How Can Insurers Contribute to Suicide Prevention Initiatives?

Innovation Project Summary Cookhouse Lab

How Can Insurers Contribute to Suicide Prevention Initiatives?

Addressing the issue of preventable suicides in the working population.










Identify triggers – that are visible to insurers​ – and support people with resources that will make a practical difference.


Understanding those with Suicidal Thoughts






How can insurers help both the insured and uninsured?

How can current insurer touch points be leveraged?

Can data and technology support our efforts?

Is it possible to help without communicating a hidden agenda?

Maximizing the use of technology will help recognize triggers and better support families with claims.


Maximizing the use of technology will help recognize triggers and better support families with claims.


A human touch

The solution is simple, but often those can be the most impactful: a handwritten card for the recipient of the claim after a suicide.

This solution provides a small, but personal touch, that humanises a currently formal touchpoint. The card includes information about how to seek help and self-care, and all information would be expertly screened.

Suicide prevention Solution01


Penguin Awareness Campaign

The penguin was chosen as the face of the campaign because of its caring nature, and survival in community. 30 Six-foot penguins would be placed around London, fitted with screens that would ask passers-by questions about how they feel, to raise awareness about mental health, and encouraging people to stop, think and interact.

The idea was inspired by best practices around the world showing how a simple question could distract those with suicidal thoughts from acting on them.

Suicide prevention Solution02


Insurance industry working group

Due to the interest of the team in taking this topic further as an industry, a working group was proposed to continue the efforts that the Cookhouse Lab had initiated.

The mission of the group is to catalyze actions within the insurance industry, targeted at contributing to suicide prevention initiatives. It will initially run for a 12-month period at which point a review will be held to determine whether or not to continue.

Suicide prevention Solution03


In this three-day sprint, the project team explored in depth this important, and emotive, societal issue.


Empathy Maps


Customer Journey Map


Ideation Questions


Lightning Demos


Initial Solutions




Innovation Report


Project Presentations


We also offer intro sessions that provide insurance professionals with the opportunity to experience our Cookhouse Labs methodology and a sneak peek at what it’s like to co-create and collaborate with our global community. If you are not a Cookhouse Labs member and are interested in finding out more, check out our membership benefits!

How Can the Insurance Industry Contribute to Suicide Prevention?

In Britain, 17 people die of suicide daily on average, and men are three times more likely to take their own lives as women. Suicides have a tremendous impact on humans emotionally and trigger financial costs, so we decided to run a three-day Pop-Up Lab in London to understand how the insurance industry could contribute potential solutions for suicide prevention in the region.  

Suicide: a societal and insurance industry challenge 

When a claims manager from RGA in the UK raised the issue of how our industry could help prevent suicides, we began exploring the problem and learned of a number of people in the insurance industry who volunteer with non-profit organizations that focus on suicide prevention. 

One of these is Samaritans, a UK non-profit. We learned of a Samaritans marketing campaign that displayed posters on a rail line, promoting their suicide hotline. The result? Suicides on the rail lines decreased by 20 percent. This low-cost initiative clearly helped save many lives, as well as helping the rail industry serve their users better.

Considering how suicide affects our industry, healthcare and society in general (we estimate the UK life insurance industry paid out more than £100m on suicide claims in 2017), we were eager to contribute. Running a sprint using Cookhouse Pop-Up Lab would give us the opportunity to learn more and work with people directly impacted by this crisis in the region. If you think of Cookhouse Lab as a test kitchen, then the Pop-Up Lab is our food truck, bringing our skills and experience to collaborate with local experts in global locations.  

Using our network to bring people together to solve problems 

Despite the sensitive nature of this topic, we found that people were eager to get involved to find solutions for suicide prevention. All of the participants had both a personal and professional (i.e challenge in their organization) connection to this societal issue, and they came together to solve it. 

Usually, when running a Pop-Up Lab, we aim for a group size of six to eight participants. In this case, we had such a strong interest from candidates that we chose nine:  a diverse group of re/insurers, insurers and consultants, many with operational experience in actuary, claims, or underwriting. 

Participants of this Pop-Up Lab were from the following organizations: 

  • Agrippa 
  • Aviva 
  • EY 
  • Legal & General 
  • Munich Re 
  • Pacific Life Re 
  • Reinsurance Group of America 
  • SCOR 
  • Vitality 

 Two experts in the suicide prevention field also joined a session on the first day as masterminds, generously sharing their knowledge and experience to help the project team complete empathy and customer journey maps. In addition, the participants grabbed inspiration from 17 lightning demos about male suicide prevention tactics used by others. With much motivation and purpose, the team cooked up a diverse set of ideas and solutions.

In just three days this fast-moving project team created three solutions to save lives – a tremendous feat! Each solution targets suicide prevention at a different level: specific, macro and strategic. Let’s take a look at what they cooked up: 

Specific: This solution was formed to address the fact that the suicide of a relative can be a trigger event for other suicides. The project team came up with the idea for insurers to send a handwritten condolence note including information on how to seek help and self-care to a suicide-related claimant. This small but personal touch humanizes a currently formal touchpoint and could help reduce the claim suicide as a trigger event for another suicide among family or friends.  

