About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

A playbook for innovation learning

As Nesta’s Innovation Skills team, we help people become better innovators for the common good by providing learning and support to improve innovation skills and embed them into everyday practice.

Over the past four years, we’ve had numerous conversations with colleagues, partners and practitioners about how to build innovation capacity within both the public sector and development sector. Whether in a design workshop or strategy session – or just an informal conversation – we often found ourselves quickly sketching a model or pulling out a diagram (as shown in the photo below) to support the conversation, stimulate discussion or challenge thinking on learning for innovation.

Over time we have collected these frequently used diagrams, models and frameworks and collated them in a compendium, originally dubbed the ‘Book of Models’, which we have shared with many of our conversation partners.

Playbook launch

Nesta’s Brenton Caffin shares Lafley and Martin’s Five Strategic Questions in a session with the Portuguese government’s LabX team.

We are now pleased to be publishing a second iteration with a new title – the ‘Playbook for innovation learning’. This new version includes 35 diagrams, each with a short description explaining its purpose and background and how we use it to help others think about and discuss learning for innovation.

This is a practitioners book for innovators who want to spread innovation skills, methods and tools. We see that innovation practitioners are often involved – or tasked – with the design and delivery of learning experiences or skills development programmes but might not have a background or training in learning design.

This book is designed to provide them with a foundation and structure for making innovation learning decisions – including designing more effective learning experiences, identifying and articulating learning needs, pitching a learning offer at the right level and connecting a team or innovation strategy with learning and development. When we wrote it, we originally had practitioners with several years of experience in mind but we believe newcomers might also find it useful.

We see this playbook as a collection of learning ‘design patterns’ that can be used in a non-linear, interactive way by combining and ‘mashing-up’ different tools to get the job done. It isn’t intended to be an introduction to learning or instructional design; if you are looking for an introduction to this we highly recommend Julie Dirksen’s book Design for How People Learn.

The playbook is also not an exhaustive list of diagrams on learning and innovation. We are conscious there are many more models, concepts and frameworks on learning and innovation out there but we have selected those that in our experience have prompted reflection, supported conversations and inspired action.

We hope you will find this book a helpful tool to support you in thinking and talking about learning for innovation. You can download it using the button on the right of this page or visit the publication page.


Bas Leurs

Bas Leurs

Bas Leurs

Head of Learning Experience Design

Bas was the Head of Learning Experience Design in the Innovation Skills team.

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Isobel Roberts

Isobel Roberts

Isobel Roberts

Content and Communications Manager, Innovation Skills

Isobel worked in the Innovation Skills team as Content and Communications Manager, helping to build Nesta's learning and development offering.

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