Community Spirit in the Time of COVID-19

Community Spirit

At the start of our first virtual co-creation sprint we asked “What can the insurance industry do to support small businesses in our community through the COVID-19 pandemic?”

The thought process behind our question was simple. We are an industry that was developed out of the idea of community, dedicated to protecting the community from catastrophic losses. We collectively face a situation where the community is being hit very hard by the pandemic. In most cases, the small businesses that are being hit do not have the cashflow nor the coverage for the risk that they are facing right now.

We put together a team of insurance organizations from across the Americas. This was our first-ever virtual co-creation sprint, and we were happy to see the positive response we received! While it was important for us to come up with a way to help, we also wanted the community to empathize with the business owners. After all, this was a rare opportunity to approach the problem with a human-centric focus, allowing the industry to revisit the shared community feeling that it originated from.

Our innovators dedicated 12 hours over 4 days to create a solution to the problem faced by the small businesses in our community. Equipped with the Design Thinking methodology, they set out to understand what small business owners are thinking and feeling during these difficult times.

“We came away feeling very empathetic for the owner we spoke to,” one project attendee said. “He told us about the car rental business he launched in Bermuda last August, and we could tell that he was very passionate about it. Most of his business came from tourists who visited the island, but due to travel restrictions, there are no more visitors. He was looking forward to a big expansion, but he is now forced to put these plans on hold.”

Other members of the team shared in this feeling. In our post-interview review session, one said, “This was a reality check for me. People’s dreams are being put on hold and there is a lot of uncertainty for them as business owners. “

The interviews helped our innovators understand the pain the owners faced, and a few tears were shed while hearing about the struggles they were going through.

What they learned from the owners was valuable. One business owner said, “It helps me to know that I am not alone in this. If my insurance company stands by me during these hard times, I know I will feel more loyal to them in the future.”

The team took the insights they received during these interviews and determined the problem that they would try to solve. They narrowed it down to,

How might we encourage and guide our small business owners with access to expert knowledge and community support to give them peace of mind?

Within 5 minutes, the team came up with 70 solutions to this problem, and together, they selected one answer to focus on. The innovators worked with our team of facilitators to build an MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, to help bring their idea to life and create awareness around the solution they would soon offer. The team wanted small business owners to know that they were not alone, and that the insurers were more than willing to offer their time and resources to support the owners.

The team returned to the owners they interviewed and shared with them the prototypes we created. In this second round of interviews, they collected feedback to help them improve their solution.

“This is a breath of fresh air,” an owner said during the testing phase. “This resource is valuable for those who do not have a plan in place to help them. Especially people like me, who are running operations all by themselves. Just knowing that there are people out there who are taking the initiative to help small businesses like myself through these difficult times is a blessing.”

Once the prototypes were finalized, it was time to present the results. The team was joined by many interested audience members who enjoyed the presentation, asking several follow-up questions, including when the solution would be in effect.

At the end, we asked our innovators how their experience of attending our first virtual Sprint had been, and the feedback was incredibly encouraging.

“I really enjoyed the whole process,” one participant told us. “It felt really good to be able to contribute to something meaningful.”

“What I took away from this were concepts of Design Thinking and new remote tools, which I’m really happy to have,” another participant shared with us. “In the future, I know we will be collaborating with clients more remotely. One of the biggest things I left with was empathy for the customer. We definitely had some emotional moments in the interviews, and I think that was helpful in understanding this issue at hand and how we need to step up.”

The experience of hosting a virtual Sprint was fulfilling for our team, as well. Despite the many miles between us all, our virtual Sprint proved that distance is not a barrier when it comes to connecting and collaborating with the rest of the community. We loved seeing insurers from 10 different organizations come together to make a difference, and we look forward to the many collaborations to come!

We will share the actual result of this project very soon with you – stay tuned!

This is the first of many virtual events that we are hosting. We would like to invite you to join our upcoming virtual Sprint, The Urgent Need to Attract and Retain Young Talent, as well as the other events on our calendar. All of our virtual events in May are free of charge to members of the insurance and reinsurance community, as part of our efforts to give back to the community during these challenging times.

Insurance is Everyone’s Port in the Storm

Everyone's Port in the Storm

At midnight on January 1st 2020, we, the world, celebrated the start of a new decade. Little did we know that the beginning of this decade would disrupt all of our lives within the blink of an eye. Today we are experiencing one of the most impactful pandemics in recent times hitting all humankind with the force of a hurricane. In addition to its immediate impact on health outcomes, and tragically, deaths, it is clear to everyone that the outbreak is likely to have long-lasting economic and social impacts globally.

This virus completely ignores man-made geographical borders and doesn’t differentiate between rich and poor. It forces us to live a so-called ‘new normal’ with millions of people losing their jobs and others working from home, while pushing healthcare workers past the verge of exhaustion. No one really knows how we are going to live between now and the discovery of a vaccine – nor do we know how long the virus will dictate our daily lives. These days, politicians repeatedly use the phrase ‘We are in this together’. But what does this actually mean? For the very first time ‘we’ does not mean an isolated community, such as the fans of the Toronto Raptors celebrating the victory of their team (which excludes the fans of the competition). Instead, this time ‘we’ means the largest community we can imagine. ‘We’ means literally every single one of us.

The American author and political activist Helen Keller once said, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”. What she meant by this is that a community can combine its power and has the strength to make change happen. The word ‘community’ is derived from the Latin communitas, meaning fellowship. For us at Cookhouse Labs community is a place that we hold in common, such as a physical or geographical location, as well as principles, interests, history or resources. It is a place where we take the initiative to make changes and share with each other. In times like this, where we need to practice physical distancing, the connection to a community is more important than ever before.

Insurance was born out of the idea of protecting the community. In 3000 B.C., Chinese merchants grew tired of losing their goods in shipwrecks and began to divide their goods evenly among ships, so that each boat carried a mix of cargo and not just the goods of one merchant. As a result, a shipwreck produced a slight loss for all and not one big loss for only one merchant. Over time, the idea of reducing the risk of a financial loss was developed further, and in 1966, Nicholas Barbon reacted to the great London fire by creating the first insurance company that offered insurance against natural disasters.

What started as a community initiative to protect the loss of individuals is now a regulated industry aiming to maximize profit as any other financial service provider, with the exception of mutual insurers. As a result it is no surprise that the perception of the current business model of insurers is poor amongst customers, especially the younger ones.

In days where communities all over the world are negatively impacted by COVID-19, where we are experiencing the biggest disruption since World War II in most areas of living, these communities are eager to find security and protection. We now have the chance to show our communities that we care about them. Our industry is able to provide security and protection, because this is the purpose of insurance. Insurance is more than a financial institution collecting premiums and paying out claims. Insurance is everyone’s port in the storm.

Our mission at Cookhouse Labs is to tackle the problems the industry is facing together, using a human-centered approach. We invite you to become a member and join our community of innovators on our journey to Make Insurance Better!

COVID-19 Update: During these challenging times, we at Cookhouse Labs want to play our part in supporting the community. As part of our gift to you, we have made all of our virtual events in May free of charge for members of the insurance and reinsurance community. Take a look at the events you can join here.