Macro: The next solution was a macro-level campaign to promote mental health awareness and human interaction in London communities. The project team envisioned this happening by placing thirty six-foot penguins around London, which would encourage people to stop, think and interact.  

Strategic: The strategic level solution involved forming an industry working group that would catalyze actions within the insurance industry targeted at contributing to suicide prevention activities. The group would span operational teams (e.g. underwriting, claims) to address suicide from all perspectives in insurance.  

Solving an industry problem in one locale can have a global impact 

The problem of suicide is not limited to the UK. By devoting our attention and resources to thinking deeply about a problem, it shines a light on root causes and issues that people may have ignored  or overlooked. One of the biggest takeaways from this Pop-Up Lab was: don’t be afraid to tackle a sensitive subject. We all benefit when a workable solution is created, because it may spark an idea that can help solve a problem somewhere else. By looking at our industry’s processes through the lens of suicide, we identified many simple steps that could be taken to improve things. 

Similarly, there are other common challenges and problems that exist across the insurance industry and global communities. Doing a deep dive into these challenges in a specific region can trigger a positive change globally. 

Want to get involved with suicide prevention?  

Thank you to all of the participants for bringing their innovative minds and compassion together for this project. If your organization is interested in joining this group of innovators for the next steps for this project, or if you have an idea for another social challenge in need of an insurance industry solution, please contact us. 

Thanks to Jonathan Hughes for sharing insights from facilitating the Pop-Up Lab to contribute to this blog.

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The future of the Mobile Insurance Agents & Brokers

Innovation Project Summary Cookhouse Lab (in partnership with SAP)

The Future of the Mobile Insurance Agents & Brokers

What unites the majority of the sales experts in the industry is the necessity to be mobile to stay or become a trusted advisor.










Digitizing insurance sales with technology to increase sales performance and improve customer experience.


Our personas Pains & Gains








What are the digital expectations and requirements of an agent, broker and customer equally?

How can we help the salesforce to stay relevant, sell more and admin less?

How can we leverage technology trends to increase sales performance and improve customer experience?

What can we learn from other industries?

Maximizing the use of mobile technology will improve customer satisfaction.


The final output of the project was a Portfolio Solution that included two different products.


DIScovery and awareness app

Carebear app is a referral product to help our customer persona (Sandra) through the car insurance journey with the aim to validate the following problem statement:

How might we communicate our products and processes more effectively and efficiently to give Sandra clarity and confidence that she’s taken care of?


Brokers integrated portal

MOBiBro is an integrated application focused on our broker persona (Dave). The problem statement:

How might we provide Dave with technology and data access anywhere to become a better advisor so he can sell more and quicker?


During the 3 days, our project teams looked to define the Opportunities and Implicants that technology brings to the future of brokers and agents.


Empathy Maps


User Interviews








MVP Screens


Prototype Iterations


Project Presentation


We also offer intro sessions that provide insurance professionals with the opportunity to experience our Cookhouse Labs methodology and a sneak peek at what it’s like to co-create and collaborate with our global community. If you are not a Cookhouse Labs member and are interested in finding out more, check out our membership benefits!

Hackathon Recap: Passive Risk Takers to Active Risk Managers

Cookhouse Lab hosted its second annual Hackathon which challenged participants to find solutions to move from passive risk takers to active risk managers. The Hackathon had twenty-four participants which included professionals from various organizations including CAA, Gore Mutual, Munich Re, and Jauntin. These professionals also had the chance to work with thirteen talented students from the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt (FHWS).

Check out the recap below to discover the problem being tackled, solutions created and methodologies used to ensure a successful experience.  

The Problem to Be ‘Hacked’: Moving from Passive Risk Takers to Active Risk Managers

Looking at the technology surrounding our industry and society, we thought it would be a great time to find solutions that will shift stakeholders from passive risk takers to active risk managers. Gone are the days where insurers wait for a claim to happen. With IoT sensors, phones, and wearables, we are collecting data 24/7 which allows us to define an individual’s norm.

As a result, we can assess any deviation in real-time and act accordingly. From the customer perspective, they can see their behavior in a cumulative manner, are more involved in what they do and understand the real-time impact of their behavior and lifestyle choices. Not only on their life but also on their policies, for example, Vitality’s pay as you drive program.

As an industry, becoming risk-managers means savings, not just financially, but also making a positive change in the lives of our customers. Savings lives – supporting healthier lifestyles, behaviors and choices that will prolong healthier lives.

Stepping back and looking at these two aspects, we felt the gains were clear in hosting a Hackathon that would tackle moving towards being active risk-takers in Cookhouse Lab.

