The Recipe for a Successful Startup Collaboration

During the spring of 2020, we took on the industry challenge of Collaborating with Startups — read more about it here. Although the team chose to focus on one pain point, let’s go over what works best (what startups appreciate most) when collaborating with large insurance organizations. 

1. Shared Vision 

Startups are often founded on the basis of customer needs that are unfulfilled in the market. Founders are often so inspired by their discoveries that they are willing to take bigger risks and try new things than the average established organization. As we spoke to several startups during our sprint, we uncovered that a common element founders sought in their partnerships was a shared vision. Without this, they told us, their large insurance counterparts were less willing to take risks and less open to big ideas and possibilities.  

As you seek out a startup partner to collaborate with, openly discuss your vision and goals for the collaboration beforehand. Finding a perfect fit will lead to a powerful partnership, so be sure to align on these topics early on! And make sure you, yourself, are clear on that vision, what is flexible and what is non-negotiable.

2. Speed 

Many of our startup interviewees felt that large carriers had long internal bureaucratic processes that slowed the partnership down. One of our founders even told us the story of an unpleasant experience she had with a partner organization. While trying to arrange a meeting, she noticed the partner frequently rescheduled until a month passed by. The reason for rescheduling? An unavailable conference room! Such obstacles can delay the overall time to market, and we found this was a common pain point for startups. 

When structuring your collaboration model, be sure to agree on a timeline that makes both partners feel respected and accommodated. This will create a positive experience and lead to faster outcomes that can secure potential future collaborations. Even more, be clear as to why you are rescheduling. On this example, the experience could have been better if the partner would have been clear about the why, the startup founder could have also helped out, maybe she had access to a meeting room. Remember, in all relationships, communication is key. 

3. Strong Communication 

This area is so vital, that it’s worth mentioning again. Often startups get lost in insurers’ long bureaucratic processes and are excluded from early strategy discussions. When they are finally brought in, many key decisions have already been made that do not align with the startups’ goals and visions. Our interviewees cited strong communication and inclusion as one of the most important elements, as this consideration made them feel supported and respected by carriers.  

Including these partners early on will build trust in the relationship and create a win-win outcome for everyone involved. We highly encourage you to discuss a suitable communications strategy to ensure a smooth collaboration experience! And respect that strategy.

And there you have it. We are part of an industry where we are often looking to partner up, support or even found a new startup. Now you have some insights on what is needed to make sure your partnership or own creation heads to success! 

Join our summit! Who knows – the startup you’ve been looking for just might be there. To learn more about how you can get involved in the summit, reach out to us by clicking here

Current Times and Innovation

Let me share a brief summary of a story from my perspective. It all started on March 13, 2020. That was when I was informed that I no longer needed to go to our Lab space in Toronto and that suddenly, I needed to ideate on how to we were going to deliver our planned activities for the next three months in a virtual space. AH! Sound familiar? Perhaps you don’t deliver trainings or facilitate sprints, but you also had to redesign how you presented to your clients, how internal meetings were going to take place, even how your workspace was going to look and how you were going to share space with your new colleagues (spouse, pets, children, etc.). In other words, change all, or as I prefer to say, redesign.  

So how has the current situation impacted me personally as an Innovation Coach? Here are ways in which I have used my Innovation Coach skills to get me through these times: 

Embrace creative mindset

From day one, it was obvious that I needed to put my creative mindset to work. I was expected to redesign our programs and how we delivered them while ensuring our participating members still had a pleasant Cookhouse Labs experience. It was an opportunity to let go of all limiting beliefs and get to creating ideas and putting them to test. Sometimes I was afraid of failure, but I knew that the biggest failure would be to not show up.  

Dance with change

Most of us hide from change and try to avoid it. In my area of work, what I am passionate about – creativity and solution-focused mindset — change is the constant that keeps showing up in all aspects of my life. Instead of avoiding it, I choose to create a song with it and dance to the melody. Dancing with change allows me to see the situation from different angles as I continue to move. Can you see how that is possible? How are you choosing to dance? At what speed? And which partners are you bringing along to the journey? 

Accept uncertainty

As solution-focused as I am, there was a point when I realized no one actually has an idea of when things are “going back to some normality”. That realization invited me to choose between fighting that feeling of uncertainty and feeling angry, sad, frustrated OR accepting that uncertainty had become the only certain thing around me. Accepting this fact made it easier for me to flow and look at life as many opportunities because it allowed me to play with one of my favorite two words – WHAT IF? And if you have been on our campus, you know that ‘What If’ is a door to creativity and ideation. Accepting uncertainty, asking what if, and staying solution-focused definitely made my daily work more fluid.  

Connection, connection, connection

These current times have definitely highlighted the importance of staying connected. And in the world of innovation, connections are vital because it is how we can collaborate and in our Lab, it is how we can co-create. After seeing and hearing many of our participating members share how much they miss being in their offices, it really invited the opportunity to reach out more often and stay in touch with our community, which leads to our continued purpose to #MakeInsuranceBetter as a community.  

