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Intuit’s CEO on Building a Design-Driven Company

Although 46 similar products were on the market when Intuit launched Quicken, in 1983, it immediately became the market leader in personal finance software and has held that position for three decades. That’s because Quicken was so well designed that using it is intuitive.

But by the time Smith became CEO, in 2008, the company had become overly focused on adding incremental features that delivered ease of use but not delight. What was missing was an emotional connection with customers. He and his team set out to integrate design thinking into every part of Intuit. They changed the layout of the office, reduced the number of cubes, and added more collaboration spaces and places for impromptu work. They increased the number of designers by nearly 600% and now hold quarterly design conferences. They bring in people who have created exceptionally designed products, such as the Nest thermostat and the Kayak travel website, to share insights with Intuit employees. The company acquired one start-up, called Mint, and collaborates with another, called ZenPayroll, to improve customer experience.

Although most people don’t think of financial software as a category driven by emotion or design, Smith writes, Intuit’s D4D (“design for delight”) program has paid off. For example, its SnapTax app, inspired by consumers’ migration to smartphones, led one user to write, “I want this app to have my babies.”

HBR Reprint R1501A

R1501A_SMITH

Timothy Archibald...

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