The word “Innovation” is used when describing a wide range of new outcomes that didn’t exist before. “Innovation” is used to describe the invention of a new ice cream flavor or the creation of an entirely new industry. Often the same word can be used within a conversation but with different intentions. The result is frustrating discussions that do not produce the desired outcomes. The solution lies in the intention of the conversation. Some might say the ambition of the conversation. So, what are the different types of innovation conversations and how could they be classified?

Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff are the creators of the “Innovation Ambition Matrix“. This matrix groups innovation into 1 of 3 categories based on an intersection between the company’s strategic plan to create a market-leading edge and the markets they are playing in.

The 3 categories are:


Innovators in this space take market trends, competition analysis results from customer engagement survey’s to produce innovations. These conversations are targeted at optimizing products/services for existing customers.


Adjacent innovation builds on top of the foundation of the company’s existing products/services. Conversations in this space seek to result in the creation of brand new products/services offered to an entirely new customer segment.


Conversations that describe transformational innovations seek to produce entirely new innovations for markets that don’t exist yet. The results of innovations in this category are famously known as disruptive when successful.

By classifying the goal of the innovation conversation teams can align more accurately around the generation, refinement, and implementation of ideas to produce more effective outcomes.