I invite you to reflect on how these times have impacted you, changed your habits, expectations and/or ways of working. But most important, as an innovator, how have these times invited you to expand and develop your innovative skills?  

I’d love to hear from you and read how you are levering these changes for your growth.

The Human Side of Innovation

The Human side

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

— Steve Jobs

Innovation is a word that has been used over and over in the last years. Everyone wants to be innovative; everyone wants to launch an innovative solution, and everyone wants innovation all around. The interesting part about these wants is that most people expecting innovation expect it fast, easy and comfortable, when really it requires patience, patience and patience! Innovation requires patience to move through the interviews and research phase; patience to embrace the failings during testing phases and learning how to accept feedback; and patience to step out of the comfort zone.

I have spoken to many people who visit our innovation lab and many mention the disappointment they have experienced when it comes to innovation, the frustration with the design methodologies and working with teams, and the pain of seeing ideas change over and over through testing phases. Yes! Not so pleasant descriptions. And these descriptions come from top down. It is no coincidence they first questions they ask are, “Can you help us get to an innovative place and help us understand what we are doing wrong?” and “Can you help our team understand why we are not coming up with innovative ideas?”.

Of course we can!

What is innovation about?

What does innovation mean to you? The most popular answers are new, fun, useful, building from something old and make it new. No matter which way we look at them, all the above require a set of fundamental steps like:

  • Research (to understand the problem and what already exists)
  • Listen with human-centric mindset (to understand the need)
  • Test (to understand usefulness) and
  • Remain open to change (to either create something new or shift on something that already exists)

In a nutshell, innovation is about being open to change based on research, testing, etc. And let’s be honest, that word “change” is not something that people are always excited to do, especially when there is uncertainty, which you know exists when working in innovation. Being open leads to accepting the fact that to create this amazing product, service, or idea, one must be prepared to change rapidly and often. And experiencing change leads, in most cases and at some point, to hitting a wall of (as most people relate to innovation) frustration and pain. But why the frustration and pain? And why, many times, giving up? Well, because we forget about the most important element in innovation. YOU!

What is the most forgotten and overlooked element in innovation?

The most forgotten element in the journey of creativity and creating something new is the HUMAN and all that comes with it. Let’s break it down:  we know that to be able to create something ground-breaking, we have to be open to uncertainty and change. We already know that for most of us humans, those words most often lead to fear. Then how can we expect to create anything revolutionary when we forget the human side of innovation? That involves you, the team member and/or you, the team leader and/or you, the decision maker. No matter what your role is in an innovative journey, you must be aware of your human side, which includes mindset, attitude, behaviors, and patterns. In summary, it asks that we remember that we are human and, based on our day and how we are feeling in the moment when we are working on our solutions, innovation and creativity will be impacted. Therefore, it is vital to remember this important fact – the human side.

How can one unlock and embrace the human side of innovation? Empathy and Courage

Empathy! Not only is it important to have empathy for customers when using creative methodologies, it is also vital to practice empathy with your team members and yourself. Empathy will organically create a safe place for creativity to show up and live.

Courage! Have the courage to trust the process; time and time again, we hear stories of creative minds solving problems and creating pioneering solutions. These creations happen when the team trust a process that is proven, even though the path to the answer is not clear, and when the team move past fear and doubt and into an uncomfortable place of trust.

In summary …

Accept that sometimes you and/or your team will have bad days, not because of the project or because of the team, but because you or one of the team members may be going through a challenging time on a personal level, or perhaps there are limiting beliefs that are blocking the flow of creativity. Perhaps it is the first time you allow yourself to trust a new process. Regardless of the reason why – the answer is patience.

 “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts.” 

— Arnold Bennett

Want more insights from our Lead Innovation Coach?

Join our upcoming free 1-hour Introduction to Design Thinking session, where Coach Ibeth will walk you through the first 2 key steps to get you moving to an innovative idea. Check out this session and other global opportunities on our 2021 Events Calendar here!

Community, Collaboration, Co-Creation

A few weeks back we ran a sprint focusing on Innovating to Save Community Businesses During COVID -19. Clearly, the word Community is in the title, as a reminder of what we stand for at Cookhouse Labs: Building a community, connecting with a community, taking care of our community. In essence, Cookhouse Labs takes us back to what insurance is all about – community.  

During our sprint, we interviewed small business owners, and what we heard from them was how stressful, scary, and frustrating this current situation is for them, which is no surprise; we expected similar words. Even though entrepreneurs are used to uncertainty and sometimes thrive and use uncertainty as a motivator, the current level of this uncertainty is even higher and scarier than usual as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, which has resulted in a tremendous impact on their immediate families, their teams, and the families of every employee involved.  

Empathy is our compass during our process and our journey, as it is the key ingredient for our methodology. Listening to our personas, we identified the current level of fear, stress, and worry. It is one thing to KNOW that there is such an impact; is another thing to SEE and FEEL the impact as the team heard the words and saw the expressions on the faces of the owners we interviewed.  

So, what lessons did we takeaway?  

