Connecting with Young Talent in an Increasingly Virtual World

The topic of attracting and retaining young talent to the insurance industry has been around for years — in fact, we even ran a project on it last year. In the past, many insurers would turn to campus events (such as career fairs) to find the leaders of tomorrow. However, this search has become more difficult in a virtual world, full of technological distractions and disconnect. In the case of insurance, an industry that is seen as old-fashioned and traditional, the challenge of engaging young talent has only increased tenfold.  

In a virtual world where human beings have been reduced to images on a screen, how can one truly connect with the right person for the job? 

At Cookhouse Labs, we’re all about human-centered design and connection. That’s why this week we’re excited to offer our top 3 tips to help you find young talent in a virtual world! 

Tip #1: Check Out the Chat Section 

You read that correct — we recommend attending external industry events to find engaged young professionals. For example, a frequently overlooked area is the chat section of webinars, where young attendees often ask thoughtful questions. By reaching out to these attendees on LinkedIn for a virtual coffee chat, you can informally screen them and determine if they would be a great fit for your organization.  

We spoke to several recruiters and found that all of them preferred passionate candidates, even if slightly underqualified. One of the best ways to assess this passion is through interaction, so we encourage you to put aside your stack of resumes and join a virtual industry event or two! 

Tip #2: Discover Passion in the Pitch 

The most passionate young professionals always find a way to stay involved with the global industry, even if they’re on another continent, through online projects and competitions. A virtual world offers the opportunity to discover a future leader in a whole different country, sans travel expenses. This type of candidate can bring a fresh perspective and resources into your project team, which may currently consist entirely of local members.  

If you’re wondering how to begin connecting with global young talent, you’re in luck! This Friday, we’re hosting our Young Talent 20/21 Final Pitch Event in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences in Wurzburg-Schweinfurt, Germany. Our team of students has been working on a new way for Cookhouse Labs to innovate in a hybrid model with participants both in the physical lab space and joining us virtually. The team will be revealing their solution at the pitch event — click here to meet them and see their results! 

Tip #3: Join Them in the Sandbox 

How can you assess if a candidate will be a perfect fit for an upcoming project? 

Easy — give it a try! 

Many virtual events simulate the experience of working together on a project by connecting students to organizations and tasking them with solving a challenge. For example, at our upcoming SummerHack 2021, you will have access to our pool of passionate students and can invite candidates of interest to join your insurance team for the 2-day competition. By working together in this guided ideathon to tackle a real industry challenge, you will have the opportunity to see how your chosen candidates fit within your project team and assess their personalities and work styles.  

To start forming your team and meeting young talent, click here

So, there you have it — our top 3 tips to bridge the virtual gap and connect with global young talent. By making the extra effort to scout these young professionals, you’re likely to find the most passionate, thoughtful, and engaged candidates for your next project! 

To stay up to date with our upcoming young talent opportunities, check out our 2021 Events Calendar or join our mailing list! 

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

Global Innovation and Collaboration: What to Expect in 2021

As we approach the end of 2020, one of the questions we frequently hear is, “What do you see on the horizon of 2021?” 

The answer: A whole new year of opportunities to innovate, collaborate, and network with like-minded thought leaders around the world! 

We’re delighted to share that our 2021 Events Calendar is now live, chock-full of exclusive innovation events for our global members! Whether you’re curious about our innovation Masterclasses or interested in experiencing a Design Thinking sprint yourself, there’s something for everyone in our 2021 menu — so let’s dive deeper into what we’ve got planned for the New Year. 

Before We Begin… 

At Cookhouse Labs, we have a lot to be thankful for. We wanted to say ‘Thank You’ to our community for supporting us on our global journey to #MakeInsuranceBetter. As a token of our appreciation, we’re offering a 50% Virtual Discount on our Annual Memberships! The offer expires on December 31st, 2020, with Memberships starting at only $250 CAD monthly — don’t miss the exclusive opportunity to innovate with our global network of member organizations in 2021! 

Customized Innovation Consulting Services 

Since 2007, we’ve been mastering co-innovation and co-creation at Cookhouse Labs. Our experts have enabled 50+ organizations to become innovation anticipators, designing their own futures. We are happy to announce our new specials — a menu of virtual innovation services that cater to your individual organization’s co-creation needs. Whether you choose from our Innovation Masterclasses, Sprints, or Tools, there is something on the menu to satisfy everyone’s taste buds! 

