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Are Insurers Doing Innovation Wrong?

Deb Smallwood | June 23, 2015

Recently, I read the article, You’re Doing Innovation Wrong by Brian Solomon in Forbes. So immediately I thought: Are you doing it wrong? Are we? I love when a short article can stop us in our tracks and make us examine our processes. It is all about continuous improvement, right? So let’s explore.

The article warns that by simply stating, “We need to innovate,” or “We need a culture of innovation,” you can unknowingly set up your organization to focus on the superficialities of innovation rather than the core of what innovation is—a discipline. For example, a company might set up an innovation lab and spend a lot of money on new desk set-ups, tablets and iPhones, sharpies and whiteboards, institute a casual dress code…and instead of innovating, all the energy is spent on the new gadgets and jeans on Friday.

So how can we change the way of thinking about innovation? Of course, there is value to setting up creative-enabled work environments. It can’t be gadgets alone, there is more to innovating then just being creative. Innovation is a discipline.

To do innovation right, you must demand innovation as a performance standard treating innovation as a measure and metric. Hold business and IT leaders accountable for establishing meaningful innovation initiatives. Innovation should be tied to career development, employee incentives, and promotions.  Because if you don’t demand innovation as a requirement from all levels, especially junior levels, you build that culture from the bottom up.

In change management classes, you learn early that changing a culture cannot happen unless it is demanded at all levels, recognized and rewarded. If you focus on innovation as an obligation, you will quickly start to notice the cultural shift you sought to get in the first place.

In insurance, it is easy to be swayed by the shiny new tool and jump to invest in the latest system. But if the ultimate goal is to create an innovative culture, than we need to remember not to be distracted by the lure of flashy innovation enabling tools and systems.

We have all seen innovation campaigns start and quickly fail. Ask yourselves why they failed. Was it because there was no accountability? To do innovation right, you have to be accountable and treat innovation with the seriousness it deserves. 


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