In my last blog , I mentioned new research from Accenture indicating that companies in all industries are lowering their expectations relating to innovation. I argued that this was not to be recommended for insurance companies. In this blog, I want to explore what might be wrong about typical approaches.

The main point I want to emphasize here is that companies tend to conflate “invention” with “innovation”. Invention is that moment when somebody has a great idea—Archimedes jumping out of his bath and running through the streets of the town naked because he had solved a problem. In business, though, such insights are relatively valueless unless they are supported by systematic, enterprise-wide processes to turn an invention into a product or service that the company can deliver in the right quantities and at the right price.

Oh, and did I mention—a product or service that customers desperately want!

Data from Accenture’s research survey of innovation back this up. Among the key challenges of innovation, respondents cited predicting future trends (30 percent on average, 38 percent for insurance), achieving cost containment (27 percent average, 31 percent for insurers), securing on-going budget support and leveraging new technology (26 percent each average, 28 percent and 25 percent respectively in insurance) and transforming new ideas into marketable goods and services (23 percent). All of these, you will note, are concerned with turning “eureka” into business reality.

In the same vein, as compared with results from the 2009 survey, executives said that the sharpest drops in performance were to be found in “commercialization and launch” and “achieving consistent innovation performance”.

So how do you turn great insight into a commercial solution that will gain you competitive advantage and throw your competitors off balance? Join me next week when I take a closer look at this area.

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