The current situation is creating an environment of: 

  • Confusion – People are not sure what to do next, since no one knows how long the lockdown will be in effect; 
  • Frustration – Everyone is feeling stuck because, again, not knowing when the business will be running again, there nothing or little an owner can do or plan; 
  • Loneliness – Many people are feeling alone and isolated, as if they are only ones feeling stuck or confused; 
  • Fear – Owners worry about what will happen to their businesses. For all of them, this is their passion, and for some of them, their longtime dream 

The biggest takeaway was seeing their reactions as the team interviewed them. For many business owners, it appeared as if it was the first time someone took time to really listen to how they felt and how this is impacting their life. Even more important, it was the first time someone asked them, “What do you need? How can we support you?”  

The sprint team did an amazing job at connecting to their human side and empathizing with each person they interviewed, truly feeling their real emotions.  

As the result, the team defined a solution: Providing a virtual space that can be available for these small business owners quickly, while they need it, at no cost to them. It’s a solution that provides them with the feeling that they are not alone and that someone does have their back. Who? The insurance industry, specifically the insurance members that participated in the sprint.  

So, stay tuned and keep coming back to learn more about this virtual space: What it is, how it will be created and how YOU can be part of it, if you wish. Meanwhile, this sprint is moving on to a Phase II. At Cookhouse Labs, Phase II means, we are moving forward from ideation and testing to bringing the idea to life.  Click here to find out how you can join Phase II!

We would love to say thank you to those business owners that were happy to share their time and stories during the sprint. And we invite you, our community members, to learn more about those businesses whose owners were comfortable with sharing details about their companies. Links are listed below, so pay them a visit!  

Thank you to our business owners – check out their pages and share if you feel inspired to do so! #CommunitySupport 

Jessica Ash 
Pristine Services 
Whatsapp: 289-380-6900

Raquel Furbert 
Blueprint Hair Studio  
FB: Blueprint Hair Studio
Instagram: @bphairstudio 

Why Communication Is Essential to Innovation

We all know the importance of communication. Most of us learn the basics of communication in our early years, starting by using body language (pointing at what we want) to forming our first words. And, of course, once in school we move on to understanding the importance of listening (receiving the message) and using written words to deliver our message. One of the main purposes of communication is expressing a feeling, a pain, an emotion. It is about sharing and making a connection.

It is no surprise that communication is an essential key ingredient in the innovation process – especially when using a methodology like Design Thinking which focuses on empathy.  As we are learning and remembering, empathy is about connecting:  understanding another person’s feelings and needs in order to collect enough information to create a solution that will be beneficial and of use to that customer.

In this blog post, we are taking a look at communication from the perspective of the organization and the innovators choosing to create the best solution.

Destroy or Support? Your choice

I talk often about communication from an organizational perspective with our members and participants at Cookhouse Labs when we come together to work on a project. Before we start working on the actual topic/problem at hand, I invite our sponsors and decision makers to do one very small thing that has a massive impact. What is it? Well, I ask them to describe in their own words what innovation means to them. Yes, that simple. Why? Well, no matter whether it is an open collaboration sprint or an in-house team working on a topic, the one obvious commonality here is – multiple people. And when we have multiple people working together, we also have multiple perspectives. With these varied perspectives comes different meanings to one word – in this case, innovation.

You may choose to go into a meeting room, say to your team that you are expecting an innovative solution, and then walk away, feeling that you have given them all the freedom to “be innovative” and, therefore, you expect great results.  However, if you never actually explained and defined what innovation means to you and your organization, well, you are in for a surprise. Actually, you are in for disappointment. Why? For the reasons mentioned above, your team will “try” to deliver something innovative based on what they think innovation is. They will try to impress you and your sponsors with a solution that, in their eyes and definition, is the most innovative solution. I mean, they even tested it and customers want it. But it often happens that even a great solution is a disappointment to decision makers and sponsors. Why? Because that solution may not be what they had defined as innovation in the organization; unfortunately, nobody communicated it properly to the team working on solutions.

How can you support innovation through communication?

As a leader, take the time to explain to your team what innovation really means to you and your organization. If it is not clear in your mind what the meaning is for the organization, simply ask. A clear definition is like having clarity on your own core values., Once they are clear to you, they are the compass for making decisions in life.

If you are part of the team and you were asked to be innovative, but your sponsor or leader did not explain it properly, or even if you don’t quite understand the organization’s definition, simply ask. Knowing what it is you are working for, driving toward or trying to solve is essential because it forms the foundation for your solution.

5 quick and easy tips to ensure communication is supporting innovation

1.Always define what innovation means to the organization

2. Clarify the expectations: What is needed for the solution to really be a fit in the organization?

3. Ask when something is not clear to you; it may seem basic, but the key here is to ASK (take action)

4. Just as we test our solution during the Design Thinking process, pin the definition of innovation on the wall and test your solution. Does it match the definition your organization provided?

5. Make sure to also share YOUR own definition of innovation – let your team and leaders know what it means to you!

Come visit us and explore your new home at Cookhouse Labs, visit: www.cookhouselabs.com