Enabling Grassroots Innovation

Not everyone can be a great innovator, but a great innovator can come from anywhere. While many may agree with this statement, it’s rare to find a company that attempts to live by it.

At Intuit, we strive to let ideas bubble up from all areas of the company. We use a tool called Intuit Brainstorm to connect employees with the ideas they are most able to help. It doesn’t matter what their titles or positions in the organizational hierarchy are. What matters is that they have passion and expertise. As a result, we have finance folks giving insight on technical decisions. Engineers are developing business plans. Business folks are making design mockups. Ultimately, it leads to more ideas getting out the door like ViewMyPaycheck, Lasso, and Intuit Sales Tax Reporter.

All three of these ideas developed in a very different manner from how ideas have historically moved through Intuit. There was no tops-down mandate. These ideas happened due to the passion of their respective team members. People acted outside their job descriptions and ignored convention to make the larger effort happen.

That’s a big part of what makes Intuit a great place to work. Employees are encouraged to bring their ideas to life. Unfortunately, that’s the exception, not the rule, in the corporate world.

That’s not to imply we’ve got this whole innovation thing figured out here. Far from it. We still have groups of employees that don’t feel empowered to push their ideas forward. They still feel that our corporate processes are too entrenched to allow for innovation and creativity. In some cases, they’re right. But, with tools like Intuit Brainstorm, events like Idea Jam, and programs like Unstructured Time, we can see we’re heading in the right direction – towards openness, flexibility, and empowerment of our employees.

The latest Intuit Future of Small Business Report identified business culture as a factor that can affect small business innovation. Leaders need to embrace innovation opportunities and actively encourage open employee dialog and new ideas – no matter what size their business.

About tmilbourn

Tad Milbourn is an innovation evangelist at Intuit. When he's not planning, promoting, or talking about Intuit Brainstorm, he's asking others what they think about it. He's sort of obsessed. Follow him on Twitter (@tadmilbourn).
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