BMA – Innovation Day @ Adobe


“Vision without execution is hallucination”

Adobe realized that many profitable inventions came from determined employees who persisted despite management.

innovator.pngThe biggest mistake a company can make is not poorly executing a new product idea, but executing a wrong product idea.  How to assure that more product ideas are right?  Invest into an innovation process within the company; create a program to generate innovators, rather than innovations.

Kickbox program:

  • does not attempt to change the organization
  • teaches the organization how to use initiative
  • explains that “you may not get fired” while pursuing innovation 🙂

The approach assumes that established organizations most likely won’t support innovation.  As a result; a specific approach to “corporate innovation” need to be designed.

Adobe VP of Creativity was not initially successful in encouraging innovation, then, he received a recommendation to think about company’s innovation system as a product (as he was very successful in creating and bringing successful products to the market).  Interesting, this approach is very consistent with “thinking in new boxes” concept.


Kickbox program:

  • The program starts with 2-day workshop, which everybody in the organization can attend.  The company is looking for outliers, and expects 1 hit product for 1000 kickboxes.
  • The red kickbox includes instruction on innovation process and prepaid $1,000 credit card.  The money planned to be used to test the idea with the potential customers before even telling management about the idea.
  • Why not give employees 10% time, etc. to pursue innovation?   The main objective of the program is to teach employees how to innovate, how to navigate corporate environment and how to “sell” the idea to management and recruit coworkers to help on initial stages of the project.
  • There are no reviews or follow up: “…people are bold and crazy when we are not looking…”  This program is highest rated employee training program.
  • Next step is a blue box, given by a real manager in the organization who is willing to fund the next level of testing.

Adobe open-sourced the program, which is now translated into many different languages.

Ah – I wish this program was available 15 years ago…  As most of my career was built “under the table” in a variety of large organizations.  I understand the benefit of learning how to sell projects to coworkers and management very well 😉

Content Marketing

Content marketing approach can switch from “thinly veiled sales materials” that are highly branded to lightly branded materials.  It requires a change of thinking like a marketer to thinking like a publisher (thinking how to give people something worth subscribing to).

Speaker recommended a spectacular keynote by Andrew Davis.

If you are a marketer who is doubting the benefit of a newsletter (and its lead generating capability), you will love ideas and arguments in the presentation!

Andrew gives three recommendations for content marketers:

  • discover your niche
  • exploit content holes
  • make an appointment with your audience

Andrew also emphasizes the difference between “branded content” and “content brand.”


Six Flags – VR Rollercoaster


Six Flags was the first company to use VR in parks.  The additional equipment slowed the lines to the rides (insignificantly) and additional cleaning service needed to be added (as head sets are cleaned after each use.

Interesting: it is possible to try Samsung VR sets in Samsung stores without purchasing.  As the technology is new, Six Flags rides help popularizing the experience and technology.

negroni.pngCompari – success with an approach not used in the industry

Compari, an established brand of alcoholic beverage wanted to expand its customer base.  As an organization had limited marketing budgets, marketers used charitable donations as an approach to increase brand awareness.

Compari is a part of a drink popular among bartenders, which allows creativity in the process of creation of the drink – Negroni. The company sponsors “Negroni week,” during which time bartenders can select a charity of their choice, and Compari will donate portion of proceeds from Compari sales into that charity.  As bartenders are very involved in the community, they are free to select the charity dear to their customers’ hearts and promote Negroni week in their bar.

Charitable approach has been used successfully by other brands (shoes – Toms, and eyeglasses – Warby Parker), but have not been tried in the alcoholic beverages industry before Compari’s campaign.


Adobe Content marketing fact:

Individuals consuming evergreen content generated by company’s subject matter experts are 178% more likely to convert.  

Also, employee’s using social media seem to be more effective in promoting company’s content than the company itself.



Coursera – Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations

Coursera – Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations – very insightful and entertaining course!  “Thinking outside the box” becomes a completely different concept after watching the lectures and pondering the concepts.  there are constraints – they are “the box” and the “thinking” should consider “the box” to be successful.


