This paper investigates an innovation contest as organizational routine of innovation management. We draw from a qualitative longitudinal study in an industrial company. We examine the meanings, performance and artifacts related to the contest and show their mutual dynamics. Our results indicate that a common orientation towards a sense of the exceptional created by the contest allows it to sustain itself despite discrepancies in its internal routine structure. Sufficient interpretive flexibility is central in hosting the varied private meanings and performances. The study highlights the relevance of the artifactual elements in creating the common orientation, yet leaving space for variety in the meanings and performance of the contest. With these findings, we contribute to a better understanding of innovation contests as tools for innovation management.