Our members receive a special 25% discount on our consulting services; check out the full list of services here

Open Co-Creation Sprints 

Experience Design Thinking in action in our week-long co-creation projects!  

Collaborate with other members as you tackle key challenges in the insurance industry. Our Certified Innovation Experts will guide you through the 5 stages of the Design Thinking methodology and support you as you build your MVP. At the end of the project, pitch your solution to an audience of your colleagues and global industry experts! 

Wondering what our innovation sprint experience is like? Check out some of our previous project infographics and recap blogs — for example, this blog on The Recipe to Attract and Retain Young Talent

Exclusive Access to Young Talent 2021/22 Projects 

Every year, Cookhouse Labs invites its members to work with a team of E-commerce and IT students to specifically tackle one of their business challenges. Over the course of 1 semester (and up to 250 hours), each student team will work exclusively with our member organizations in guided Design Thinking sprints, facilitated by Cookhouse Labs innovation experts. 

Are you interested in your own guided global student project dedicated to tackling a challenge in your organization?   

Get in touch with our Innovation Team to become a member! 

All-new Innovation Masterclasses 

Join our Innovation Team for virtual Masterclasses on a variety of useful innovation methodologies to apply to your organization! Here are some of the sessions our members can attend: 

Design Thinking 
Solve real industry problems by developing customer-focused solutions in a short amount of time! Use this methodology to innovate quickly, channel creativity and when used correctly, save a significant amount of time and money when launching new products or services. 

Google Sprint 
Tackle critical business challenges, validate product/service ideas, and test your prototypes in this five-day process that any team can use! 

Lean Startup 
Identify what your customers really want and get your products into their hands faster with this tried-and-tested, cost-effective innovation methodology!  

Design Tools 
Learn the fundamentals of design theory to help turn your ideas into MVPs — then try your hand at building your own Lo-Fi mockup under the guidance of our Senior UX/UI Consultant!  

Train the Trainer 
Add new styles of facilitating, communicating, presenting, and telling stories to engage your project participants!  

Brand-New Food for Thought Series 

Stay up-to-date with the latest InsurTech trends, hear valuable insights from industry trailblazers, and discover up-and-coming startups in our brand-new webinar series! Every session will focus on a current industry topic and feature a special innovator with intriguing stories and experience to share with our community. Our first webinar will be held in January 2021 — keep an eye on our LinkedIn page to find out who next month’s guest speaker will be! 

Exciting Global Design Thinking Ideathons 

We’re back with our much-anticipated global ideathons!  

Preparations are currently underway for our SummerHack 2021: Global Design Thinking Ideathon and our 24-Hour Global WinterHack 2021 — and we’re looking forward to welcoming insurers, startups, vendors and students from around the world back into our innovation space! Whether you’re joining us as a SummerHack corporate team or mentoring a WinterHack team of young talent, there’s experience to gain and big prizes to win in these fun races against the clock! 

If you missed the excitement of our last ideathon, we recommend taking a look at a summary of the event — click here to access the blog, “WinterHack 2020: A Global Race To Digitize Insurance”. 

We’re excited to begin another year of global innovation and collaboration with our community! Our first event of the year is our free Introduction to Design Tools” session on January 14th, 2021, where we share key components when creating a prototype and what 2 key items to look for when choosing the right tool. We invite you to check out the events listed above and other perks of becoming a Cookhouse Labs Member — hurry, our 50% Holiday Discount ends December 31st, 2020! 

From all of us at Cookhouse Labs, we wish you a safe and wonderful holiday — and we can’t wait to see you in the New Year! 

2020: A Year in Review

2020 a year in review

One year ago, we re-launched Cookhouse Labs in December, and what a great year it has been!  

Cookhouse Labs 2.0 introduced an Acceleration stage to our collaboration model, supporting both MVP and product development after the initial Ideation and Creation stages of a co-creation project. We’re delighted to say that Cookhouse Labs 2.0 was a major success this year, breaking traditional barriers to collaboration both locally and internationally! 

