In this paper we investigate whether the novelty content of innovations introduced by Norwegian manufacturing firms reflect the composition of work-life experiences collected by employees. Distinguishing between ‘related’ (RV) and ‘unrelated’ (URV) variety and using employer-employee registers merged with Community Innovation Survey data to observe experiences prior to innovation strategies and results, we find the probability of incremental innovation increasing strongly with RV when firms are located in a large-city region. URV provide additional support for incremental innovation among firms that are not R&D active, and increases more generally the probability of radical (new-to-the world) innovation. However, these relationships flatten out at moderate levels, and the maximum impact of URV on radical innovation is limited compared to the average impact of firms’ R&D efforts. Thus, whereas incremental innovation is highly receptive to related worker experiences when collected and combined in urban contexts, radical innovation depend to a larger degree on the innovation strategies and efforts of the firm itself.