The natural fate of frontier knowledge is to rapidly pass to the most advanced laboratories and academic teams in the relevant field, as indicated by the box labeled academic knowledge and shown to the left of the one labeled frontier sciences in the figure. They then reprocess and test the new discovery and evaluate all fruitful applications and potentials extensions of the concept. A critical task usually done at this stage is the reformulation of the new knowledge into wording more accessible to a larger number of people and disseminating it via review papers and conference keynote speeches.
As the new knowledge matures, it is taught first at the postgraduate level then later at the graduate level or in specialized engineering schools. Extension of the knowledge base can be slow. For example, more than a century after their discoveries, complex theories such as quantum mechanics or relativity theory are still confined to graduate-level education. The extension can also happen quickly, as it did in the cases of solid-state energy band structure in physics and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) in genetics.
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Academic knowledge, at least to mature knowledge, is relatively accessible. Textbooks are published and special-focus summer schools are proposed. The difficulty with this type of knowledge is not in its access but rather in its breadth. Academic knowledge is so broad, so diverse, and dispersed across so many disciplines that nobody can examine it all. Innovation players may miss the opportunity to apply a valuable piece of knowledge from academia, simply because they are not aware that it exists. This potential failure highlights the importance of assembling innovation teams that are comprised of people who have diverse origins. Such diversity, with its wider coverage of academic knowledge, increases the probably that the team will identify a relevant piece of knowledge. Moreover, teams that include a diversity of experience are more inclined to admit that their knowledge is still limited and, surprisingly, to invest more in actively searching for additional knowledge around the world.
 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said the following: “We know accurately only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases” (Sprüche in Prosa, 1819).
This article was initially published in the book Innovation Intelligence (2015). It is the second section of the first chapter.
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