Highlights From the Solutions Created

The teams worked vigorously through the two-day Hackathon to develop impressive solutions for the problem at hand. Let’s take a glimpse at two of the solutions the teams cooked up:

  • A Dynamic Action Rewards Program: rewards can be redeemed as policy discounts, cash or new insurance products.
  • Travel insurance with focus on home and pet security: a package that covers the things you leave behind when travelling.

Using Masterclasses to Educate Quickly and Effectively

For some participants, this Hackathon was their first tie being exposed to this kind of experience as well as design thinking and lean methodologies. Because of this, education was an important component. However, given the short duration of the Hackathon, the education had to be quick, effective and valuable. Cookhouse Lab used masterclasses to accomplish this.

Masterclasses are thirty-minute presentations delivered by an Innovation Coach, a UX/UI designer, and/or Head of Innovation.

The purpose of these sessions was to provide:

  • A road map/structure that participants could use to make the most of their time
  • A chance to learn about a variety of tools typically used in the labs for sprint projects and how to apply them
  • An opportunity to detach from the intensity of the hackathon, refresh and go back to work with a clear mind

Bringing Together Diverse Backgrounds

One of the key ingredients to a successful Hackathon is having a diverse set of participants. From what we have witnessed at other projects at Cookhouse Lab, the more diverse backgrounds you bring together, the better – as everyone can contribute from their personal experience.

This Hackathon, in particular, brought together participants from varying backgrounds ranging from computer science and e-commerce to experienced underwriters, digital innovators, and software developers. All of whom were able to work together to find solutions to improve insurance.

In addition to bringing different skill sets together, having students team up with working professionals brought another element of diversity. The teams were able to successfully integrate their ideas, learn from different perspectives and expand their thinking from local experience to international insights. Both left feeling impressed and inspired by each other.

What did the ‘hackathoners’ take away from this experience?

  • an understanding of design thinking and how to apply it
  • tips and tricks from experts featured during masterclasses
  • lo-fi prototypes to take back to their organizations
  • new connections (local and international)
  • the achievement of conquering a two-day Hackathon 

Overall, this Hackathon was another successful innovation experience served up at Cookhouse Lab. We’d like to extend a huge thank all of our participants for dedicating two days of productivity, creativity and hard work into finding solutions to address an industry challenge.

Want to learn about other upcoming projects?

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Hackathons; A Unique Environment for Co-creation?

Cookhouse Lab is gearing up to host its third annual hackathon. To prepare for it, we connected with Diana Chang, previously a Logistics Team Lead with Hack the North, to find out why hackathons provide such a unique forum for collaboration for hackers (hackathon participants). Check out our interview with Diana below and don’t forget to sign up for our third annual hackathon.

Q: Can you start us off with a brief overview of how a hackathon works?

Diana: A hackathon is an opportunity for people to collaborate and co-create on an industry-specific challenge or even everyday problems. It is a huge learning experience that consists of a group of open-minded attendees who are ready to learn and teach, emerging technologies, and the opportunity to discover topical challenges.

In its simplest form, hackathons are spaces where like-minded people ideate and prototype together. While new technologies tend to be the hook for hackathons, it is the dedicated space for idea development across all industries that make hackathons so unique and nearly irreplicable.

Q: Who can get involved? Are they limited to people with coding or technical backgrounds?

D: Let’s make something clear, hackathons are not just for programmers! While most hackers are there to write code, designers are often the second largest group attending. They compliment coders’ work with strong UI/UX skills and ensure an effective and client-friendly flow to the final proposal.

Industry experts are also crucial for teams participating in hackathons. They act as project managers and provide industry knowledge not necessarily known by coders that put them a step above the competition. Hackathons also diversify with regards to which audience they cater to. Some are for developers in early stages while others focus on design thinking processes; with workshops integrated within the event to better prepare attendees.

Q: What are some benefits of attending?

D: Newly interested hackers will find value in the collaborative learning environment, open-minded participants who are willing to help, and the opportunity to learn how to transform industry concepts into real-world applications. Hackathons are also all about the people! By attending, you have the chance to meet like-minded people, connect across different industries, and co-create alongside people with different cultural/industry perspectives. All hackers come away with strong connections.

Q: Any advice for people who don’t think they have the necessary ‘skills’ to participate in a hackathon?

D: Hackathons generate an incredibly welcoming environment, for those who do – and don’t – have prior experience participating in them. There will always be facilitators there to ensure that everyone from beginners to veterans have the most positive experience possible.

You will be able to learn and contribute no matter what your level of knowledge of the topic is. As I mentioned before, everyone brings value from their personal experience.  

Q: How do they inspire innovations within an industry?

D: Whether it be a product, service, or process, hackathons drive industry innovation by addressing projects that are more challenging, out-of-the-box, and would otherwise take a large dedication of time and resources to address.

Hackathons are purposely constrained on time so that hackers can solely focus on diagnosing, addressing, and ultimately solve the problem. They also typically have low constraints on creativity, and foster freedom of thought which enables participants to deliver truly innovative ideas to solve industry issues.