Here’s a look at some of the Labs’ incredible accomplishments since December 2019:

1. 500+ innovators joined our community this year — and generated nearly 200 ideas!

We were excited to meet innovators from all around the world in 2020! 

Innovators from all across geographies, ages, and cultures came together for our virtual events! They collaborated during co-creation sprints, ideathons and student projects, learned about various innovation methodologies in our Masterclasses, and dove deep into industry topics in sessions with seasoned experts. We were delighted to welcome innovators with diverse experiences and backgrounds including tech, venture capital, finance, law, marketing, HR, and student life!

2. Our Innovation Team hosted 10 global innovation Masterclasses

Our Masterclasses were informative, engaging, and full of high energy! 

Our participants spent time learning about various innovation methodologies from our Lead Innovation Coach, including Design Thinking, Google Sprint, and Lean Startup. Other attendees joined our Train the Trainer sessions to explore tools and communication styles they could use to facilitate their own innovation projects. In our Design Tools Masterclass, our Senior UX/UI Consultant walked participants through design theory and led them through exercises to build their own mobile app mockups. Some of our favorite app ideas included coffee orders, pet care, and late-night cookie delivery!

3. We brought together 200+ hackers from over 10 different countries

85+ participants celebrate the winning team at WinterHack 2020 — Team Munich Re! 

This year brought some of our biggest innovation events, including our 24-Hour Global SummerHack: IoT Disruption in Insurance and WinterHack 2020: Global Design Thinking Ideathon. Our teams were full of innovators of all ages and backgrounds — including insurers, students, startups, and vendors — who were often continents apart! Similarly, our Events Teams pulled these events off with incredible coordination despite being in separate locations around the world, such as China, Germany, Canada, and Pakistan!

In these truly global events, our teams tackled a diverse range of challenges and pitched their solutions to a jury panel of accomplished innovation leaders. We were blown away by the ideas that were shared at these Final Pitch Events, solving key issues such as mitigating small business bankruptcy, overcoming loneliness in the elderly, helping customers understand their policies, fighting obesity, and creating IoT-based mobility insurance products. Our winners took home exciting prizes, including a Cookhouse Labs Membership, a Design Thinking session, and tickets to insureNXT|CGN, courtesy of InsurLab Germany!

4. We fostered incredible community spirit during these challenging times

Our Lead Innovation Coach, Ibeth Ramos, interviews two salon owners from Winnipeg, Canada in the session, ”Success Stories of Small Business Owners”. 

2020 was a difficult year for the owners of small businesses, who faced major sales declines and the possibility of permanent closures. In these challenging times, we brought the insurance industry together for the first-ever virtual Back to Business Summit in September, an idea that was generated through a co-creation sprint we ran earlier in the year. The event aimed to provide small business customers with free access to experts on key business topics through 19 live and on-demand sessions. Our experts shared helpful information for owners on topics such as low-budget marketing, financial assistance programs, finding alternate revenue streams, legal considerations towards employees, and understanding their insurance coverage.

This initiative was met with an overwhelmingly positive response, motivating us to bring the event back in October with additional free sessions for the small business community. These sessions continue to be available on our official event page, and we encourage you to explore and share these with any owners you know who may benefit from this free knowledge!

Reflecting on this past year at Cookhouse Labs, it has undoubtedly been a fascinating one full of new ideas, connections, and opportunities. As we raise a glass in celebration of these achievements, we want to take a moment to appreciate our global community of innovators. Thanks to your continued support and enthusiasm, we have achieved innovation across borders on a scale beyond our wildest dreams. You inspire us to dream bigger on our journey to #MakeInsuranceBetter, and for this we are truly grateful!

Looking forward, we’re delighted to announce that our 2021 Events Calendar is now live, full of exciting Masterclasses, co-creation projects, and global innovation opportunities! As a token of our appreciation to the community, we’ve extended our 50% Virtual Discount on our Annual Memberships to December 31st, 2020, with Memberships starting at $250 CAD monthly. We invite you to check out our upcoming events and other perks of becoming a Cookhouse Labs Member — hurry, our 50% Virtual Discount ends in less than 3 weeks!

