Member Stories: Meet Tommy from Munich Re

Member Stories Tommy Kim

At Cookhouse Labs, we’ve worked closely with many members to successfully innovate within their organizations. In the first part of our Member Stories series, meet Tommy Kim, Senior Actuarial Analyst at Munich Re Company of Canada. Tommy is an active member of our global community and is a two-time winner of our Design Thinking ideathons in 2020!

Read about Tommy’s unique experience below!

Tommy, thank you for joining us today! We’d love to know how your journey began; what was the first Cookhouse Labs event that you attended?

That’s a great question! In early 2019, our Senior Executive members asked for volunteers to participate in a Design Thinking training. Even though I saw myself as a non-ordinary individual (I personally enjoy my thinking time, too), I wanted to be more structured. I thought, “How can I improve my thinking process?” Everyone has ideas, but there has to be a way for us to narrow down these ideas so that we can get close to executing them. That was my first session at Cookhouse Labs and I really enjoyed it. Not only did I enjoy working with the experts at Cookhouse Labs, but I also enjoyed working with representatives from other insurance organizations, who were awesome too. We were all there for one single reason — to make insurance better — and we just wanted to tailor it better by leveraging the Design Thinking process.

Thank you for sharing that! On the topic of collaboration, I imagine you’ve worked with many teams at the Lab since 2019. What was your best team experience?

I’m going to answer your question by saying that working with Ibeth (the Lead Innovation Coach) was the best team ever, and I guess that would be every session I’ve ever attended. The reason is that I am an introverted person, which means there are a lot of thoughts going around in my head. Introverts need a comfort zone to be more open to collaboration and for their ideas to be rolled out. I think building that trust is the most difficult part. Ibeth encouraged everyone to open up by making everyone laugh and sharing her life story. It helped everyone engage, and that was the most important component of my experience with Cookhouse Labs.  

What is your favorite memory from this past year of collaborating with us?

All the components were great, but it is really tough to pick just one. In my first hackathon (SummerHack 2020), I participated as a mentor and the 24-hour journey was awesome. But working with the folks at HSB Canada as a collaborative WinterHack 2020 team was awesome and one of my favorite memories, too. Of course, any help from you, Ibeth, and Sven is great. Not just the idea aspect of it, but also the content and patience. I can tell, from one human to another, that the team really does want to make insurance better and doesn’t treat it as “work”. All of these are my favorite memories from Cookhouse Labs.

That’s wonderful to hear, Tommy! Speaking of winning the ideathons, what have you been able to achieve since you started attending Cookhouse Labs innovation events? In other words, how has it helped you?

It might sound weird to say that, even though I have participated in the ideathons, I think the word “achievement” does not fit me. This is just me learning and going to different sessions. Maybe it’s just not the best timing for me to answer this question, because I think there is more to learn from Cookhouse Labs’ sessions and events. One day, if I actually contribute to making insurance better, only then will I be able to say that I achieved this. Right now, it’s too early for me to say anything!

Final question: Would you recommend Cookhouse Labs’ events to others, and if yes, which events would you recommend?

I would definitely recommend Cookhouse Labs training sessions, but if I had to pick one out of the many great trainings, I would pick Design Thinking. This is not only a matter of innovation itself; it can be applied to any sort of work and even your thinking process in your daily life, too. I thought about how you could make the best out of it. No one wants to make a mistake, right? Even when we get groceries, we do a price check and see where it’s from. There is caution with that thinking process, but there is no harm in learning an even better approach to apply to real life. So, I would definitely recommend the Design Thinking trainings.

Tommy, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. We enjoyed collaborating with you and Munich Re Company of Canada in 2020 and we wish you all the best in 2021. We can’t wait to continue this collaboration with you in the New Year!

The Human Side of Innovation

The Human side

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

— Steve Jobs

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

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

Of course we can!

What is innovation about?

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

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

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

What is the most forgotten and overlooked element in innovation?

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

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

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

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

In summary …

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

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

— Arnold Bennett

Want more insights from our Lead Innovation Coach?

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

Startup Bites: Meet The Young Chefs (Part 4)

Startup bites: AskBrian

We’re excited to continue our series, “Startup Bites: Meet the Young Chefs”, where Co-Founder Sven Roehl sits down with founders of startups to chat about their exciting solutions and how they’re on track to make big waves in the insurance world.