Q: With our own hackathon starting soon in Toronto, any crucial tips and tricks for those looking to be prepared?

D: Here are three tips I consider to be universal when preparing for a hackathon.

  1. Before the day(s) of the hackathon, make sure you are prepared with the right tools to succeed. This can range from the right technology (e.g. laptop) to simply going online to research the topic addressed at the hackathon.
  2. Go into the hackathon with an open mind. While this can be commonly overused, there is truly no better place to learn from specialists within their own industry since you will be working together. Not to mention that your peers will be willing to learn from you; that is the beauty of hackathons.
  3. On the topic of peer hackers, connect with fellow industry specialists. In a semi-casual setting such as a hackathon, it is almost a given that you will meet truly passionate professionals from every field. Soak as much information in as possible and take the opportunity to build relationships. This will undoubtedly be fruitful for future collaborations and potentially in seeking expertise when addressing an industry challenge.

A big thank you to Diana for sharing her expertise from her experience in the world of hackathons. It’s clear they present a unique opportunity for professionals of varying backgrounds and experience to come together to develop out-of-the-box solutions for challenging industry problems.

Eager to get involved in a hackathon?

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Munich 2-Day Taster Session Recap: Disruption of Insurance through Tech Giants

A diverse community of insurance professionals convened in Munich in May 2018 to explore industry disruption from unlikely players – the world’s tech giants. The group came together to use new approaches and unlock methodologies to help navigate the future of the industry in our collaborative 2-day session. 

What is a taster session at Cookhouse Lab?

A taster session at Cookhouse Lab is a free 2-day session that gives organizations a chance to experience the methodology, process, and environment of Cookhouse Lab. The taster offers insurance professionals the opportunity to experience a mindset shift, access design thinking tools, connect with new industry peers, and get answers to questions about the benefits of Cookhouse Lab membership.

The session provides accelerated programming, leveraging the strategies and philosophies that are fully explored in the Lab’s 2, 4, and 12-week projects. Each taster offers insight into the full program experience while also providing a lens on a specific project topic.

What did participants do at the Munich 2-Day Taster Session?

The Munich taster focused on Disruption of Insurance through Tech Giants and offered local insurance organizations from across Europe a taste of our Pop-Up Lab in Munich, running from September 10 – 21 and culminating with final presentations at msg’s Insurance Conference inscom.

Over 2 days, the taster attendees:

  • Identified what tech giants are currently doing in insurance
  • Discovered consumers overall attitudes about insurance and what they know about tech giants
  • Researched unique value propositions that insurance organizations can offer to compete with tech giants
  • Looked at available resources from tech giants and explored how insurance organizations can leverage them to improve their customer experience

What methodology was used for the taster?

The Cookhouse Lab methodology was used to uncover trends, draw on intersections, and unlock value for the insurance professionals. Using design thinking tools and our proven project approach, we were able to develop innovative solutions to meet the needs of a changing insurance industry landscape. Over the 2-day session, we walked through all three phases of the process: the team completed their initial research online, created their interview questions and, as always, went out to talk to consumers to better understand their thoughts, feelings, and opinions on tech giant disruption.

Who participated?

This was a very fun group to work with! As an Intercultural Management consultant and coach, I enjoyed working with a team that was diverse, not only in terms of geographical location but also in terms of industry. Our participants joined us from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. Our guests from Germany, SOKA BAU, were exclusively labourers insurance providers, a type of organization we don’t often see in our lab. Die Mobiliar from Switzerland and Nationale Niederlanden were also in attendance, and it was a pleasure to have msg colleagues and participants from their partners at SAP. The team was completed with members of another msg organization, minnosphere. The unique mix of experience and perspectives in the room made for incredible solutions and a fun, creative, and productive taster.

What were the outcomes of the Munich taster?

Every participant came away with their own unique insights, but it was fascinating to see how far each person could step outside of their comfort zone. Final presentations provided an overview of three viable solutions and were presented as a great mix of Pecha Kucha presentations, sketches, storyboards, and low-fi prototypes. The diversity in solutions and presentation styles was a great reminder of the importance of an open and creative mindset and attitude when innovating.

The three solutions the team crafted included:

  • Insure your Lifestyle: What if you could insure your lifestyle and make sure that what you have built is something you can enjoy for the rest of your life? What if your insurance supported you through your journey and, with your help and data, your provider could customize your packages to fit your current lifestyle while also taking into account future changes? For example, if you are currently a passionate snowboarder, when the time comes to rest your board you would be able to substitute coverage for a new hobby, maybe more beach travel or a different sport.
  • Be Insured: Imagine a life where you would pay one premium a year, in which everything you needed to cover was covered. A life where your insurance company would offer you packages based on specific settings you select like budget, items you want insured, trips you are taking, and family milestones like your teenager getting their license, or the beginning of your ‘empty nest’ with your youngest child’s graduation. Imagine a life where you can choose how to pay for your insurance, with cash or data. Every year, you could receive a report of how your data was used – a life where you do not need to look for insurance, insurance comes to you!
  • Insurance Concierge – Blockchain: Two of the most common questions related to insurance are what exactly do I need and how do I get it? When most people start that search, they come across too many options, most of which are not very clear, leading to a time-consuming and confusing search. Insurance Concierge takes care of those pain points. It is your digital concierge, built using access to your blockchain where all of your personal data has been securely stored. The concierge would not communicate with you, but with your digital twin – a twin designed by you! Now the communication, search, and offers are all managed by your concierge and your digital twin. When offers come in and coverage is required, you have the option to read and sign yourself OR handoff signing authority to your digital twin.