The class rightfully points out that successful innovation is the innovation that has a chance to be implemented.  A successful idea should satisfy several constraints.  Though some constraints seem to be obvious, such as technological constraints and societal constraints, other constraints are particularly interesting, such as organizational constraints.


Particularly interesting: Organizational constraints – strategy constraints.  The innovation may be in conflict with the company’s strategy; in this case it would be rejected by the organization.  The important part for organization is to have a strategy, and also to make sure that this strategy is communicated to employees.

The class describes an excellent example of a case study – Segway – to explain constraints and what can be easily overlooked.


Oh, yes, the recommendation to start small needs to be highlighted in my notes – I have made the mistake of trying larger projects before 😉


Highly recommend the course!

MN AMA – Springboards for Innovation: Going Beyond the Product

MN AMA January Monthly Meeting was as exciting and thought provoking as anticipated.  

A new and very useful element of the meeting was a few minutes of “organized networking.” We were lucky to have a networking coach – Susan Stoen from Spoken Impact  – one of valued AMA sponsors. As a part of the “organized networking,” we had to produce our own “30 seconds commercial” for our neighbors at the table. 

Oops… I realized that I actually did not have one…  I was ready to pitch AMA or Toastmasters club, I was ready to discuss the industry, but I could not tell what I was actually doing at work… Great point!  Now I understand why some people from other departments at work don’t quite know what I am doing exactly besides serving as a passionate industry evangelist…

 FoodI will have something coherent by the next meeting…  But despite my self-promoting clumsiness, the “organized networking” provided me with more business cards of fellow AMA members than I ever managed to collect. Also, this part of the program kept me from the third plate of wonderful free food at the event. By the way, this is a picture of my second plate…yummmmm…  🙂

The innovation presentation and discussion was spectacular. Mary Poul, Business Development Manager, 3M Healthcare and Rita Shor, Shor Enterprises, LLC and former 3M Innovator demonstrated different approaches to innovation. It was very pleasant to see two leaders cooperating seamlessly in the process of the presentation. Mary and Rita seemed to know each other so well, that they could work together, rather than splitting the presentation into individually owned pieces. Attendees of the event also received the copy of the PowerPoint.

We not only looked at tools that can facilitate the innovation, but also tried a couple of examples from different industries. Unfortunately, my personal quirks limited any innovative ideas I could contribute. We were trying to innovate in the movie rental business and the wine industry (my family don’t own a TV, and we also don’t drink any alcohol) 🙂  However, it was very entertaining to follow the discussion at our table and hear “innovations” from other parts of the room.

Takeaways that we can use now:

  • Thinking about innovation as a business approach rather than only a product characteristic.  Doblin 10  – Ten types of innovation
  • Thinking about value innovation rather than just innovation.  Is the new feature valued by customers or just marginally useful for them?
  • Blue Ocean Strategy Thinking about innovation as a business approach that needs to look at the “big picture” and take market/competition into consideration. Blue Ocean Strategy Value curves suggests plotting principal factors of an industry on x axis and level of offering by the company on the y axis. To be innovative, the company’s offer must be different from “me too” approach in the industry, and the company’s offer also need to be valuable for the customers.
  • Thinking about “beyond the company” innovation. The resources available in the company may not be sufficient; the Internet allows tapping into the “long tail” of innovation by the industry. Interesting, though it was not mentioned at the presentation, a marketing idea web site was just released in January – BootB  It provides creative briefs in a dozen of languages, including two that I speak, and offers anybody to suggest a creative solution that can be used by companies. The “price tag” of each creative idea is also available – hey, we can try our marketing creativity!  🙂

Two books were mentioned at the meeting:

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

I am on the page 131!    This is probably one of “must read” for anybody interested in business.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
I just read an introduction…  This one is next. 🙂

The food at the event was absolutely magnificent – as you can see by my full second plate 🙂