In today’s blog, Sven sat down with Pavol Sikula, Founder and CEO of AskBrian. Check out the full interview below!

Experience the full interview — check out the recording above!

Welcome to our first interview of 2021! Pavol, we met recently through a mutual contact and found your new venture very interesting. Before we begin, tell us about yourself, your startup, and how you came up with the name AskBrian!

I’ve been in top management consulting in Munich, Germany for 15 years. My founding story is related to management consulting, where I saw some annoying recurring tasks that were a waste of talent and time. As technology became better and better, I started to automate many tasks in management consulting, but many of them are relevant to businesspeople in general.

Brian is a digital assistant for businesspeople, especially management consultants, who performs tasks 24/7. We called him Brian because it’s short, it’s easily recognizable because of the movie Life of Brian, it includes the letters used in AI, and it rhymes with “Brian the Brain”, which is what we call him internally.

Behind every story of a startup, there is a moment when someone says, “Okay, I’m going to quit my job, leave my life behind, and I’m going to start my own journey”. When was this moment for you?

One evening in 2017, some colleagues and I had to translate slides for a proposal we were working on. It was already late, and nobody had time or fun translating documents. This was the moment when I realized that AI translation has become so good that there must be a way to integrate the state-of-the-art translation service and enable full document translation. The technology was out there and all we had to do was make it accessible. We chose to do this via natural language, where Brian uses human communication channels (like email) to perform tasks. This evening and this journey have driven my path in the last three years.

For the first two years, I worked on Brian in parallel to my regular job, thanks to the support of Stern Stewart & Co. where I participated in their startup program. But I realized working at nights and on weekends is not enough if you really want to become successful. In January 2020, I left my amazing job in consultancy to follow this dream because I kept thinking, “I have to do it, I can’t think about anything else”. It has started to pay out in the form of impressed users of Brian!

What challenges did you face while growing your business?

As I started to experiment the backbone technology, there were basic challenges such as how to get the Chrome browser on a notebook, which was not allowed for data protection reasons. There have been technical challenges, such as finding a way to make multiple data sources and digital services available via human language. We wondered if it was possible for a machine to understand what a user wants and to deliver presentations and to adjust documents.

We don’t only have technical challenges: the biggest one is managing human expectations. What is real? What is fake? Sometimes people think that Brian is a program that can answer any question and complete any task, but that’s not the case. We are managing expectations, making them real, and showing what the technology can do.

Along with challenges come highlights, so what are some moments that really stood out to you? What was the moment when you thought you made the right decision to launch AskBrian?

One highlight I celebrated hugely was when Brian translated his first PowerPoint presentation without mistakes. This was on a Wednesday at 1 o’clock in the morning. After many months, we finally did it and I was so happy that I drank champagne at breakfast!

Another moment came at the end of 2019. I googled “AI Forbes” and wrote to the first author to ask if they would write about us, and it worked out! They wrote a case study about AskBrian and it was cool to have reached a point where Forbes would write about us.

One more highlight was in May 2020, where despite COVID-19 we managed to close our first financing round. Even though DAX was down by 40% at the time we asked our angels to invest, I think it was one of our biggest achievements. To achieve that, we showed really positive traction in the usage of our service.

It looks like your company is doing well and you’re making great progress in your journey! Where do you see your business in 2-3 years? What’s your vision?

Of course, we want to impress our users! I hope hundreds of thousands of users will use Brian’s services, and that we will teach Brian cool new skills to perform. I hope he will be capable of tasks we cannot even imagine today. I’m very excited to see what Brian will be capable of in 3 years, because we always take state-of-the-art technology and build it into Brian. In 2025, we want to have one million users. It’s an ambitious target, but we believe we can do it!

Starting a new venture is all about partnerships, so we’d love to know about your experience with collaborating with larger organizations!

Our current target market is consultants, from one-man shops up to the Big 4 with 250,000 employees approximately. What we see is that there is no real correlation in the speed of processing in these organizations. Sometimes, consultancies with 20 people are as difficult to approach as a Big 4 company. This is in the area of consultancy, where the companies by nature are entrepreneurial, dynamic, and open for innovation, because they must deliver what they teach their clients. In the area of corporates, it’s kind of difficult to get through to the purchasing department and to get all the approvals you need. Therefore, we prefer to start with in-house consultancies and bring them on as friends and supporters. Then, we get into corporates through this channel and become available for employees in large corporations. We have to get 2.5% of the early adopters, and from there on, I believe we will succeed step-by-step in convincing more and more companies to work with us.