What future tasters can we look forward to in the Lab?

We have a one-of-a-kind taster coming up on June 26-28. Learn more about The Future of the Mobile Insurance Agents and Brokers taster here. What makes this taster unique is that participants will be taking part in a project that is focused on launching a solution. This means you get to co-create and be part of the journey as the project moves from a lo-fi prototype to a fully functioning product! This is an exciting opportunity as the Lab typically focuses on creating solutions, not launching them. This time, as we partner with msg, SAP, and Apple, you will have a chance to experience more and see the full process of bringing a product into market.

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How to Simplify Life Insurance Underwriting in 48 Hours

In the life insurance industry, there are many processes we encounter daily that have the potential to be modernized and made more efficient. The current underwriting process is no exception, with outdated rules, blanket questions that don’t allow for personalization, and long customer wait times that can take up to four to six weeks. This is a process that is ripe for disruption and last month, Cookhouse Lab invited underwriting professionals to try their hand at disrupting it in just 48 hours. 

This was done through a ‘taster session’ which gives professionals the chance to sample a variety of design thinking exercises that are used in regular Cookhouse Lab projects in a condensed time frame. 

This sprint, in particular, focused on making the life insurance underwriting process more time and resource-efficient to ultimately improve the customer experience. Read on to find out what processes were used to collaboratively identify three potential solutions in just 48 hours. 

Day 1 – Identifying Pain Points & Determining Customer Personas

On the first day, the team focused on conducting research and empathizing with the customer to really understand their mindset. Empathy is a critical component of design thinking to ensure that the solution has the end customer’s needs are at the forefront.  

Identifying Pain Points

The project team identified pain points of the demographic by running a ‘masterminds’ interview session. This involved meeting with a group of experienced underwriters to understand the current process from their point of view, their pain points and what their ideal process would look, feel and sound like. Through these interviews, the team identified the following pain points:

  • The current process has too many irrelevant questions
  • There lies a big gap in communication between the agent, insurance company, and the end customer
  • All age groups are being treated the same and asked the same questions
  • Data exists, but it isn’t accessible
  • The current application needs to be more dynamic

Determining Customer Personas

The team also identified two main customer personas that the solutions would be targeted towards:


  • 27 year old female that is living with her parents at the moment, but planning to have her own home one day and start a family
  • She is commitment-averse and prefers to avoid face-to-face communication when dealing with purchases
  • She enjoys social media and instant gamification.


  • 45 year old underwriter who has worked in the same organization for 20 years
  • He has a 15 year daughter and a 3 year old son.
  • He likes his way of doing things and is worried about automation
  • He believes in the power and value of underwriting and likes the medical knowledge he has acquired throughout his career
  • He is comfortable with the current system and is the type of person that feels the need to read every line on applications

Day 2: Developing Solutions

Using the research from Day 1, the project team continued their sprint on Day 2 to develop three possible solutions to better the current process.

Solution #1: Instant data collection, verification and clarity of product

This solution allows the agent to ask for permission from the customer to access various data pools that have collected valuable customer data, which would then be sent to a pre-filled application. Once the application is completed, the customer and agent would look over the information provided. At this point, the customer could make any necessary changes, edits or provide any missing information. Once the customer authorizes the application the agent is then able to provide possible policies based on the information given, which provides a custom solution that fits for each individual customer. 

Underwriter BenefitsCustomer Benefits
Instant and authorized access to the data poolPeace of mind on how the agent is collecting information
Clarification on information collectedA better understanding of what information the agent is collecting
No need to go over the entire questionnaire, which may hold irrelevant questionsClarity on the value of their policy
 Allows for the opportunity to ask questions without lengthy waiting time periods

Solution #2: Simplified Application – Max 10 Qs

Instead of a standard application, this online question solution would contain a maximum of 10 key questions that customers are asked. The questions would have smart logic and adjust depending on the respondent’s answers and would prompt the user it needs further information. In addition to being more efficient, this solution is also millennial-friendly as it allows the target group to skip lengthy unnecessary and/or irrelevant questions. Key question categories:

  1. Lifestyle (Alcohol consumption, Drug use, Driving history, Criminal activities)
  2. MIB report
  3. Medical-related (prescription medication)
  4. Foreign travel
  5. Immigration status
Underwriter BenefitsCustomer Benefits
Shorter application processClear and relevant questions
A questionnaire that is adaptable, and therefore relevant for all customersShorter application process

