The recent Digital Insurers Network (DIN) gathering in Paris identified some key steps that would help insurers transform themselves into innovators. They include shaking up leadership, securing funding, thinking like a start-up, and going beyond smart ideas.

Ask any employee at a major insurance provider to identify the defining trait of their company and what will they tell you? Reliable, trustworthy, solid or cautious, perhaps.

One word that’s unlikely to be proffered is “innovative”.  And yet innovation is a key characteristic of all successful businesses in the digital economy. Just look at digital stars Airbnb and Snapchat, and emerging insurers Trōv and Metromile. If long-established carriers are going to succeed in an increasingly digital market they have to become innovators. Fence-sitters and imitators just won’t make the grade.

Some valuable insights into how insurers can become innovators were shared at the recent Digital Insurers Network (DIN) gathering, convened in Paris by Accenture. Key steps identified by this European think tank include:

Shake up leadership: Ensure that all executives realize the importance of innovation; incorporate innovation within the strategy of the business; encourage business leaders to constantly promote innovation throughout the organization; and train managers to foster creativity and quickly monetize new ideas.

Secure funding: Allocate sufficient funding for on-going innovation; protect innovation budgets from short-term cost-cutting; and assure line managers of long-term financial support for innovation initiatives.

Think like a start-up: Create a propaganda center to promote innovation, launch in-house innovation contests such as hackathons and design competitions; and encourage all employees to identify better ways to perform their tasks. AXA’s Start-In program is a great example of how insurers can accelerate innovation among their employees and foster “intrapreneurship.”

Invest in start-ups: Access smart technology and intellectual property by funding emerging innovators. Many insurers have started backing start-ups and incubators. The benefits of most of these investments have yet to come to market but this strategy is likely to become increasingly influential among tech-savvy insurers.

Leverage liquid workforces: Broaden access to creative talent by leveraging liquid workforces. By enhancing the work experience of employees, as well as pulling in specialist freelancers and remote workers when required, insurers can significantly increase their capacity to innovate.  Creative and inspiring work environments will attract and retain key talent, especially Millennials. The employee experience may soon rival the customer experience in strategic importance.

Go beyond smart ideas: Develop processes to assess innovation ideas; create sprint-teams to prototype new initiatives; devise metrics to measure the benefits of pilot projects; establish project teams to roll out innovation initiatives; and communicate progress throughout the organization.

Some of these ideas may seem far-fetched or “déjà-vu” but many of them have already been put into practice. All of them require insurers to take risks to build innovation capacity.  If carriers are unwilling to take this step they face an even bigger risk – losing their business.

In my next blog post I’ll discuss some of the key technologies that can help insurers innovate more effectively.

If you would like to learn more about the DIN, please email digitalnetwork@accenture.com.

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