SummerHack 2020: A Race Against the Clock (Part 4)

In the final part of our series, I sat down with Manisha Dias, a SummerHack 2020 Judge and Assistant Vice President, Strategic Partnerships at SCOR (a Global Life and P&C Reinsurer). We discussed the highlights of our global 24-hour hackathon, the ingredients to a great pitch, and what teams at WinterHack 2020 can do to win our big prize!

Manisha, thank you for joining us, not only for the interview but as a Judge at SummerHack 2020! We’re curious to know, what inspired you to join the judging panel?

For starters, I wanted to support Cookhouse Labs. I’ve crossed paths with the Lab several times in the past, and I think they actually foster innovation (versus those that just talk about it). Besides that, joining the event was a way to give back and help others who are trying to ideate and become entrepreneurs. I also love hearing ideas from their inception — you never know what the next ‘big thing’ might be and how you may be able to help shape it!

We’re happy you joined us! What did you enjoy most about attending an event like SummerHack?

It was impressive to see what a handful of individuals could come up with in a short amount of time, given a certain problem statement on a topic that they may not have had a lot of working experience or background knowledge in. They used their resources to the full extent to put something together in a creative way. I love seeing the diverse solutions that people come up with and how they respond to the time pressures and judges’ questions.

On that note, what pitch did you find memorable at the Live Pitch Event?

My favorite was the solution that actually ended up winning 1st Place, called Byte. It spoke to me the most in terms of impact, especially given prevalence of Obesity in the United States.

Coincidentally, this solution is one I’ve personally thought about creating for a while, so I was overjoyed when I saw it getting tackled by Byte! People do not know what they are consuming, how much they are really eating, what effect it has on the body, and how much they actually need for sustenance. The Smart tooth removes the manual work needed to find that information and had features I didn’t know were possible to have, and that’s why I thought it was fantastic.

What would you say are key ingredients to creating a successful pitch?

Whether it’s an elevator pitch or a larger pitch, I have found that there are 3 core ingredients that make a pitch successful. The first of these ingredients is charisma. If you have 3 minutes to sell your life’s work, or even work you’ve done over 24 hours, having a charismatic speaker is one way to get the audience engaged. Every word you say is crucial, and charisma gets the audience to listen.

The second ingredient is creativity, which can be interpreted in several ways. It could mean creativity of the solution, where your solution has never been done before. Then there’s creativity in how you present your solution, such as using a prototype, visual, or soundbite, which makes it memorable.

The third and final ingredient is context, which is key because pitches are often to audiences from diverse backgrounds. You cannot go into a pitch assuming the audience is familiar with the problem statement. Tying your solution to the problem and therefore explaining the impact it will have on a larger scale will help wrap your entire solution up for the audience and the Judges.

Looking back, how would you describe your overall SummerHack 2020 experience?

I found the event to be extremely well-organized — major kudos to Cookhouse Labs. They had a lot of stakeholders to manage, including the participants, Judges, and Mentors, and they never once dropped the ball. I was told every step of the way what I needed to do, and on the day of the event, who to contact in case of technical issues. It was even more impressive that this was done in a virtual environment, so really well done overall.

Since WinterHack 2020 is just around the corner in November, we’d love some advice for incoming participants! What would you like to say to them?

You want to connect your audience to the larger value that your solution is going to bring, and this is key in setting up your pitch. You also want to be able to show how you can execute, implement, and distribute said product. After you’ve figured out your solution, be prepared in your delivery and what you will communicate to the audience, and you will do great!

Final question: How do you think such an event can help #MakeInsuranceBetter?

Specifically, these types of events generate new ideas that have legs to stand on. If you go back 5 or 6 years, the digital world of insurance was bleak with respect to IoT, compared to how it is today. Hackathons, innovation labs, and incubators created a dedicated space to foster and promote these ideas, which can then be pitched to those working in sectors in need of disruption. Alone, you may not have the support you need to develop your idea, but these types of events help creative and diverse ideas move forward.

Manisha, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with our readers, and we hope to see you soon at upcoming Cookhouse Labs events!

Don’t miss your chance to join our upcoming WinterHack 2020: Global Design Thinking Ideation from November 3-5, 2020 — click here to learn more and sign up!

