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Inspiring Lessons from a Market Leader

by Carl Miller Friday, March 27, 2015

Intuit Co-Founder Scott Cook Shares TurboTax Innovation Approach with Wisconsin MBA Students

In the digital marketplace, innovation is proving to be critical to capturing and maintaining market share. That’s why Scott Cook, co-founder and chairman of the board at Intuit, came to the Wisconsin School of Business to lead MBA students from the School’s Center for Brand and Product Management, which Cook and wife Signe Ostby (BBA ’75, MBA ’77) founded in 2002, in a hands-on workshop to develop an essential business skill—product innovation.

scott cook intuit founder cbpm center for brand and product management uw-madison wisconsin school of business

Scott Cook, co-founder and chairman of the board at Intuit, speaks with students at the Center for Brand and Product Management at the Wisconsin School of Business.

Drawing on his experience overseeing Intuit’s market-leading TurboTax software, Cook offered an inside look at how the company stays on top year after year in a competitive market.

“I brought the class a real problem we are trying to solve at the company so I could get insights from the fresh eyes of the students and also give students the opportunity to learn how work is done in Silicon Valley,” said Cook.

Taking a learn-by-doing approach, Cook walked students through an abridged version of the new product development process that Intuit is using to create the next generation of TurboTax software. At the heart of the class was a brainstorming session led by Cook that explored potential TurboTax updates.

“Intuit has been an invaluable corporate partner to the Wisconsin School of Business,” says Mike Judge, director of the Center for Brand and Product Management. “Scott elevated the active learning experience by providing his deep expertise with students in an interactive and engaging way. The students were well prepared for the workshop and excited to connect with an industry leader like Scott.”

As background, students read an analyst’s in-depth report on Intuit’s TurboTax business. “It was a great learning experience because the pre-work allowed us to take a deep dive into a real marketing problem,” says Aaron Siedband (MBA ’15). “It was great to practice and see firsthand how an executive would think through the problem.”

Students also interviewed consumers in preparation for the class. Their assignment was to learn more about what consumers want and where they encounter dissatisfaction in the taxpaying process and beyond.

“In the brainstorming session, Scott kept pushing us to understand more about what our consumer interviews were really telling us,” says Whitney Peiser (MBA ’16). “He asked probing questions to get to truly unexpected insights, rather than the surface-level perspectives we started with.”

After leading students through the exercise, Cook showed them how Intuit’s new product development group is currently responding to the same challenges. His presentation offered a unique view of how new ideas are generated, refined, and executed at a company that takes pride in its culture of innovation.

Students were impressed by the results and by Cook’s vision for the company.

“It takes a pure understanding of your consumers to have such a clearly defined vision,” says Jackie Swoyer (MBA ’16). “This understanding doesn’t come easily; it requires a thoughtful and empathetic approach. I hope to be able to build such a clear and meaningful vision for my brands someday.”