The 3 Time Horizons for Innovation

Managing the three different horizons of innovation is critical to building a more robust portfolio of options.

Finished innovation outcomes do not neatly fit into the calendar year; they need to be seen and evaluated differently, based on their complexity, newness to the world and value potential. The three frames of thought, referred to as the three-horizon framework, break innovation down into three horizons: Horizon 1: Goals or outcomes that contribute to the immediate plan and can be budgeted in good, granular ways with solid detail. Horizon 2: Goal objectives that move concepts or ideas forward but have longer-term horizons before they yield an outcome return — where some actual spends get accounted for in multiple years where you can provide reasonable forecasts or milestones toward validation. Horizon 3: Those ideas that offer the potential for a new state of innovation that explore many unknowns but are working toward a new future state. These are where pilot money is allocated and projected out over learning activities and agreed to milestones, where understanding and recognizing investigation may involve years of exploration, connecting multiple dots and growing recognition of different degrees of failure. See also: Innovation Maturing Into Major Impacts   Planning and acknowledgment of each horizon-need have to be recognized as distinct, accounted for in their differences, then laid out in some form on innovation roadmap, to cover all three for balanced progression. Managing different horizons of innovation is critical to building a more robust portfolio of options.

Paul Hobcraft

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Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft researches across innovation, looking to develop novel innovation solutions and frameworks where appropriate. He provides answers to many issues associated with innovation with a range of solutions that underpin his advisory, coaching and consulting work at


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