A Mid-Year Toast to Global Collaboration

Since our relaunch in December 2019, Cookhouse Labs has grown into a global center for insurance innovation. Through our co-creation sprints and diverse menu of events and trainings, we have brought together innovators from around the world to collaborate and #MakeInsuranceBetter.

At the Lab, we end every project with a collective celebration. Whether we’re in our physical space or connected virtually, our innovators and internal team members raise their favorite drinks for a toast to yet another successful collaboration.

We recently crossed the mid-year mark — this milestone inspired us to reflect on the past 6 months and celebrate the achievements on our journey since December. Every project is successful because of our valuable community of innovators, and we would like to invite you grab your favorite drink and join us in this virtual celebration!

Here’s a look at our year so far:

1. Our virtual event calendar was launched in just 2 days

In March, we swiftly moved our Lean Startup Training online just 2 days before the event. The initial virtual setup consisted of large parts, such as green screens and light stands, that spread across the Lab space. As we continued to host our online events, we began to include exciting tools — such as our well-known digital whiteboard — where our innovators posted thousands of virtual sticky notes full of insights and ideas, much like our in-person experience.

2. 150+ innovators joined our community this year

Global innovators of all ages joined our virtual events! They collaborated on week-long sprints, participated in our innovation trainings, and shared their lunch hour with us via our webinars. Our innovators brought new ideas and diverse perspectives to our projects, stemming from rich backgrounds in HR, IT, innovation, senior management, and student life!

3 . We ran 6 major co-creation projects

Our sprints covered themes around attracting young talent, collaborating with InsurTech startups, and challenges of insurance. Our community support sprint, which we first ran in April, is currently in Phase II, where the solution is being further developed and executed (reach out to us if you want to get involved in making a difference in the community). We also hosted a 24-hour student project around small business bankruptcy prevention. We completed nearly every one of these projects virtually, and doing so allowed us to collaborate with innovators worldwide!

4. 155+ ideas were generated in our projects

We challenged innovators to ideate potential solutions to the current issues faced in the insurance industry, and we were blown away by the incredible ideas shared! Our teams came up with solutions that could be implemented as early as the next week, as well as more complex

solutions that would be rolled out over several months. One of these ideas was a virtual summit to provide community support in these challenging times, and our innovators are currently working on executing this idea in Phase II of the sprint (learn more about how you can get involved)!

5. We hosted 9 innovation trainings

Our Head Innovation Coach walked participants through several exciting innovation methodologies, including Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Google Sprint. To help our community facilitate their own innovation projects, we hosted a Train the Trainer session, where participants learned valuable coaching tools and skills. Our Senior UX/UI Designer led our Design Tools Training, and by the end of the day, attendees walked away with their own Lo-Fi prototypes of mobile applications.

While this year has certainly been busy, it is far from over! Our Events Team is currently hard at work building our upcoming virtual summit to support small business owners as they recover from current business interruptions.

Preparation for our 24-hour Global SummerHack 2020 is also in full swing! This year’s theme is “IoT Disruption in Insurance”, and we’re very excited to see what our teams will build in this race against the clock!

As we raise a toast in celebration of our milestone, we want to thank YOU, the community, for your continued interest, engagement, and commitment to bring the industry together. Your enthusiasm inspires and motivates us every day, and we are grateful for your support in our journey to #MakeInsuranceBetter!

The Power of the Ideathon

In just 1 week, Cookhouse Labs will launch WinterHack 2020: Global Design Thinking Ideathon in partnership with InsurLab Germany and msg!

Winterhack 2020

From our experience with hosting (physical) ideathons in previous years, we’ve found that these events are a great way to get innovators’ creative juices flowing. While there are prizes and glory at stake, there are many additional cool benefits to getting involved in WinterHack 2020. Let’s check out those benefits!

1. Time crunch encourages focused innovation

Most innovation projects span several weeks, where team members meet occasionally for a few hours to discuss their ideas. In an ideathon, innovators are aware they must present a prototype within 2 days and successfully sell their idea to the judges, meaning little time must be wasted on discussion. The ideathon’s 2-day time crunch encourages innovators to timebox, allowing them to complete tasks within predetermined fixed times.

