We take a look at Intuit’s Innovation Catalyst Program and how a 40 year old company transformed its culture to become one of the most innovative big companies around.

 

Introduction

The Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship is not inventing something new, rather it is a catalyst of a movement to help established organisations keep innovating by keeping their employees engaged. Lean Startup, Customer Development, Agile, Rapid Prototyping, Ideation, Design Thinking, Validation etc are all smaller parts of this process and have been applied successfully inside Intuit, a financial software company. In this interview, we dive deep with Aaron Eden who together with Bennett Blank were the guys training and launching 100 teams who returned around USD100 million in new revenues (over 1 year)! producing million dollar intrapreneur in turn.

 

Oh no, where’s our Innovation Mojo gone?

Intuit had grown from a startup to a big corporation with 8,200 employees within 30 years. It took the company’s (partially active) founder Scott Cook, not the acting CEO who first felt that the company was no longer behaving like a startup and looking to solve customers problems. (By the way, this seems to be a trend that it is the founder and not the CEO or management team that pick up on the decreasing performance of the company in terms of its entrepreneurial activity).

The Net Promotor Score was lagging, employees were not moving outside of their boundaries or challenging the status quo to drive change. So, having lost its “innovation mojo”, Cook together with the CEO set up the “Innovation Catalyst” program by identifying entrepreneurial people within the organisation and getting them to adopt and spread entrepreneurial practices such as Design Thinking.

 

Creating Million Dollar Intrapreneurs

100 Startups in 100 Days

After Aaron and Bennett had proven that their training program could get some positive results, they set themselves a challenge to go and train 100 teams within 100 days and won the budget (50K) to do this. They convinced employees to “save up” their unstructured time to come and receive further training in a “Hackathon” style event over 2 days or so. Within 1 year of the trainings, this led to more engaged employees, new revenue and better products for customers.

By learning how to run key experiments at an early stage, teams were able to quickly uncover ways to unlock new growth (even if the idea may not have been new) – 15% increase in revenue.

 

Data Rules, not HIPPOs

We discussed what is at the heart of lean startup principles and essentially in Aaron’s opinion it comes down to the ability for people to collect data and base decisions on data. If you don’t have data, you are essentially at the mercy of the HIPPO (Highest Person’s Paid Opinion).

 

Diversity Matters:

Aaron talks about how and when diversity is important when building teams for exploring and developing startup ideas. Cross functional teams has its role to play but is not holistic as at certain stages in the process it’s important to consider the personality types and skill sets, namely the mix of; hacker, hustler, designer and visionary personality types.

 

Start Practicing:

Aaron’s advice to getting started is to get comfortable first by seeking some outside help and identifying key people in the organisation that are already showing entrepreneurial flair and using some of the methodologies. If you can’t find people already practicing or wanting to practice entrepreneurial methods, then management need to lead from the front rather than trying to mandate the new methods. After some early wins, others will then follow on their own accord. Almost any organisation that has “waste” has an opportunity to apply these principles and benefit from them. Aaron even touches on how the business model for curing cancer can still be improved by applying such methods. At the Academy for Corporate Entrepreneurship we aim to teach you the skills and mindset of entrepreneurs and help you to evolve ideas, so that you can “innovate your innovation” and apply these methods as an Intrapreneur.