Typically when an organization gets larger, it actually gets harder to innovate. But Mark Randall, VP of Creativity at Adobe, is anything but typical. In his interview with Startup Grind Sacramento, Randall shared his reputation: at Adobe, his boss was amazed how quickly he was able to accomplish tasks and meet milestones. His role quickly became creating a method that could teach others to do the same thing.
The idea of automating complex processes seemed fun but challenging, leaving Randall unsure about how he should tackle the problem. First he thought about the problem - for a few months. It wasn't until he looked at the project from a different perspective that he had his breakthrough.
"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."
This was the birth of the Adobe Kickbox.
What's in the Box?
The 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 it went online for free 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.
A Toolkit for 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 to building new things.
Grading Impact to Date
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.
Oh, and 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.