Solution #3: Starter Plan

A product designed for university graduates and parents with children in university. Starter Plan is designed to be marketed through universities during orientation and months leading to graduation, student loan distributors and entry-level employers. The plan would be based on:

  1. DI protection
  2. 50K coverage for 2 years
  3. Financial education
  4. Personalized dashboard with incentives and possible products as the life of the customer changes
Underwriter BenefitsCustomer Benefits
Financially educated customersFinancial education
Data collection from an earlier ageMore accurate and customized products
Engagement from the millennial generationParents have peace of mind regarding insurance and their young adult’s coverage
 Parents have peace of mind knowing that they’ve set their child up for a good start.

Unlocking Innovative, Disruptive Ideas in 48 Hours

In just two days this project team was able to create three viable solutions to solve an industry-wide problem – which is a huge accomplishment! Through these solutions, they were able to achieve the following: 

  • Offer an efficient and speedy process to underwrite a policy
  • Engage the most challenging age group for life insurance to attract at the moment (millennials)
  • Build customer trust and financial literacy

Want to join in on the innovation? We’ve got a full schedule of projects coming up in 2018. Check them out here!

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[SERIES] Inside Cookhouse Lab – Introduction to Design Thinking

Every hero needs a villain, right? Similarly, every great idea, solution, or invention always needs a problem. And while the solution is often what gets all of the glory and attention, how we deal with said problem is just as, if not more, important.

As Albert Einstein once said, “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.

The Importance of Identifying the Problem

In the world of insurance, all insurers are motivated to solve one problem: how to minimize the risk of financial loss. But for many organizations, the innovation strategy behind solving this problem lacks a key component. While many companies do a great job analyzing the latest technological trends (like Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence, or Blockchain) and trying to find answers on how to make use of them, they often don’t think about the root cause of the actual problem.  

Understanding Customer Expectations 

Steve Jobs once wisely said, “it’s not the customer’s job to know what they want!”. He’s not wrong. To create the best solutions for the customer, companies need to have a very clear understanding of their exact problems. And in today’s digital world, standards are high. People are shaped and influenced by their digital experiences with sophisticated companies like Amazon or Uber – and these expectations transfer over to their insurance needs as well. This means that insurers need to understand the expectations of these customers in order to build greater customer loyalty, cut costs, and improve profitability. 

Design Thinking Puts the Customer First

The concept of design thinking has been around for decades in various professions like engineering and architecture, but has recently exploded in popularity in the business world. At a high level, this process helps organizations solve complex problems by shifting the focus from a business-centric solution to a customer-centric solution.

Previously in the insurance space, most insurers took the approach of creating solutions based solely on assumptions and hoped that their products or solutions would resonate with target audiences. Design thinking reverses this logic by first identifying the root(s) of the problem, observing how people think and behave, and gathering customer insights. From there, practical solutions are created. 

At Cookhouse Lab, we have seen first hand the power of design thinking. By using this methodology, teams have the opportunity to look at a problem through the eyes of the customer, put themselves in their shoes and fully empathize with the customer – who is ultimately the end-user. Design thinking also encourages creativity and when these elements are put together, great things happen. Check out some of the problems that have been solved in Cookhouse Lab using design thinking here.

Stages of Design Thinking

The following are the stages of design thinking process:

  • Empathize with the customer and other stakeholders
  • Define the opportunity or problem
  • Design a solution
  • Create and build a Minimum Viable Product/Concept/Service
  • Test the solution with customers and users

No matter what the problem is, this process facilitates a path that leads to many possible solutions that can be tested and changed. In other words, it encourages continuous iterations of a solution. This quick testing cycle, at very early stages of the design, allows for organizations to create, fail, change, and adapt quickly – all while being mindful of monetary, time, and resource investments. 

Building MVPs Through Design Thinking

Design thinking involves the creation of  Minimum Viable Products, services and concepts that are presented to end-users to test ideas. In 2017 alone, we developed over a dozen InsurTech MVPs that have combined the best of the industry’s newest technologies with innovative ideas from passionate professionals to create consumer engagement apps, blockchain portals, and more.

<< Check out what innovative MVPs we created in 2017 here! >>

Design Thinking at Cookhouse Lab

Using Design Thinking at Cookhouse Lab has not only led to tremendous ideas and MVPs but also the chance to contribute towards changing perceptions in insurance. As we discovered in our Loyalty & Rewards project, insurers today struggle to show their customers that they care about their life, wellness, and behavioural changes. But with Design Thinking, empathizing with customers is always a top priority, so if we continue this momentum, these perceptions will become easier to break. 

Most importantly, the innovative ideas that come from Design Thinking in Cookhouse Lab help us and the InsurTech community, contribute to making insurance better

Want to experience the Design Thinking process firsthand? We’ve got a full schedule of projects that are waiting for your input! Check them out here.

