All too often leadership is told that “in order to get ahead of the competition, we need to innovate.” It comes as no surprise that almost all leading global companies are also among the most innovative in both product and human resource practices (i.e., Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google). However, creating an innovation mindset comes with its own challenges. How do leaders implement innovation into the company’s culture in light of other priorities? How do you harness great ideas without creating too much chaos?
Having a culture of innovation doesn’t mean everyone needs to constantly think about the next big market disruptor. If that were the case, chaos would ensue with too many new ideas complicating the company’s mission and vision. Everyone does, however, need to be committed to continuous improvement of the organization. That means there not only needs to be a culture of commitment to improvement but also a culture of listening to new ideas from all stakeholders and implementing the ideas with the greatest potential impact to the organization.
Adobe Systems has done just that with their open-source innovation initiative called Kickbox, an “innovation-in-a-box” kit. This program gives all Adobe employees access to a Kickbox to help formalize their ideas on improvements and innovations. Each box contains money, instructions, caffeine/sugar, and innovation tools such as exercises, frameworks, and materials to develop ideas. With their Kickboxes in hand, employees receive an actionable process for discovering new opportunities, validating customer engagement, and evaluating new business potential along with defining, refining, validating, and evolving their idea. It also helps make the innovation process less abstract. To date, over 1,000 Kickboxes have been given out to accelerate the innovation mindset across the company and with tangible results. For example, an engineer used Kickbox to explore an idea that led to Adobe’s $800 million acquisition of online photo-and-graphics marketplace, Fotolia.
How innovation may look at your organization depends on many factors such as industry, budget, size, etc. That aside, the common factor is that intentionally creating platforms that engage employees to be committed to continuous improvement supports a culture of innovation. Doing that creates opportunities to grow in new directions and improve existing practices that keep you competitive.