Highest Paid Opinion Wins

Innovators that run experiments have a key advantage: data.

The data collected from experiments can help you make better decisions about the direction, or even the fate, of a new product, business model or approach. Expanding on this idea, Intuit’s founder Scott Cook said:

“When you don’t have data to base a decision on, it becomes a debate of opinion. And in a debate of opinion, too often the highest paid opinion wins. And that’s not always the right answer.”

Scott’s remarks came at our annual Create the Offering Forum which I posted from last week. Like many in the audience, I found myself smiling and nodding my head…he had touched on a frustration that many teams face.

scottcookHe went on to share beliefs he had about Intuit products that had been wrong. For example, he once believed that there wouldn’t be a market for the type of payroll service our teams were suggesting we build. Today there are more than one million businesses using Intuit Payroll Services. “When you have data the right decision can prevail,” he said.

One group that isn’t afraid to experiment as they pursue new opportunities is small business owners. They are willing to accept failure as part of the path to success. That was one of six small business innovation advantages cited in our latest Intuit Future of Small Business Report.

When you are inventing new products or ways of doing things there are a lot of unknowns. Some of the beliefs you have about what customers will want and how they might use a product or service are wrong … you just don’t know which ones. And finding out is really important.

Scott noted that there are lots of good techniques to validate your beliefs but focused on experiments as a great way to rapidly validate (or debunk) key hypotheses on customer behavior.

To illustrate, Scott had two representatives from Intuit teams present examples of how they’ve used experiments to guide the development of new offerings and drive innovation.

  • Deepa, a product development leader, showcased how our teams in India are rapidly iterating concepts and solutions with customers to steer the direction of possible offerings for the Indian market.
  • Tom, a product manager, demonstrated how what we’ve learned from rapid experiments has shaped Accountant Work Exchange, a new service that helps accountants with excess work find other accountants with the time and resources to assist them.

We are running more and more fast and cheap experiments in our development process here at Intuit. They help ensure that when the highest opinion wins, it is that of our customers.

About Cassie Divine

Cassie Divine is the lucky person at Intuit who drives the Future of Small Business project. She recently launched a little online shop and is enjoying the wild ride of starting a business.
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