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Blockchain & Automated Travel Insurance

Innovation Project Summary Cookhouse Lab

Blockchain & Automated Travel Insurance

Blockchain technology offers the potential to streamline the claims process by automating the touchpoints between the First Notice of Loss (FNOL) and the payout of the claim.










TPAs feel frustrated because often the insurance claims process for emergency medical lacks support from family doctors and destination hospitals, insufficient information to finalize the claim.

Automating the claims process for medical travel insurance.


Our millennial Key Personas






Claims processes are often characterized by delays, manual input and human error.

Expectations regarding speed of service are increasing due to the rapid advancement of consumer technology.

How to leverage blockchain technology to streamline the claims process by automating touchpoints from FNOL to claims payment.

Typical 30 days process is reduced to only 7 days!


Swift Portal is a centralized platform that addresses areas where a TPA would experience the most friction in the journey of processing a new claim.

In this project, representatives from 4 insurance companies collaborated to understand the current medical travel insurance claim process, identify the pain/delay points within the process, and co-created a TPA Portal MVP called “Swift Portal” by leveraging blockchain technology.

The Balsamic app was then used to create the initial wireframes used as reference for the atomic prototype.

When the 911 operator enters the policy number in their search, it will kickoff the claims chain by notifying the insurance company that a new claim has been started. Status initially set as N – in transit.

Innovation Project Solution Travel insurance

All claims records in the swift system can be seen by the insurance company and the hospital.

On his arrival at the hospital, the patient’s identity is verified in triage.

His policy details and treatment guidelines are viewable by hospital staff.

TPA can continue to monitor the claim and upon close automatically authorize and send payment.

Innovation Project Solution Travel insurance platform


Brings improved data quality through new digital tools.

Immutable data, ensuring trust between parties.

Launches a digital process that reduced cycle times by up to 50%.

Increases profitability for all the stakeholders.


Claims Cost

speed of information during process, increase in TPA productivity


Cycle Time

in processing claims, quality/accurate information available immediately


Insurance Claims

simplified, accurate, faster
all information provided at once


During a 4 weeks period, representatives from 4 insurance companies collaborated to understand the current Medical Travel Insurance claim process.


Empathy Maps


User Interviews






MVP Screens


Prototype iterations


Innovation Report


Project Presentations


We also offer intro sessions that provide insurance professionals with the opportunity to experience our Cookhouse Labs methodology and a sneak peek at what it’s like to co-create and collaborate with our global community. If you are not a Cookhouse Labs member and are interested in finding out more, check out our membership benefits!

[SERIES] 500 Days of Innovation – MVP Madness

As we near the 500-day mark for Cookhouse Lab, we thought it would be fitting to take a trip down memory lane. Join us as we explore highlights from our first 500 days in a new blog series titled: 500 Days of Innovation. Each installment will explore a different aspect of Cookhouse Lab that has played a key role in our journey so far. First up is ‘Minimum Viable Product; also known as ‘MVP’.

The Cookhouse Lab experience is centered around an accelerated Minimum Viable Product (MVP) creation journey.  On average, project MVPs have been completed between a two to four week period, which is a combined effort of project teams and Cookhouse Lab design and technical teams. So what exactly is an MVP?

An MVP is the most pared-down version of a product. It has three primary purposes:

  • Provides enough value to illustrate the buyer/end-user potential
  • Offers a practical (and not abstract) demonstration of the benefits and features of the product/service
  • Creates a feedback loop to guide future development or investment 

To give you a better idea, we are sharing five real and noteworthy MVPs that were generated in 2017 in Cookhouse Lab. 

1. Insurance Loyalty & Rewards

The Problem: Twofold. Insurance companies have difficulty retaining customers.  Meanwhile, consumers have a hard time keeping track (and understanding) policy information, creating a negative customer experience.

The MVP: An insurance-focused customer caring mobile application which was named ‘BACON’. 

What makes this MVP stellar?

This app was the output from a 12-week sprint, designed with the end goal of benefiting both the customer and the insurance companies with the following set of features:

  • Centralized platform: This creates a single place to easily manage all of the customer’s insurance. New communication channels and data sources (from IoT) enables a better understanding of customers.
  • Digital experience: This engages users through gamification and would incentivize risk-mitigating behaviour and reward those who do well.
  • Positive association: This platform focuses on caring and elevating the level of customer experience, which creates a more positive association between the customer and the company, and ultimately supports the goal of a deeper relationship between both parties.
  • Opportunity: creating a better relationship between customers and insurers through open lines of communication that will drive improved customer engagement and loyalty.

The Bonus: The usage of IoT increases data collection which allows for better risk assessment and more tailored product offerings.

Sample screenshots of ‘BACON’

>> Read the full management report: Insurance Loyalty & Rewards

2. Delays in APS

The Problem: Due to the lack of motivation, poor quality data, and a strenuous paper process, it can take up to 60 days to receive an Attending Physician Statement (APS) from doctors on life insurance applicants. This is a frustrating experience for the consumer and causes major delays and subsequent impact in issuing life insurance policies. 

