Scott Cook, Intuit Founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee
2018 CEO Summit


“In 2007, we kicked off a major initiative called Design for Delight, to basically teach the organization the fundamentals of design thinking. We call that Design for Delight, and it goes together with our own principles on successful businesses, emulating some of the future-back work that Clay has inspired. We did a huge amount of teaching to our top 400 people, a full day session on it, lots of materials. We trained coaches throughout the company and there was a burst of energy and I think a couple of articles written.”


Losing the Mojo for Culture Change

“But by 2014 I think we really could safely say we had lost the mojo. You could see it in the way decisions were made; you could see it in some of the success patterns of initiatives and not why they succeeded or failed- not the fact that they succeeded or failed, but why. We then set out to turn the ship and inculcate it into the culture is the way we do things here. It’s the actions, the behaviors of people up and down. I was making a little list here of what we did. If I had to put a headline on all of it, it really leads right off the video, it’s ‘learn by doing.’”
Scott Anthony: “I thought you were going to say that it’s put on the superhero outfit.”


A New Approach: Learn by Doing

“Well, that could work, we could try that so if I had to put a headline it’s ‘Learn by Doing,’ and to stop talking and to start doing. What do we do? First of all, we stopped doing a bunch of things, we sold off five divisions and product lines including one of the largest divisions, and our oldest, Quicken, the original business of the company, we sold off. We also stopped all investment, major innovation investment in our non-cloud platforms.”


Do Less Better

“We stopped a bunch of things on the theory of  ‘do less better.’ Next, I believe if you’re going to change the company you’ve got to have some evidence of success inside your own company. You just can’t use other guys’ stories, and if you don’t have a success story for what you’re trying to teach inside your company, you’ve got to find one because people won’t believe if it’s just Amazon doing it. Fortunately we had- you could find in pockets where we were doing things well, and we had one particular group who’d had a major new product success, and as we dove in to understand it, they really had been doing things the way we had originally taught.”


Nurture Pockets of Success

“Nurture successes in pockets because you’re going to need those success stories, because leaders gravitate to success.

Thirdly the top execs have to change, it’s their habits that drive the company and it’s their habits that are the barriers to change. We swapped some BU leaders, so took the same guys, put them in different jobs just to lubricate good new thinking. We upgraded a couple other leaders, but then we engaged the top leaders in the discovery process. We divided up the top leadership into teams of three; this is the top 25 people.”


Engage top leaders in the process of discovery

“Brad and I personally assigned them topics that they had to research for a few months, and had them come back and present their research to the rest of the leadership team.

This was stuff way out of the box for them because like everyone they spent most of their time on that end of the spectrum. This ask was to understand the changes happening in finance in China and report back. Understand what AI is bringing and report back. Understand young people and how they interact with computing; this team decided that college students were not young enough nor was high school. They went to people basically in middle school; those were the people who had the biggest cutting edge, because they’ve grown up with phones, with smart phones in their hands. Those were the kinds of projects, so involve the leaders in the doing, in this case it was the discovery process.”


Leaders Cannot Delegate Innovation

“They couldn’t delegate it, a number of them wanted to delegate to their teams because that’s what they do- not in this case. You had to do it yourself, which means you had to be on the plane to China, for example, for that project.”


Learn by Doing for Everyone

“The top leaders have to change and then this is really all learn-by-doing and maybe it’s learn-by-doing-for-everyone. The guys who’ve studied the Toyota production system and why it didn’t penetrate US auto manufacturers for so long, even GM which had a Toyota plan in their system. See, if you send one guy out to see the new process and that guy gets all excited and comes back and tries to teach the other 10,000, it never works. You’ve got to take the whole group, so we had the whole executive team do this and then when it came to the company, we decided to train the entire company. We have a process stated at the company meetings, so we go around to all of our offices do a one-day meeting that updates them on all the company stuff.

We basically dedicated that to retraining everyone on our Design for Delight and Customer-Driven Innovation approaches. Everyone. So they all had to go out and do, phone your homes in advance, so teams of two go out and call on customers or prospects and do a process we have called Follow Me Home. Then they had to come in and bring those problems that they observed and then they actually worked on them, it was not learn by lecture, because as everyone knows a lecture is the fastest way to transfer information from the professor’s notes to the students’ notes without going through the brains of either.

I believe learning only happens by doing and if we want any chance of them doing it back at the work place they have to do it when we get them together. We had them actually go and do the process from the beginning of understanding the customer problem all the way through to designing the experiment to run. That’s ‘learn by doing for all’.”


Experimenting Means Asking the Right Questions

“Then lastly a company grows to reflect its leader. What’s really important is the questions the leader asks. We had to make sure we were asking the questions that insisted and evoked the behaviors that we were teaching. Questions like, “what experiment are you going to run next week on that?” If they don’t have an experiment planned for next week, let’s talk about that and if they have a proposal, okay what experiments did you run that prove out the leap of faith assumptions? These are all the things we teach. But if we’re not asking for it, if we’re looking at the spreadsheet and saying that looks good and are not asking for how they got to the answer, we’re not teaching and re-enforcing the same behaviors.”


When Culture Change Leads to Growth

“What have been the results of that? The company is now in a year where we’re growing and we’re having the best growth year we’ve had in at least a dozen, and that system invented by that group is doing extremely well. We have a new business that we’ve launched this past year and it’s the fastest growing and biggest new first year new business we’ve ever had.”