Moving to the insurance market, how can Brian benefit insurers?

Where we see potential is in the area of Claims Management, which is an area that requires high capacity, high intensity of human work, and costs a lot of human time and resources. In the area of document handling, Brian can help with translation and conversion of documents or reports from different languages into your targeted language using PDF or other formats. Brian can significantly accelerate the process, reduce the cost, and improve the quality of the assessment of claims of individual companies.

As a startup from outside the insurance industry, how can collaborating with organizations or ecosystems like Cookhouse Labs bring value to your journey?

What I find amazing about your Lab is that you are a platform where innovators from the industry meet young and wild companies with crazy ideas. It’s a great place for innovators to meet the market and the market can meet the newest ideas, and I believe that both parties can benefit a lot.

For a startup, it is quite difficult to find the innovators within companies. People working with innovation labs like Cookhouse Labs are people who want to find ideas, further develop, learn and get inspired, and want to get things done. You meet people who are searching for new ideas and that’s why I find it so interesting to work with you!

Final question: What advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to follow in your footsteps?

I find a lot of people have great ideas, but I think 95% of them don’t move forward with their ideas. My recommendation would be this: if you are crazy about an idea, if the idea doesn’t let you sleep, then just do it! Beware that it is extremely hard to progress, but if you are crazy about an idea, then just do it. It is connected with certain risks, especially if you have been in your profession for multiple years or you have a lot to lose financially. However, the learning will be extremely rewarding and will turn into something. So, if you are crazy about an idea, then just start working on it!

That’s valuable advice, Pavol! Thank you for sharing some great insights about AskBrian. We’ll definitely stay connected to you and your journey and definitely celebrate your first million users with a bottle of champagne!

Want to learn more about how you can leverage Brian’s 24 skills in the New Year?

Join our upcoming free webinar “Food for Thought: AI-Powered Brian Rocks Consulting. What About Insurance?” on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. In the webinar, Pavol will share more details about Brian’s relevance to the insurance industry, with a deep dive into claims management.

Click here to secure your spot!

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! 

Google Sprint Masterclass

Explore what you can accomplish using Google Sprint and learn how to ensure you keep solving problems in just five days

Google Sprint is a methodology that uses the understanding of Design Thinking and helps you solve complex problems in five days. The process is strategically designed so that solutions are defined within an equivalent of a working week, and same as with Design Thinking saving money and time.

Join this workshop to learn another design methodology that you can implement in your daily projects.

  • By the end of the one-day Google Sprint Workshop, you will be able to:
  • Understand what Google Sprint is
  • Recognize the differences between Lean Startup, Cookhouse Labs methodology and Google Sprint
  • Learn when you can use this methodology to make the most of it
  • Identify the benefits of a Google Sprint
  • Practice the methodology and receive feedback on the spot

How can I join?

This training is exclusively for members of Cookhouse Labs. Here’s how you can get started with your Cookhouse Labs membership!

Location

Online, virtual

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!

The Most Innovative Gifts of 2020

Most Innovative Gifts 2020

‘Tis the season for gift-giving, and as we approach the deadline for shipping, we thought we’d share some of the best gifts that made our list.

To help you with your holiday shopping, we’ve created a list of 5 innovative gifts to send your loved ones this season. All of these gifts are available online, making them safe and easy to deliver to your friends and family members.

So go ahead — end the year on a festive note with our top gift picks!

1. Must-Have WFH Technology

In March, organizations around the world shifted to virtual workspaces, creating a shortage of basic work-from-home (WFH) technology. It’s not too late to send the busy professionals in your life the newest versions of necessary WFH tech to improve their virtual game, such as a Video Conference Lighting Kit or a Smart Wi-Fi Router for Wi-Fi dead spots around the house. Even further, many of us have struggled with discomfort from poor posture in the home office. Why not send your giftee an innovative Massage Roller to relax those tense muscles this holiday season?

