Innovation creativity reign supreme at Intuit

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Cloud9 is proud to be an Intuit .“Authorized Innovator”.(and Commercial Host)

Of all the hundreds of applications and software makers that Cloud9 Real Time facilitates with its array of dynamic private cloud solutions, none is more indicative of our own surprising success than Intuit.

Suddenly Intuit is being acknowledged everywhere, from FORTUNE’S 100 best places to work list (#19 ), to Forbes most innovative companies in the world list (up 27 spots from last year). 

intuit_authorized_quickbooks_commercial_host_cloudWhat makes Intuit  such a great place to work?  “The financial application maker uses its culture to invoke innovation,” says the FORTUNE snapshot, “with ‘idea jams,’ formal rotation programs for new employees, and four hours of ‘unstructured time’ per week for employees to work on projects of their own choosing.”

“And in recent years the Company’s executive management have recast a once big stodgy 30 year old tech firm, with $4.1 billion in revenue and $17 billion in market valuation (similar to Yahoo‘s, but with far less fanfare and drama), in the image of a Silicon Valley startup: fast-moving, embracing uncertainty, and continually learning.

And it’s worked: Intuit is making its second appearance this year on Forbes annual list of the world’s 100 most innovative companies, moving up 27 spots from last year to #57.”Plenty of companies are sort of a religion, where people take their cues from the top, but Intuit is a more like a science lab, where anything can be tested and proven incorrect. “When you have only one test, you don’t have entrepreneurs; you have politicians. When you have lots of ideas you have entrepreneurs,” says Scott Cook, Intuit’s billionaire cofounder in a recent Forbes piece by Bruce Upbin.“There are very few Steve Jobses out there. We run small teams and lots of rapid experiments. No politics. No PowerPoints,” says Brad Smith, Intuit’s CEO whom Cook tapped as CEO in 2008.In the Forbes article Why Intuit Is More Innovative Than Your Company, Intuit CEO Smith itemizes the four principles he recently shared with the entire company for keeping new ideas flowing  —

Get people to fall in love with problems, not solutions.

Leadership’s job is to focus people on a grand challenge. It took 20 years for QuickBooks to get 5 million small-business customers. Smith recently challenged the QuickBooks team to double that in 3 years.

Create an environment where people can test their ideas quickly and cheaply.

Intuit gives employees 10% of their hours as unstructured time. The legal department created a tool kit that lets product managers try new business ideas without needing to talk to legal. The IT department accelerated the time it took to set up test environments for new Web products from two months to two hours.

Share the lessons of failures in the most public forum possible.

In an all-hands meeting in August Scott Cook told the story of how he rejected the idea a few managers had to make a retail checkout product combining hardware and software. Cook said, no, we’re a software firm. They didn’t listen, and it’s now a $100 million business.

Leaders live by the same rules as everyone else.

When Smith became CEO in 2008 he pushed for a new technology to connect QuickBooks to app developers. It cost $70 million and took three years and failed. A rival team of two engineers built its replacement in only several months. Every decision he has made since has gone through hypothesis testing.


Sarah Gardiner

All stories by: Sarah Gardiner