James Manyika, director of the McKinsey Global Institute published a thought provoking article this week titled, Translating innovation into US growth: An advanced-industries perspective. While the article touches on some areas outside of Intuit’s core, the subject of sparking and nurturing innovation at large US companies and translating this into growth is right on the money. This begs two questions, how does Intuit innovate for growth, and how does the company do this for a global customer base with distinct needs?
“The worst thing that can happen to a big company is to become big. It rips the heart out of the organization, it takes the creativity away from the entrepreneurial engineers, and so we work very hard every day to rage against the machine.”
Smith went on to share some of the lessons he’s learned and how Intuit’s leadership team has worked to combat big company stagnation by shifting mindsets to reexamining “big data.” The stats don’t lie, innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit are alive and well at Intuit. What started with one engineer’s white-space project (to put QuickBooks on the iPhone) has sprung into mobile apps in every business unit including global.
All this said, innovation in the US can have a decidedly different appearance than innovation in developing regions. (I’m reminded of a great New York Times article Where a Cellphone Is Still Cutting Edge. Case in point- the old Motorola brick phones are still alive and working in the lobster fleet in Maine.) While there are 110M entrepreneurs there is no one size fits all app. Entrepreneurs don’t all transact via smartphone or a tablet, and they may not even have a bank account. So, how does a company like Intuit with deep roots in the US, innovate in ways that are relevant to all these varying entrepreneurial profiles? Two words: Customer Focus.
One of the mindsets that Intuit founder Scott Cook champions is the idea of “deep customer empathy.” This is to say, really hone in on understanding what the customer wants and design from there. In Cook’s own words: “…the emphasis is on getting real people to really behave in real experiments, and base your decisions on that.” Neither innovation nor customer delight can flourish without the other, they are as ever twins.