Adobe Kickbox: Innovation in a Box

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Origin

Typically when an organization gets larger, it actually gets harder to innovate.  However, Mark Randall, VP of Creativity at Adobe, had a terrific track record.  In his interview with Startup Grind Sacramento, Randall stated that his boss at Adobe was amazed how quickly he was able to accomplish tasks and meet milestones. Randall was then tasked to develop a method that could show others how to do the same thing. The idea of automating complex processes was an attractive yet equally challenging endeavor that even Randall doubted would be possible to produce. After pondering on it for a few months, he wasn’t sure how something of that magnitude could be done until he looked at the project from a different perspective. “When I started to think about internal innovators at Adobe that were my customers and I wanted to make a product that could help them be an innovator, that sort of shifted everything mentally…to where I said I can do that, I can build that product.”

What’s in the Box?

Adobe Kickbox consists of a 6 step process that shows entrepreneurs the most effective ways to bring their product to the market. And it’s not just limited to the startup world. Government entities and nonprofit organizations all have downloaded this open-source system since offering it for free in February of this year. Randall explained it by saying, “It’s basically this system with essentially 6 levels and starts with level 1 about motivation and there’s a set of actions that you complete at the end of each level and their self-gaining so you check the boxes [required] and move on to the next…” Once all 6 stages are complete, users move on to the post “blue box” which helps you take your product to the next level. The entire system is void of a hierarchy and there’s no central source mediating or regulating how the system operates.

Streamlining Innovation

In a nutshell, Kickbox aims to eliminate the number of hoops innovators must jump through to get their idea approved. Adobe Research Scientist, Hailin Jin, said that, “Before, you had to get buy-in from your own boss, the product team, and other departments. Now, people work on projects without anyone’s approval.” Jin stated that before Kickbox, “risk taking was allowed. Now, it’s rewarded. That has really changed the way people think.” Randall illustrated how Kickbox simplifies tasks that more often than not, established organizations spend way too much time on. He recalls how General Electric asked him how many innovative coaches (out of the 300 available) should work with the Kickbox because they needed to deliver in a 6 month timeframe. He replied by saying that Kickbox doesn’t require many people to operate and it should only take about 3 weeks to complete. He concluded that like many companies out there, General Electric was overthinking an instrument designed to make business easier…much easier.

Randall feels that leading innovators at big companies are often denied the resources to innovate freely. Believing that innovating and creating is a natural human desire; organizations may stand in the way of employees carrying out the activities written in their job description. Why? Because company directors and presidents are afraid of taking risks which is not only irrational but can be counterproductive in the long run. Randall said in Fortune Magazine, “Ideally, you want to highlight that element of risk. Make sure everyone knows about it. Let employees know that you’re betting on them to come up with great ideas.” The most creative people out there can’t stand feeling limited and the bureaucratic structure of the workplace is usually the biggest obstacle when doing so.

Impact So Far

Still who would’ve imagined that a small red cardboard device, that looks similar to a restaurant “to go box,” could accomplish so much in a short amount of time? Inside the Kickbox, Adobe innovators find writing utensils, notebooks, snacks and a $1,000 prepaid debit card that they can spend however they choose. By placing innovators back in the driver’s seat, this allows them to do what they do best: create! However, only 23 of the 1,000 kickbox users have reached the mysterious blue box stage and so far, no Adobe products have been birthed from the concept. Nonetheless, the business model motivated organizations such as Cisco to adopt similar concepts such as “Adventure Kits” while launching a companywide “Innovate Everywhere Challenge.” In Q1 of 2016 alone, Adobe reported a 25% increase in revenue along with a 48% increase in profits. Although these improvements can’t be completely accredited to the Kickbox, it’s clear that Randall’s, “whole culture of experimenting” is catching on and empowering innovators nationwide.

It’s Free

One of the best things about Kickbox is that it’s free.  You can download all the materials here (minus the prepaid gift car).  It’s a great tool to help you develop that innovative idea that’s been spinning in your head and hopefully helps it become reality.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.