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Who Can Innovate?

[fa icon="calendar"] Jul 18, 2017 9:10:41 AM / by Rhiannon Snell, Innovation Chef

Rhiannon Snell, Innovation Chef

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At Cookhouse Lab, our goal is to accelerate insurance innovation through open collaboration. We aim to do so through our various innovation projects, which are focused co-creations amongst project members.

Who can innovate?

A question we often get asked at the beginning of every Cookhouse Lab project is “who should I send to participate?” Cookhouse Lab members will initially select a senior employee from IT, Strategy, or Innovation. However, this creates a dilemma. The time of these employees is under high internal demand, and therefore they are often unable to participate in an offsite project that can last from 1-3 months. This scenario gives rise to the question:

How can organizations maximize their innovation potential by looking outside of their typical pool of innovation candidates?

Expanding the candidate pool

Very simply, innovation is about identifying customer needs, then solving problems to meet to those needs. When looking for opportunities within the insurance sector, organizations have a wealth of existing internal knowledge. For example, front-line employees, such as claims representatives, have fantastic insights into the concerns and frustrations held by existing customers. Another example are underwriters, who have a strong understanding of product feasibility. Both employee groups are in a good position to identify problems, then contribute to the recognition and analysis of new opportunities.

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Strength in diversity

When developing an innovation project team, it is important to include members from multiple functions across an organization. Any impactful solution, whether it be a product, service or process, will touch on multiple functions. A solution developed in isolation can be at risk of failing to meet customer needs, failing to adhere to internal feasibility requirements, facing implementation delays, and suffering from internal resistance. Functional representatives involved on innovation projects are able to highlight any potential roadblocks early on, then act as champions for the solution during the implementation phase.  

Empowering junior and intermediate staff members

Fast moving innovation projects require decisions to be made frequently, some of which are minute and others which significantly impact the direction of the solution. Innovation projects are often held up by decision making bottle-necks as a result of capacity limitations faced by senior staff. To maintain the cadence and momentum of innovation, it can be an effective measure to empower junior and intermediate staff members to participate and make decisions.

There are additional reasons to involve junior and intermediate staff members in innovation projects beyond their availability:


  • Capability - Insurance organizations can attract top talent due to comparatively high industry salaries and career development opportunities.  The problem solving and decision-making skills of non-senior employees should not be overlooked.
  • Perspective - Those relatively new to the industry come with “fresh eyes” and the ability to identify opportunities and challenges that may not be seen by employees who have worked within the system for many years (note, I am not discrediting those with considerable industry experience, who contribute comprehensive knowledge in addition to valuable perspectives).
  • Growth - Innovation projects provide an opportunity for employee development. Participants can build their teamwork and problem-solving skills, exercise the freedom to think, and gain insight into the operations of other areas of the business.

We have created an innovation environment at Cookhouse Lab that offers employees from every level and functional area the opportunity to participate. We have a number of projects that span multiple insurance disciplines, during which member companies have the option of rotating participating staff. 

For more information on how to become a member, or if you are interested in joining an upcoming project, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.check-innovation-projects

Topics: innovation, innovate

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