2. Virtual Travelling Experience (VR Tourism)

Gift your favorite traveler their own VR Headset to complement a virtual travelling experience! Whether they choose to take a breathtaking helicopter ride over tourist spots around the world or visit NASA research facilities across the U.S., you can rest assured that you will have given them the gift of travel in the safest way possible this year.

3. A Gift Card from Your Favorite Small Business

Earlier this year, we ran a 6-month project to support heavily impacted community businesses during these challenging times. We invite you to play your part by sending your loved ones a gift card or purchase a gift online from your favorite local business. Some cool ideas from independent businesses include customized self-care kits, handcrafted home décor and clothing, and virtual group classes for activities such as painting, yoga, and cooking.

4. Phone Screen Magnifier

This special gift will double the size of your phone screen while maintaining the HD quality, making it the perfect gift for anyone with a smartphone. Give your loved ones a break from focusing on tiny pixels — they’ll love you for it!

5. Silk Pillowcases

Recent developments in the industry have led to pillowcases with cooling capabilities that prevent bedhead and reduce damage to skin. This holiday season, give your friends and family the gift of luxurious sleep with must-have silk pillowcases!

We hope our list has helped you create your own holiday list. From all of us at Cookhouse Labs, we wish you and your loved ones a wonderful and safe holiday this year — and we can’t wait to see you in the New Year!

Wondering what we have planned for 2021? Our Events Calendar is live and full of innovative projects, Masterclasses, and global events. Check it out here!

WinterHack 2020: A Global Race to #MakeInsuranceBetter [Part 1]

Winterhack 2020 Runner-Up

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with WinterHack 2020 Runner-Up, Team Munich Re. I chatted with Abhishek Gupta, Calvin Choi, Joanna A., Salman Ghaffar, and Tommy Kim about the process of developing their innovative solution and invited them to reflect on their experience and success at the global ideathon.

Team Munich Re, congratulations on your big win! Before we begin, let’s start with a quick intro. What can you tell us about yourselves in 30 seconds?

Abhishek: I’m a Business Development Manager for IoT in the Applied Technology Division at HSB Canada. I focus on commercializing sensor and IoT technology here in Canada, which includes water, temp, and pipe sensors.

Calvin: I’m a Data Analyst within the Client Company Management Team at HSB Canada. My role involves assisting Client Company Managers with data to build compelling stories about why clients should work with us.

Joanna: I’m a Marketing Communications Specialist at HSB Canada with a focus on branding and digital marketing. It’s been a rewarding journey for me as a marketer, being part of a team that encourages intrapreneurship, and a company that’s innovative, technologically driven, forward thinking, and people focused.

Salman: I also work in the Applied Technology Division at HSB Canada as an IoT Operations Specialist. We bring solutions from the U.S. to implement in the Canadian market, and my responsibility is to ensure everything goes smoothly, from bringing in the solution hardware to installing it at client locations.

Tommy: I’m from Munich Re Company of Canada, which is a life, property, and casualty business. My current role is a Senior Actuarial Analyst from the Pricing team, and my day-to-day responsibilities include supporting the Reinsurance business with actuarial services.

Great, thank you for the introductions! We’d love to know, how did you come together and what inspired you to join WinterHack 2020?

Abhishek: I was looking for an amazing and super talented team with lots of brainpower! I came across one of our champions from MRoC, Tommy Kim, who is great to work with. I found more talented people from our organization: Calvin, who is a new member of HSB Canada and was very excited about the ideathon; Salman, who is our IoT Specialist and is incredibly talented; and Joanna, who brought everything together from a marketing perspective.

Calvin: What motivated me was the space for people to come together to innovate in the insurance industry. If you think about it, the industry has always been resistant to innovation and change, so if there’s an opportunity to work with like-minded people on innovative ideas and solutions that can help develop the industry, I’m all for it.

Joanna: Abhishek was putting together a team to represent Munich Re at WinterHack 2020 and he reached out. The theme “Digital Ecosystems” was a huge driver for me to join the team. As a marketer, I’m always thinking of innovative and better ways to do business, so it was a good fit.

Salman: I’ve been a part of QHacks, which is hosted by Queens University, so I understood how hackathons work. Considering WinterHack 2020 was going to be held remotely, I was a little inquisitive as well about how it would go, and that motivated me to participate.

