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How Adobe Empowers Employees Through Intrapreneurship

(and How You Can Too)

There are a lot of reasons why people within organizations become stagnant and innovative ideas become few and far between. Fear, unclear processes, internal red tape and hierarchy can all be contributing factors, so how can you circumvent these obstacles to promote fresh thinking?

One company who knocks this out of the park is Adobe. They give teams a “Kickbox” when they start with the company. It’s basically a DIY kit for innovation and contains everything that an employee would need to come up with a great idea, prototype it and test it to see if it’s viable. Inside the red box are tried-and-true Post-Its, a “bad ideas” notebook to encourage people to write down ideas that are rough around the edges and of course a chocolate bar and coffee gift card for a little extra nudge when needed throughout the process.

Most importantly, the kit contains a six-step booklet on who to execute an idea and bring it to life within the company. The steps are:

Inception, which explores the employee's motivation for the idea

Ideate, teaching how to tap into creativity and generate ideas

Improve, providing tools to further develop ideas

Investigate, gathering data with real-world experiments

Iterate, developing and testing hypotheses

Infiltrate, pitching the idea to management

All employees are told that they also have access to $1,000 to spend however they want to help action their idea (no expense report even needed).

Now $1,000 might seem like a lot given how many employees Adobe has, but Adobe’s Chief Strategist and Vice President of Creativity, Mark Randall looks at it like this: “For the price of funding a single $1 million project, you could place 1,000 $1,000 bets.” Randall believes that this approach is an important part of the culture of Adobe as it shows that, “When you trust people, they’ll live up to your expectations.”

Before Kickbox, Adobe would see about 12-34 innovation projects go through the initial idea phase to the mock-up phase annually. Since the program started, they've seen the number of ideas nearly quadruple.

While creating your own version of Adobe’s Kickbox is an option, you can also consider implementing programs like hackathons, and innovation challenges or investing in creative problem-solving training to foster a strong culture of innovation and learning. According to Psychology Today creative problem-solving sessions with groups generated 350% more ideas than groups without training and these ideas were 415% more original according to a study with over 500 participants. So small changes and investments can lead to large impacts not only on culture, but on the bottom line as well.

To help get you started on promoting intrapreneurship in your own organization, here are a few questions to think about or workshop around:

  • How can you create a culture of trust and empowerment where employees feel supported to take risks and try new things?

  • What tools and resources can be provided to employees to help them innovate and bring their ideas to life?

  • How can you better reward and/or recognize employees who pursue ideas and make sure those ideas align with the company’s overall goals?

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