Scott Cook co-founded Intuit, the company behind a range of hugely-popular financial software products, including the well-known QuickBooks.
Scott was born in Glendale, California, in 1952. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics. Later, he earned an MBA from the prestigious Harvard Business School.
Throughout his career, Scott has worked at a number of well-known companies. He began at Procter & Gamble, before joining Bain & Company. His time with both companies, and the invaluable experience he gained, set him on the road to forming his own successful business.
But not content with simply paving his own way in the world, Scott Cook wanted to help other rising stars to reach their potential. So he, and his wife Signe Ostby, established the Center for Brand and Product Management in the University of Wisconsin - Madison School of Business.
This supports the Wisconsin MBA brand and product management specialization, helping students secure internships and future roles.
Scott and his wife are also recognized for their philanthropy, having donated substantial funds to universities over the decades.
Scott Cook is known for co-founding Intuit in 1983, alongside co-founder Tom Proulx (also Intuit’s first programmer).
He first formulated the Intuit concept after his wife complained about making bill payments: he realized that the increasing mainstream adoption of computers would lead to demand for software designed to help people pay their bills.
It’s easy to take online payments for granted today, but this was a revolutionary idea back in the early- to mid-80s.
But even with the idea taking root in his mind, Scott needed a programmer to help him bring it to fruition. He started to work with Proulx, whom he met at Stanford University. They launched the company together, initially operating out of a small room on Palo Alto’s University Avenue (a classic Silicon Valley origin story!).
The first version of Quicken developed by Intuit was written in Microsoft’s BASIC language. It was created for the Apple II and MS-DOS, though subsequent versions of Quicken have been released for a variety of platforms in the decades since.
Scott and his co-founder demonstrated an eye for innovation early on, when Microsoft launched its own 1991 competitor: Microsoft Money. Intuit devised a novel way to compete with the software giant: they offered customers a coupon for a $15 rebate on software sold in their stores. As a result, Intuit became the first software brand to provide rebates as rewards.
Intuit’s portfolio of products includes Mint, an app for managing personal finances conveniently; QuickBooks, an accounting program for small businesses; and TurboTax, an app designed to prepare users for income tax returns.
Today, Scott serves as a director for Procter & Gamble and eBay. He is also on the dean’s advisory board at Harvard Business School, where he continues his passion within the education sector.
Intuit’s development approach has two key drivers: the customer and innovation.
Scott Cook and Steve Bennett (Intuit’s then-CEO) came up with the Design for Delight (D4D) program in 2007. The aim was to revitalize the company’s performance by focusing on the company’s approach to innovative design.
According to Scott, “D4D is our #1 secret weapon [...] there is no #2”.
The one-day D4D initiative involved bringing Intuit’s top 300 managers together for a key meeting. A core driver of D4D was articulating Intuit’s strategy for design thinking and to establish a company-wide framework for creating outstanding products.
The initial response to Scott’s D4D program may have been slightly underwhelming, but it has gone on to become a core part of Intuit’s ethos.
Today, D4D is a set of three principles representing Intuit’s approach to innovation. It helps teams exceed expectations, cultivate a positive emotional response during the customer experience, and help to create dramatic improvements in the lives of users/consumers.
After all, the right features can streamline complex processes, saving users valuable time and resources. Both of which can be channeled into various key areas, ultimately boosting productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness.
The three D4D principles are:
Deep customer empathy: Developing a deeper understanding of Intuit’s customers, pain points, and motivations inspire the company to innovate; they aim to create solutions that drive such major improvements that customers cannot imagine going back to previous products or processes (otherwise known as product "stickiness")
Go broad to go narrow: Intuit’s second D4D principle focuses on generating lots of ideas before narrowing them down to the best; the more ideas teams create, the more likely they are to find good ones
Rapid experiments with customers: Conducting experiments quickly empowers teams to make more effective choices based on the behavior of real users; they’re informed by facts rather than speculation
You can learn more about Scott Cook in the book Inside Intuit: How the Makers of Quicken Beat Microsoft and Revolutionized an Entire Industry.
The Next Web’s piece 4 things I learned about innovation by working under Intuit’s Scott Cook and What Scott Cook Wished He Knew About Being a CEO When He Founded Intuit also offer insights into Scott Cook’s career.