On the outside it's not much more than a simple cardboard box, but Adobe Kickbox definitely counts as – and encourages – outside the box thinking.

It's everything a would-be innovator needs to generate, prototype, test and iterate a new idea – all packaged up neatly in a small red box. Peek inside to find a set of printed instructions, notebooks, a Starbucks gift card and a chocolate bar – plus a $1000 prepaid credit card for employees to use to fund any idea they'd like.

Since its launch in 2013 it's been used by about 10% of Adobe's 14,000 employees, with at least 23 ideas moving on to further investment. For example, Adobe Knowhow, an online course marketplace, started life as a Kickbox idea, as did Project Breathe, a successful mindfulness program run internally at Adobe.

So, how does it work?

Kickbox was created in 2013 by Mark Randall, VP Creativity at Adobe. He wanted to empower and tap into the potential innovators at Adobe who might shy away from a more traditional process, as well as get rid of any red tape that stifles ideas.

“We wanted to figure out how to unleash more innovation, beyond relying on a few big-budget projects from engineering and design teams. You need those too, of course, and we have them, but Kickbox is a way to get a lot of ideas, including some you’d never find any other way — and some that wouldn’t survive a more bureaucratic vetting process,” says Randall in an interview with Fortune.

Before Kickbox, Adobe would see about 1-2 dozen innovation projects go through the initial idea phase to the mock-up phase in a year. Since Kickbox launched, they've seen about 1200 ideas, all at a lower absolute cost than working through two ideas using the previous method.

A lot of Kickbox ideas fail, but that's not considered a problem with the program. Instead, it's a feature.

“Our premise is that people will need to try doing innovative things that may fail — we built that [mindset] into the program expecting that a lot of people will try a red box project and it fails,”  Randall tells Forbes.

Kickbox isn't just for the 'usual suspects' of innovation, such as engineers and product managers. Any Adobe employee can ask for a box. This is a deliberate attempt to “dramatically increase the diversity of inputs at the top of our innovation funnel,” according to the Adobe website.

By giving away thousands of dollars in seed funding – no expense report necessary – Adobe is demonstrating that they believe in and trust their employees.

"When you trust people, they’ll live up to your expectations," says Randall to Fast Company. "They’re the CEO of their idea. They’ll allocate their resources and figure out how to move ahead."

There are no deadlines imposed for finishing the program and no judgement an idea fails. But the program doesn't leave innovators without any support or guidance either. Inside the box is a six-level innovation curriculum of sorts, based on Randall's own past experience as an entrepreneur before he joined Adobe.

The six levels 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 improve on ideas
  • Investigate, gathering data with real-world experiments
  • Iterate, developing and testing hypotheses
  • Infiltrate, pitching the idea to management

The levels are outlined on printed reference cards and come with action checklists that must be completed before advancing to the next level. For example, to finish Level 3 Improve employees complete a Kickbox Canvas for their idea. To finish Level 4 Investigate, employees must create a product website and drive at least 250 visitors to it via ads.

By putting ideas out into the real world, it means ideas are first tested by the target audience instead of by a manager – who might reject the ideas that customers want.

Employees also attend a comprehensive two-day workshop – where they pick up their box - that teaches them how to use the Kickbox tools and aims to inspire them and build their confidence.

Ultimately, to 'beat' the box, employees have to finish Level 6 Infiltrate. The last item on the checklist? Convincing an executive to invest time, resources or money in the idea to take it further.

If successful at completing the red box, innovators are the proud recipients of... the blue box. Because every idea is different, every blue box is also different, but its purpose is to help employees move their idea into a functional beta version.

Mark-Randall-Adobe-intrapreneurshipIf Kickbox sounds like something you'd like to try at your own organization, you're in luck. Adobe has released the program under a Creative Commons license: it's available for anyone to download and use for free.

Or even better: hear the nuts and bolts about Adobe's Kickbox from Mark Randall directly during Intrapreneurship Conference #8, scheduled to speak as one of 12+ case studies on the first dat of the 3-day conference.