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Adobe Invites Others to Use Its Innovation-in-a-Box Idea

The program hands out $1,000 to Adobe employees to work on any projects they dream up.


For the last two years, in an effort to boost internal innovation, Adobe has given $1,000 to any of its employees who want to pursue their own side projects.

Under the program, known as Kickbox, workers have only to raise their hand and they are given customized red boxes, each of which includes a prepaid credit card and other tools designed to help turn an idea into a shippable product.

“If somebody is excited enough to do it, we want to fund it,” Adobe’s Mark Randall said in an interview, noting that the company has provided funding to 1,000 entrepreneurs for less than it would have cost to create even one prototype of a new idea. And that’s not even counting what it would cost managers to decide which projects to fund.

On Monday, Adobe is detailing the effort publicly and welcoming other companies to follow suit.

While other companies have various processes and teams to manage innovation efforts, Randall said Adobe decided that it was more cost effective to let all workers pursue their ideas and then see which ideas pan out.

“The failure rate will be high, but we get tons of stuff we never would have approved,” Randall said, adding that the results have been productive, with 23 of the Kickbox product leaders having come back to the company with a fully baked idea and having gotten further funding.

So what does Adobe put in the box?

There are a couple notebooks and some Post-its, as well as a guide that takes inventors through six steps from initial idea, through refinement and eventually to market testing of their projects.

Oh, yeah. There is also a chocolate bar and a Starbucks card.

“Sugar and caffeine are two of the four major food groups of all innovators,” Randall said.

Those who take their ideas through the self-guided process can eventually come back for full funding. So far, Randall said, 60 of the thousand have done that. Of those, 23 received additional funding as well as the next step — a blue box. Some of the projects have found their way into shipping Adobe products, Randall said.

“It also has a cool side benefit of building a lot of innovation skills,” he said.

As for what is in the blue box, Randall wouldn’t offer much in the way of details, saying only that it is customized for each innovator.

“It’s delivered by leprechauns riding on unicorns,” he said.

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