Key ingredients for insurance innovation

Embracing change involves planning for iterative change and pivoting when necessary. Continuous learning experiences can demonstrate the added value of innovation. (Photo: PopTika/Shutterstock.com)

Many of us have had to innovate during the pandemic, whether it’s figuring out how to manage a workforce that used to be in-person and is now remote, or how to safely perform claims checks while practicing social distancing. Some of us may have innovated successfully, while others realize it could have gone better. After years of being involved in innovation, I’ve noticed that success requires three things: a clear strategy, a strong team, and embracing change along the way.

A clear innovation strategy

A clear innovation strategy requires vision and guiding principles.

Vision is a laser focus on the WHY. What problem do you want to solve? What is your differentiation in the market? Are you building a better mousetrap or creating an entirely new way to catch a mouse? Always keep the desired result in mind.

Guiding principles help determine what’s important and enable you to make better, faster, and more consistent decisions. Creating guiding principles is a great opportunity to involve your CEO and front-line proofreaders to capture an overall picture of the project. Use guiding principles and communicate them throughout the project lifecycle to ensure continuous alignment.

Jony Ive said that one of the most important things he learned from working with Steve Jobs at Apple was that focus means “saying no” to something that you think with every bone in your body is a phenomenal idea and you wake up thinking about it, but you end up saying no because you’re focusing on something else.” A successful innovation strategy combines a clear vision with guiding principles to ensure a laser-like focus on the desired outcome.

A strong innovation team

A strong team includes diverse perspectives and a supporting infrastructure.

Different perspectives are important. If everyone on the team has the same background and experience, you’re unlikely to get different ideas and you’re likely to repeat the same things you’ve always done. However, having people with different backgrounds and experiences on the team is not enough. You must also ensure that team members feel included, heard and feel safe sharing their ideas. Give them permission to share those wild ideas. Encourage team members to build off each other’s ideas because that’s where the magic happens.

I took a creativity and innovation class with Dr. Lisa Gundry at DePaul University, where one exercise was to map out all the features of a completely different company or product—not a competitor—to see what new ideas those features generate in our own products.

You also need to set up the supporting infrastructure for your team. Do whatever it takes to show your employees that they are supported by the larger team and that their ideas—whether practical or idealistic—can positively impact the organization. Creativity takes time and space to breathe, so make innovation a regular occurrence and include input from your C-suite to your front-line fixers.

Embracing change for innovation

Embracing change involves planning for iterative change and pivoting when necessary.

Iterative change allows you to take calculated risks by reducing change. You can learn from a prototype that isn’t fully built and incorporate customer feedback into the iterative design process. Iterative change also allows stakeholders to absorb change slowly with less impact.

It’s also important to embrace the change, twisting it as needed. Remove the fear of failure and instead focus on what you learn from things that didn’t go as expected. Showcase consistent learning experiences to demonstrate the added value of innovation. Your guiding principles should make it easy to identify if you are serving your vision or if you have strayed and need to go back.

Insurers are constantly adapting and evolving with market changes. Emerging technologies and AI integrations are recent examples. Insurers are identifying an iterative way to seamlessly incorporate AI recommendations into the claims workflow to benefit frontline adjusters.

You have the tools you need to innovate, so think: What is your strategy? Once this is identified, build a strong team to execute and embrace the change along the way.

Elaine Hornbill is the product and strategic leader of Duck Creek’s Claims and Insights products. She is responsible for understanding the voice of the customer and defining R&D initiatives for the success of these products. The opinions expressed are personal to the author.

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