2. Hackers build holistic solutions

The solution should go beyond solving the problem; innovators must adopt a holistic approach when developing the solution. Many aspects of the business model must be considered, such as the target group, the marketing plan, and how to finance product development. The solution will be evaluated against diverse judging criteria, including ease of implementation. There are many aspects to consider but only 2 days at hand, creating an exciting challenge!

3. Experience Design Thinking in action

Many ideathons do not have a guided process, but at Cookhouse Labs, we want to maximize the experience and use a methodology that fits into the 2-day timeframe. We’ve used Design Thinking in projects that range from ½ a day to 3 months, meaning we know how to tailor the method to fit any project duration. Through our workshops, participants will learn how to:

  • Empathize with the end-user to understand their needs
  • Map out the customer journey
  • Define the real problem
  • Build their prototypes
  • Test their solution on real users, and
  • Create compelling final presentations

We’ve found that following the methodology leads to better results than simply jumping into coding the solution. Our workshops are designed so that one team member can attend while the remaining members continue to develop the solution, thereby making the most of the time available.

4. Learn and build meaningful connections in the process

Mentors are subject matter experts who provide valuable industry knowledge to guide teams towards holistic solutions. Many of our teams are comprised of student hackers, and this is an incredible opportunity to learn from industry veterans and build meaningful connections that can lead to internships and career opportunities.

Mentors are in the unique position to show students how exciting the insurance industry can be! Our brilliant student teams have their own in-depth knowledge of analytics, AI models, and technology, and as a Mentor, you will see what our young talent can bring to the table.

5. A single problem will inspire many innovative solutions

WinterHack 2020 focuses on digital ecosystems in insurance, a major opportunity for the industry to innovate and adopt exciting technology. An internal team addressing this opportunity will likely develop a single solution, but by the end of the 2 days, industry experts will have access to a variety of solutions created by the teams. Often, the output is very robust, especially if team members have coding and design experience. The ideathon is an opportunity to collaborate with our teams to further develop these solutions into viable products which can potentially solve your organization’s challenges and positively impact the industry.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to join this exciting global ideathon – click here to learn more about how you can participate in WinterHack 2020!

A Race Against Time – Innovating to Reduce Global Bankruptcy

Last week, we asked the question, “How might the Internet of Things (IoT) assist small business owners with their financial management to improve profitability and reduce bankruptcy?” 

Further, we asked, “How might we make small businesses more resilient now for future extreme events like COVID-19?” 

Our team of innovators, comprised of students and insurers, raced against the clock to create a solution to these challenges in 24 hours. The team was mentored by Cookhouse Labs China Partner Jason Alleyne, an industry veteran with over a decade of innovation experience. Our Head Innovation Coach Ibeth Ramos facilitated the virtual project, offering valuable tips and high-energy motivation to remain focused throughout the experience. 

As our team set out to understand the effect of the pandemic on small businesses around the world, they were given a crash course in Design Thinking by Coach Ibeth throughout their journey. As they learned in the workshop, in order to solve the problem in a way that would be meaningful to the end user, they needed to first hear and understand the struggles of the end user. Thus, the team began their 24-hour journey with the interviews of business owners from China, Bermuda, and Canada. 

After recording their insights on our digital whiteboard, the team created a persona to represent the end user – Fiona, a small business owner in Toronto. They mapped out her journey from launching a new product to cost-cutting as a result of the current economic impact, aiding them in understanding the thoughts and emotions that she experienced along the way.  

Equipped with these data points, the team came up with over 20 “How Might We” statements to describe the challenge at hand. They worked together to narrow the problem down to a single statement focused on reducing the risk of financial impact of current economic events. In turn, this would reduce the number of staff fired as a result of cost-cutting.  

Now that the problem was defined, what was the solution? 

The team ideated many well-developed IoT-powered solutions to tackle this challenge and quickly selected the winning idea: a financial planning tool with elements of community and skill development. They were guided by our Senior UX/UI Designer, Adys Franco, who walked them through the various design tools they could use to prototype their solution.  

As they began to build a prototype of their tool, the team collaborated on the design and content of the solution. They established a user flow to show how business owners could access each feature. Coach Ibeth delivered one final workshop on best practices to follow during the testing phase, and as the clock struck midnight, the team decided to call it a night. 