Tommy: What inspired me to join was the passion from my colleagues. It’s always difficult for an individual to get something done, but the synergy that Abhi brought into one team was definitely a great inspiration.

That’s awesome! Let’s dive further into the event: Which of the 4 challenges did you choose to tackle and how did you decide?

Abhishek: We chose the first challenge, which was to reduce isolation and loneliness for elderly people. It was quite a deliberation process — we spent about 60% of our workday just on choosing the challenge! We created a matrix with parameters and every single team member scored the challenges from 1 to 5 based on these parameters. We used a weighted average to select the challenge we were going to work on. We realized later on that everyone on our team is very empathetic, when we all understood pain points for the elderly and how our solution can really help them.

Tommy: I really love the fact that we were able to share our thoughts and visions for each challenge. It’s fantastic that Abhi proposed the matrix we used, because at the end, we were very objective in how we selected a challenge.

Could you describe your experience using Design Thinking to develop your solution?

Abhishek: Design Thinking is a different way of thinking when creating a product, and as a team, we understood how important it was. I’d say Calvin and Salman did an incredible job creating a customer journey map that detailed each point in the journey. Salman shared with us that his mother’s age is similar to our Persona, and his understanding of her experience really helped us.

Calvin: We really focused on being empathetic to what the customer journey would look like. On the other hand, we also focused on practicality and how the company could benefit from a product like ours. We made sure to empathize with both sides when designing this product.

Joanna: Design Thinking is the way to go. You simply can’t develop a solution without empathizing with your customer, and building on that is key. Design Thinking flows in that direction. It’s logical and efficient.

Salman: My mother is a single parent who is a similar age and I’ve seen her struggles and how she feels about technology at this age, and it was really helpful in drafting our journey map. We wanted to address those needs and bring the human touch to our solution, because at the end of the day, technology cannot replace the human touch.   

What do you believe contributed to your success at WinterHack 2020?

Abhishek: The biggest factor behind our success was bringing together amazing people. Joanna brought her marketing perspective to create a credible product offering. Calvin and Salman had a streamlined approach to empathizing with the customer and creating the journey map. Tommy brought his actuarial skills, and he was very focused on the commercialization aspect and feasibility of our idea. It was all about bringing together the synergies of different talented people.

Calvin: We all tried to see things from each other’s point of view. We took the time to listen to and understand everyone’s ideas. I think that also contributed hugely to our success.

Salman: I agree completely — all the credit goes to the team. This is one of the best team experiences I’ve ever had. Everyone brought in their skillsets while remaining open-minded and respectful towards others’ ideas. If there was a difference in opinion, we used thoughtful discussions to sort through the pros and cons of each idea and to decide on the best way forward.

Tommy: What worked well was the synergy based on trust and open-mindedness. I also have to upsell the support we got from Cookhouse Labs: the templates guided us in the right direction on how to develop and present our solution in the end, so thank you!

How would you describe your overall WinterHack 2020 experience?

Abhishek: It’s been fabulous! Previously, we had an opportunity to participate in the SummerHack, which was again a wonderful experience. WinterHack, I would say, was a notch higher for us because when everyone came together, we fit like a glove. Even though we all came from different experiences and backgrounds, everyone was respectful and open-minded. I also have to say that the event was amazingly organized by Cookhouse Labs. You gave us all the design templates and guidance we needed, and I really want to thank the whole team for helping us along the way.

Calvin: It was a lot of fun for me, because we were on the same page and everyone was very encouraging. I would say, though, that at the end it got a little stressful, because we raced to get everything done on time. Cookhouse Labs did a great job making this a very seamless and smooth process, and even when we got to the Final Pitch Event, I had a great time listening to everyone’s pitches. I noticed some pitches applied cultural aspects from the region the team was in, and this international aspect was cool to see.

Salman: Spending two days together almost felt like a family! It was a wonderful experience, and we had a lot of fun. When signing up for WinterHack, I was curious about the entirely virtual experience and how it would be managed. Cookhouse Labs did an amazing job with sharing resources and guiding teams through all the steps, so thank you!

Tommy: Having judges with a lot of professional expertise and knowledge was great. Also, the event format was virtual, which was a nice experience to be part of. Before COVID-19, I would have never thought of being part of a virtual competition because I would have wanted to feel the synergy and energy within the same room and in-person. However, virtual collaboration was not a barrier for our team, which was a wonderful experience.