The MVP: A high-fidelity mock-up of a centralized platform for all parties involved with the APS process (applicant, broker, insurer, and the physician) to access, upload and review information, which was nicknamed ‘Road Runner’. 

What makes this MVP stellar?

This platform was created with real input from those involved with the process today, including physicians, insurers, and brokers. Focusing on the two main and current pain points of cost and time, this MVP provides opportunity for all stakeholders to benefit in both categories:

  • APS Cost: Through this digital process, data quality can be improved, which could trigger a 70% reduction in costs to request and process APS documentation.
  • Cycle Time: Understanding the time constraints that physicians face, this new digital process along with a physician bonus incentive program could create a 50-95% reduction in completion time for a full APS request. Underwriters would also benefit from easy access to information, and it’s estimated that there could be a 100-400% increase in the number of cases underwritten per day which require an APS. 
Sample UW Dashboard screenshot of ‘Road Runner’

>> Read the full management report here: Delays in APS 

3. Drone Insurance – no history, no data, no coverage?

The Problem: The lack of historical data has made it difficult for insurance companies to create new policies, therefore making it impossible for customers to protect themselves when they fly drones. 

The MVP: A two-pronged approach. The first being a community app that focuses on data gathering and social sharing in an effort to create a credible risk model and rating matrix. The second being a standalone one-size-fits-all insurance product that targets the more professional drone pilot audience. 

What makes this MVP stellar?

These MVPs create three main opportunities for the insurance company, while filling a gap that consumers need:

  • New Data Acquisition: The community app creates the opportunity to harness data from drone pilots through gamification. Underwriters will then have more access to policyholder flight data and behavior.
  • Proper Margins: This new data will also help increase accuracy, which allows for charging proper premiums while allowing for usage-based discount pricing.
  • Reduced Fraud: With the combination of user data and publicly accessible social media data, fraud can be more easily detected.

The Bonus: Drones are just the latest example of a ‘new risk’ that insurance companies can insure. As more new risks pop up, the same principles can be applied as a foundation for a new solution. 

Sample layout of community app

>> Read the full management report here: Drone Insurance – no history, no data, no coverage?

4. The Future of Transportation – Autonomous Vehicles

The Problem: The introduction of AI in vehicles, otherwise known as semi-autonomous cars, is a new product and has a lack of historical data to base new policies off of. This makes it difficult for insurers to determine how they are going to tackle the transition period between human and autonomous driving. 

The MVP: Three different products that will tackle three main issues: lack of data, shifting risk, and the shifting usage of cars. 

What makes this MVP stellar?

This MVP was created during our 12-week sprint with information gathered from over 200 respondents as well as a test-drive in one of the newest semi-autonomous cars at General Motors. The following products were developed as part of a portfolio solution:

  • Discovery and Awareness Portal: Understanding that autonomous vehicles are a newer product that do not necessarily have the best public perception, this portal was created to address the safety concerns of customers by providing a manufacturer agnostic resource where customers are able to learn and experience what it’s like to be in an autonomous vehicle.
  • Adaptive Risk Model: As cars gain more and more autonomous features, this adaptive risk model takes into account the transition period where risk is constantly shifting. 
  • Transportation Short Leasing/UBI Application: Uber is not a fad. Short-lease trips will still be popular as cars become more autonomous. This feature is for customers who don’t yet own a vehicle but require transportation. It allows the customer to short-lease trips in an autonomous vehicle. 

The Bonus: Upon outlining a sustainable business model with these MVPs,  the final valuation of all of these products was found as a whopping $150MM. 

>> Read the full management report here: The Future of Transportation – Autonomous Vehicles

5. Blockchain & Group Benefit Coordination

The Problem: The lack of communication between insurance companies in the group benefit coordination process has created an environment for frequent touchpoints, manual intervention, and the exchange of duplicate information, which has proven to be inefficient and costly. 

The MVP: A blockchain prototype with both customer and company portals that was built with Hyperledger Fabric on Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

What makes this MVP stellar? 

Hyperledger Fabric is a known blockchain framework that was contributed to by Digital Asset and IBM, and allows for various components to be plug-and-play. AWS provides a secure cloud computing service which provides the necessary database storage. The combination of both of these tools will benefit the group benefit process in two major ways:

  • Time efficiency: This new blockchain prototype eliminates the need to submit the same claim multiple times when covered by multiple providers, which will heavily reduce the amount of time and effort required for customers to get their compensation. 
  • Cost efficiency: This prototype will also benefit secondary insurers. With direct information from the primary insurer, claim information can be trusted, which will eliminate the need for back and forth between both parties. 
Sample customer portal, claims history view

>> Read the full management report here: Blockchain & Group Benefit Coordination

These are just some of the MVP highlights from last year, and we’re ready to create more! Our menu has filled up with amazing projects in both the life and P&C space for the first half of 2018. Check them out and join our innovation journey!

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