7 hours later, they returned with a renewed enthusiasm – it was time to test out their solution! The team reconnected with two business owners from China and Canada, and carefully noted down the feedback they received. As some members continued to tweak the tool based on the feedback, others began to work on the final presentation of their solution to the insurance community.  

Soon, excited attendees began to fill the virtual space, curious about the solution the team had come up with. In a fun and engaging presentation, the team took the audience through their exhilarating 24-hour journey and finally revealed their solution. As with all Cookhouse Labs co-creation projects, a discussion was sparked around the potential of this solution in the global economy, with both innovators and attendees adding fascinating insights from their own experiences to the dialogue.  

We would like to thank everyone from the participants, in particular the group of young people for their interest and commitment to the insurance topics, to the facilitators and the audience for creating an invaluable virtual experience. Every Cookhouse Labs project is designed to Make Insurance Better, and thanks to such exciting collaborations from our community members, we know that we are making a shift for the better, one session at a time! 

To learn about our upcoming virtual events and to get involved, please visit our Events page here

The Business Value of Design

Across industries and marketplaces, many businesses recognize that design makes the difference between who succeeds and who doesn’t. However, others are skeptical about whether this is proven. Is design important enough to prioritize within your organization when there are so many business-related things to consider? 

“Good design is good business.”
— Thomas Watson Jr. 

Various studies conducted by organizations such as the Design Innovation Group, the Design Council (UK), the Danish Design 2020 Committee, and McKinsey, among others, prove that companies placing an emphasis on design outperformed those that  didn’t. And design-led companies — like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike — outperformed others by 219% between 2004 and 2014. Yes, the best design performers increased revenues and shareholder returns at twice the rate of their industry counterparts. Unfortunately, that information isn’t enough to satisfy many decision-makers. With no clear way to link design to business health, leaders are often reluctant to divert resources to design functions. Who wouldn’t be? However, as the research indicates, there must be organization-level decisions and investments in design to realize such successes. 

It’s difficult to imagine exactly how design can be used to the company’s advantage if you are not a designer who understands how deep a design process can go.  

What design actions can leaders make to unlock business value?  

“Design is not just what it looks and feels like, but how it works.”
— Steve Jobs 

Think about design as a holistic translator. Why holistic? It converts complex concepts into fun, exciting, remarkable, accessible, motivating, and unforgettable messages/symbols or whatever is needed for your brand, organization, product or service to stand out among the competition. But it doesn’t end there, because the aim is loyal customers, and loyalty goes beyond visuals. What is your customer’s impression of your brand/organization/products/services? What kind of message does the design convey? Is your organization seen as reliable?  

The potential for design-driven growth is now higher than ever. Customers can feed opinions back to companies (and each other) in real-time. Design is measured by customers themselves, whether organizations want to listen or not. Repositories of user data and the advance of artificial intelligence (AI) cement the creation of powerful new sources for insights. All of these should place the user at the heart of business decisions; however, organizations have been slow to catch up.  

What exactly can design do within my organization?  

“Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.”
—Robert L. Peters 

Design is key in making your brand consistent. Not only by using the same logo on all your products, but by communicating your values in a way that resonates with your customers and employees, creating a strong identity that survives trends and shifts in the market. Design combines analytical leadership with cross-functional talent in a continuous iteration of the user experience to increase business value. Note: the user is not only the customer; even employees should be considered within this formula.  

Here are some of the questions a savvy leader will consider: What design choices have been made to make your product/service stand out? Are they working? What is your product/service quality? How is your customer satisfaction? How has usability been measured? How profitable is your organization? What about employee productivity? How is the business profitability? How is revenue affected by conversions? How can costs savings improve? What is your organization’s market position? Why is it so? How can that position be better? What could affect that position? How has innovation been applied within the organization? Is it enough? 

Yes, design brings more questions than answers and not one, but several, solutions. Design formulas have many different answers. A solution comes with analysis, experience, trial and error, learning, and knowledge all combined. Keep your mind open to possibilities and try the most promising ones. Be ready to fail and come back with something better. Understand the failure, learn and try something else. Learn from other organizations. What are they doing right? What are they doing better than you? What are you doing better than anyone?  