How do you think your solution and events like this help #MakeInsuranceBetter?

Abhishek: Using methodologies like Design Thinking promotes lateral thinking, and the time crunch fosters and accelerates the kind of thinking needed to create a viable product. At the end of the day, something we create here has the potential to become a real insurance product. We observed the judges’ interest and our organization’s enthusiasm for this idea, which means this idea could very soon become a real product offering.

Calvin: Insurance products, with respect to P&C or personal lines, are generally similar across the industry. How can companies set themselves apart from the rest? Usually, this is through value-adds that they can provide to policyholders. When companies want to compete for customers, they need to think of these creative value-adds to provide to policyholders. The product we came up with is a nice example of a value-add that a home or life insurer can provide, and this can set them apart from other insurers. This is what makes the difference between one company and another.

Joanna: Events like this open the floor for thinking outside the box and innovating, and when you combine innovation with Design Thinking and its focus on empathy, you make insurance better.

Salman: I’m a strong advocate for using technology to push the envelope further. What we see is that the insurance industry is late to adopt technological trends. An event like this helps to change this perception and helps companies in the ecosystem realize the importance of technology in improving their products for the end-user. Even further, it helps adopt these technological solutions and advance the industry as a whole.

Tommy: The perspective towards the insurance industry is that it is very reactive, not proactive. These events encourage the industry to become proactive and offering meaningful services to customers, which is progress.

Team Munich Re, thank you so much for sharing your insights with our readers and congratulations once again on your big win at WinterHack 2020. We wish you the best going forward and hope to see your solution come to life as a real product offering in the near future!

Curious about our next big global Ideathon in 2021? Stay updated on the details by signing up for our newsletter and following us on LinkedIn!

24-Hour Global WinterHack 2021 [Nov 18-19]

Our gift to you in these challenging times: Open and Free for Insurers, Reinsurers, Brokers, Insurance-Related Startups and Vendors, and Students.

Last year, we hosted our first virtual global 24-hour hackathon, SummerHack 2020. After the overwhelmingly positive response, we’re excited to announce we’re back with WinterHack 2021!  

Who can attend? 

  • Academia and insurance organizations from all over the world! Each team must have between 3 to 5 participants to compete in this Hackathon 
  • Insurers and Brokers who are unable to provide a full team can instead become mentors, providing industry expertise to a student team. In this case, our event team will assign an insurance organization to a student team 

How does it work? 

  • Register your team using the registration form below, and we will get back to you with further details 
  • Prior to the Hackathon, you will receive access to prep material and your team’s unique communications channel 
  • During the event, our facilitators will guide you through the Hackathon process and will provide valuable information, templates, and support on how to apply the Design Thinking methodology to drive the best results for your solution 
  • You will receive the challenge at the beginning of the Hackathon 
  • At the end of the Hackathon, each team will present their solution in a joint final presentation to a wider global audience, and the winning team will be selected and announced by our committee of insurers 

When is the Hackathon? 

  • Start: Wednesday, November 18th, at 8 am EST 
  • End: Thursday November 19th, at 9 am EST 
  • Final Presentations: Thursday, November 19th, at 9.30 am EST 

What’s in it for you? 

  • Learn the Design Thinking methodology, as well as how you can apply it 
  • Gain tips and tricks from certified experts featured in our virtual Masterclasses 
  • Show your skills and impress our judges with your team’s extraordinary results 
  • Build Lo-fi prototypes to show the opportunities of IoT insurance 
  • Connect with experienced innovators (local and international) 
  • The achievement of conquering a 24-Hour Hackathon! 

What’s the prize? 

To be announced soon! 

How do I join?  

  • Enter your email address below to join our mailing list — we will send you updates on our upcoming events and how to join the excitement! 

Other questions? 

Please do not hesitate to reach out to Insiya Meherally, our Community Manager, at insiya.meherally@cookhouselabs.com

WinterHack 2021: Final Pitch Event

Our gift to you in these challenging times: Open and Free for Insurers, Reinsurers, Brokers, Insurance-Related Startups and Vendors, and Students.

Last year, we hosted our first virtual global 24-hour hackathon, SummerHack 2020. After the overwhelmingly positive response, we’re excited to announce we’re back with WinterHack 2021!