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Life Comes at You Fast, So Innovate

Innovation starts with ideas. Here are three things to consider when beginning to foster a culture of ideation within your organization.
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“Life comes at you fast.” As an innovation professional working in insurance, that trendy Twitter phrase has never seemed truer for our industry and the changes that it’s currently undergoing. In just the past five months, my employer has reaffirmed its commitment to innovation through various steps, including establishing an innovation function, opening a slick, modern innovation lab—LAUNCH, and conducting our first design-thinking session featuring one of the more than 50 ideas that are in our innovation pipeline.

Innovation starts with ideas—what should we create that’s vastly different from what we already have? I say it all the time, “everyone’s got an idea.” When faced with the question of what to innovate, we are constantly running up against the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know. What makes an innovative idea a good one? And once we determine that, how exactly do we find them?

Here are three things to consider when beginning this pursuit:

1) Look outside. Innovation starts by understanding the market’s unmet needs. In our lifecycle, we identify opportunities at the point where market signals converge with innovative, scope-aligned ideas. These signals and ideas come from a number of sources, including through open dialogue with agency partners. When you are considering an innovative idea, start by looking outside to determine if your innovation will satisfy an unmet need.

2) Then look WAY outside. You will eventually arrive at the point where you need to go from a general concept to a specific case. One exercise we routinely practice in our innovation lifecycle is to apply the concept to a business unlike our own. How would Netflix deploy this idea? What capabilities would Amazon leverage to become a market leader with this new product?

Broadening our mindset not only allows us to stray from the biases underpinning “that’s how we’ve always done it,” but it also forces us to explore the core competencies that are most critical to successful delivery. Conducting an exercise of this nature could help you identify which critical competencies you will need to leverage to make your idea a success.

3) Find the best of the best. One of our best innovative concepts in 2019 came from combining the best parts of three separate but similar ideas. On their own, none of the ideas quite hit the mark, but when we harnessed our agency facing employees’ creative problem-solving powers to truly get to the heart of what our agency partners could value, a fourth extremely effective option was born. Never dismiss an idea because it’s not perfect. Sometimes, some assembly is required.

Innovation is fast and ideas are all around, but if you can keep up with the pace and find the right concepts to pursue, you will unlock the secret to addressing the needs in the markets that you serve.

Amy Cusack is AVP, innovation and strategy for Selective Insurance Company of America where she is charged with harnessing ideas and sparking change within the walls of Selective and beyond.