Why Intuit says ‘you never know’ about ideas — until you test ’em

Software-maker Intuit is best-known for products like TurboTax and Quicken, and it is one of those companies often celebrated for its culture of innovation. The company is a big believer in grassroots innovation, helping employees develop new ideas from the ground up. Employees are encouraged to spend 10 percent of their time pursuing their own ideas via “unstructured time,” and Intuit holds an “incubation week” each month for a cohort of teams. The Intuit Labs site showcases some of these new ideas bubbling up, and there’s an annual event called “Create the Offering” that about a quarter of Intuit’s employees attend. The company has also embraced the “lean startup” methodology, encouraging teams to move fast and generate evidence for their ideas.

bennettblankBennett Blank, Innovation Leader at Intuit, says there’s an important evolution that has been taking place at the company over the past several years: from having employee ideas reviewed and filtered by groups of executives, toward empowering employees to test their ideas in market with real customers. Rather than green-lighting initiatives based on senior managers’ hunches about market opportunities or notions about what customers may want, employees run experiments with the goal of gathering evidence — in the form of data and customer insights — for or against their new idea. This evidence is then used by the idea teams to determine whether or not to continue pursuing their idea. Bennett explained the shift in a recent interview.

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