystem?

It’s the unique combination of an Explore portfolio that is managed the right way, plus your innovation programs and your company culture.

Like any complex living system, it doesn’t mature overnight and is always in flux, adapting to the changes in your business environment, evolving in line with your strategy to respond to those new threats and opportunities. 

Reach out to us if you want to know more on how we help Global 500 companies build thriving innovation ecosystems.

Innovation Readiness Program

Assess your Innovation Ecosystem and Identify Actionable Solutions to address your Challenges.

Discover how >

Innovation Readiness Program
Innovation Readiness Program

Innovation Readiness Program

Assess your Innovation Ecosystem and Identify Actionable Solutions to address your Challenges.

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