The word innovation seems to be on the lips of many more insurance industry executives today than it was even three years ago. C-suite executives are declaring innovation to be a top priority, and many are taking steps to embed innovation into their organizations. If you are one of those people, this article is intended to help you learn from the experience of others.
What follows is a list of dos and their corresponding don’ts with an explanation or framework to help bring it to life.
(1) Do recognize that innovation is a new skill that needs to be built. Don’t assume that identifying the “out-of-the-box” thinkers is the answer.
According to Daniel Pink in his book “A Whole New Mind,” we’ve entered the Conceptual Age, wherein skills of creativity are at a premium. This is on the tail of the Information Age, when technological skill was the primary focus. While the need for innovation skill doesn’t negate the continued need for technological and information competency, we must recognize that the skills needed for innovation are lacking in large organizations.
People need to be trained in those skill areas. They include customer focus, collaboration, risk-taking and creative problem-solving. For your leaders, it also includes new kinds of leadership skills and experience with building out the innovation infrastructure. These new skills are different from those of yesterday and should be brought into an organization similar to the way that Stage-Gate or Six Sigma has been emphasized in the past.
(2) Do understand that innovation is about building and maintaining a portfolio of new ideas. Don’t make it about finding the next big idea.
It is important to recognize that the competency of innovation is about placing bets in a variety of places, with varying degrees of risk in each. We classify ideas into four categories based on how sure we are about the market need and how much of the capability to implement the idea already exists.