To learn more, take advantage of offerings from Cookhouse Labs. Next Tuesday, we will be hosting a free virtual 1-Day Design Tools Training facilitated by the author of this blog, and we invite you to register by clicking here. As part of our gift to the community during these challenging times, we have made our virtual Live Events calendar free for members of the re/insurance community, so you can innovate from the comfort and safety of your home office. 

IoT — a Game Changer for the Insurance Industry

The insurance industry is not known for being fast-paced, revolutionary, or innovative in any way. Why would we be? Insurance products and services have changed very little, if at all. We have mastered our skills as a passive risk taker over centuries. Now we are facing the biggest disruption the industry has ever seen — the Internet of Things, or IoT.  

How can this type of technology be disruptive? 

To answer this, we must first go back and understand how the insurance industry works. Insurance was created to cover the risk of financial loss. Consider any form of insurance — Life insurance covers a loss of income, health insurance covers treatment costs, and auto insurance covers the cost of accidental damage. In order to calculate the probability of this financial loss, actuaries — the mathematicians of insurance — look into the past to predict the future. They study historic claims data, take into account many risk factors, and build models around what they have learned.  

Let’s use the example of life insurance. Life insurance is significant because a single policy can run for many decades. For 40-odd years, the risk follows a mathematical model which is based on information provided by a young policy holder who expects a payout when she or he retires. This is truly a long time to predict. In the example of auto insurance, previous data from a similar age group and location as the policy holder, along with a history of accidents in the area, are used to calculate risk.  

Why does this matter so much? Think about it this way; approximately 80% of costs borne by insurance organizations are claims disbursements. If the impact of claims is reduced by 1 to 2%, this can translate to millions of dollars saved.  

What we are highlighting here is that for centuries, evaluating risk required looking into the past. In the case of health insurance, a younger, healthier policy holder will be offered a lower premium because previous data indicates that this individual is less likely to file a claim. 

Let’s focus on the auto sector for a moment. Very little has changed in the past few decades. The layout of roads, the shape of cars, even traffic rules are relatively the same. Yes, safety features have improved, but the risk model still has decades of solid data to follow.  

What if we introduce a new and unpredictable risk factor, such as autonomous vehicles? 

There is no historical data for autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles behave differently — there are never-seen-before accidents occurring, leading to new claims requests. This poses an equally unique opportunity and challenge to the insurance industry: how can our actuaries provide risk models without historic data to build around? 

We return to our aforementioned disruptor — IoT. This technology can offer real-time data that the industry has never accessed before. IoT can calculate the individual risk of the driver and use accurate behavioral data to determine the real risk at hand, allowing insurers to take new risks into consideration and charge fair premiums. Consider the COVID-19 work-from-home situation, where cars sit parked in garages for most of the week. Customers are being charged the same premiums, but if IoT data is used in programs like usage-based insurance, the insurer would know that the car is being used less often, significantly reducing the risk of a claim. Therefore, a lower premium can be charged, which the customer would no doubt appreciate in these challenging times. 

Without a doubt, the insurance industry is shifting from being a passive risk taker to becoming an active risk manager. The industry has begun to offer customers valuable information that it has acquired through this real-time data analysis. Insurers now trade discounted premiums for actively reducing the risk. Insurers educate their customers on the importance of sleep and a healthy diet. All the unique data required to manage risk is collected through IoT devices, such as smartwatches. When customers follow this life-changing advice, their individual risk of financial loss is reduced. Fewer claims are filed.  

And we know fewer claims means insurers save millions in disbursement money. 

Although we have barely scratched the surface of the potential of IoT in insurance, we cannot deny that IoT is the biggest disruptor the industry has ever seen. The availability of real-time, individualized sensor data is doing more than change the risk model; it is transforming our actuaries into data scientists.  

The potential for IoT and its new business models is vast within the insurance industry. 

Who knows where it will take us next? 

To learn more about how IoT will impact the insurance industry, sign up for our free 60-minute Lunch & Learn webinar, “The Future of IoT in Insurance” on Tuesday, June 16th at 11:30 AM EST!

You can also check out our other free virtual innovation events by clicking here.