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Ask Camelot: “If innovation is the answer, What is the question?”

During this enticing discussion, The Camelot Network’s Innovation Think Tank analysed the ways insurance leaders approach innovation. Using survey results from practising insurance leaders to identify the areas companies are struggling with, they shared their advice on improving approaches to innovation, as well as answering questions from our engaging audience.

In response to the title of the event ‘If innovation is the answer, What’s the question?’, Gary Burke led us through the importance of defining innovation as a foundation for success. Assessing the survey results, it is evident that insurance leaders have a widely varied definition of innovation; ranging from very detailed descriptions to sweeping statements of doing new things and improving efficiency, to some not having a definition at all.

If the decision-makers don’t understand the importance of innovation, how will the correct resources ever be allotted, and progress made?

Instead, Gary emphasised the importance of discovering how your business needs to innovate – this involves assessing the barriers and challenges you face to improve the efficiency of your processes, your product. This means that innovation doesn’t require a specific solution, as many confuse it with optimisation, digitisation, automation… Instead, this requires a real understanding of your business needs. Once this understanding is universal within your business, you will evolve in the right direction, enabling innovation to truly transform your outcome.

Despite this lack of understanding of innovation within businesses, people keep batting the word around. Lee Timms argued that this reveals a ‘mindset’, that would need to evolve to align the drive for change and development, with the word innovation.

Lee discussed the theory of ‘three brains’ – our logical head, emotional heart, and intuitive gut. Whilst business decisions are led by logic, based on ROI and proven data, intuition drives our more fundamental need for change, and has a greater impact on those who encounter it. This is because, without decisions led by intuition rather than proven data – that ‘leap of faith’ moment – true progress will never be possible. We must have the ‘guts’ to make a decision that turns a corner, in order to compete with the future competition, for whom tradition has never held them back.

“Innovation is to a company what ‘getting outside your comfort zone’ is to an individual. It’s about using your other two brains, your gut and heart, to drive decisions, kept in check by the head.”

Lee Timms, Programme manager, Hyperion X

James Downes analysed insurance leaders’ perceptions of their own barriers to innovation – the top three reasons being other priorities, lack of time, and a lack of data incentivising innovation. These most common barriers were identified as 40% of all reasons leaders hesitate to innovate – yet, these are all self-imposed barriers. These organisational barriers are all internal and within the company’s control, so why are they so hard to overcome?

Once again, argued James, it largely comes down to mindset. The traditional mindset we so often see within insurance doesn’t see innovation as part of the business strategy or recognise its importance. This is in sharp contrast with many other sectors such as media, retail, and tech where, quite often, innovation is the strategy. It’s such a core part of what most businesses do.

“It’s about recognising that innovation in all its different forms can be the driving force for building resilience into organisations, to make them ready for the kind of real and the urgent challenges that are going to come down the line faster than we expect.”

James Downes, CEO, House of Insurtech

Marisa Murton reiterates these cultural issues behind maintaining traditions within insurance processes, with the survey highlighting that ideas aren’t a barrier to change – rather, actually enabling implementation is. When change and development are assigned to an ‘innovation’ department, it separates this from the people who have to work with these changes. As a result, the ‘organisational antibodies’ will reject this foreign implementation, discouraging the use and progress of any innovation attempts.

In order to innovate our processes and systems, first, we must innovate the internal structure that enables innovation – dissemination of ideas throughout an organisation, rather than segregation. Through actually collaborating on ideas for the user, connecting fresh thinking  with the skills of the experienced, we can create something truly innovative, that will enable change specific to your business challenges and will be adopted widely. Develop collaborative ideas for the customer, and results will be enhanced astronomically.

“It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t care who takes the credit.”

Marisa Murton, Director and Principal Data Scientist

In the survey, insurance leaders told us that most of their innovation activity focused on speed, reducing cost, and other areas Harvey Wade refers to as “now value”. However, it also indicated that most future innovation will still be focused on defending the current way of operating – only developing in order to combat future regulations, with just one mention of new business models. In a future threatened by disruptive technology and businesses that we don’t see coming, doing what you do now won’t get to where you need to be.

In order to truly prepare for upcoming challenges and competitors, innovation must not only improve the way we work but transform it. The reasons behind investment in change can’t be solely to improve numbers – instead, investments must be made in ‘explore’ projects, to learn about the future, rather than seek an ROI. This will enhance every future investment into innovation, as well as avoiding reactive action when the future does come.

Innovation is an increasingly powerful tool in a leaders armoury – the key to success is fully understanding why, creating a suitable framework for your business, enabling the right mindset, and applying it to the right challenges.

If you would like to know more about getting the best out of innovation, please get in contact with David Clamp, Founder of The Camelot Network.

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