Loyalty & Rewards Project (Series Finale): Delivering Business Value

“Coming up with an idea is the easy part. Bringing that idea to life is the difficult part”  

This advice was given to me very early on in my career but still rings true every time I embark on a new innovation project.  As innovation professionals can attest to, it is the vetted business value of an innovation that is one of the most difficult elements to overcome when applying for budget or devising a go-to-market strategy. 

As the team worked towards the end of the project, the focus was on business casing, and the due diligence supporting the features of the newly created digital experience.  All of which were in an attempt to deliver business value planned from the beginning of the project. Some examples of these can be seen below. 


A key component of the delivery is the go-to-market business model. Given the diverse insurance and reinsurance Cookhouse Lab members and the geographies they represent, multiple models were considered to support the post-project launch of the application. Additional details were provided in an innovation report to the project member insurance companies. 

Considered Loyalty & Rewards Business Models 

Working with actuary project members, the team also produced several financial models that defined the on-going budget available to engage and retain a high lapse probability customer. Several versions were produced along with sensitivity along various lapse rates. The models were also delivered in the innovation report as a due diligence data source and analysis. 

Sensitivity testing the model based on lapse rates 


Finally, customer engagement is key to the unique value proposition of the MVP. Hence additional rounds of end customer interviews were performed to identify the challenges that would be most interesting. All customer feedback, surveys and interviews were collected and shared in the customer insight section of the innovation report. 

Insurance Challenge testing with end customers 

Bacon Reward Challenge within the Application

From this customer feedback and testing, the team defined several high interest challenges that would target motivations of several types of customers. As we know, adoption and engagement are key to any digital experience which the team delivered in a gamified challenge feature. This is one of many features that were included based on customer insights.

MVP Challenge example 

It was an intense project timeline of ideating, designing, iterating and developing the business elements of the MVP.  Captured in details in the innovation report, the deliverable was refined iteratively with customer feedback throughout the entire experience. Although it was a short 90-day journey, it was a fruitful one, as the team was successful in delivering the MVP and report to stakeholders on the final day! 

The Loyalty & Rewards Team 

It is truly incredible to see the collaboration efforts and speed that our first project team delivered! The entire Cookhouse Lab team is thrilled to embark our next set of projects! One MVP down and many more on the way! 

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Loyalty & Rewards Project (Week 8): Creating a Digital Experience to Humanize Insurance

“The needs of insurers are not aligned to the needs of customers”

Often times, driven by profitability and shareholder return, corporations continue to find it a challenge to align their financial goals with customer needs. This opportunity, although identified early on in the project, continues to be a key theme for the project. The common situation that seemed to arise when comparing customer feedback to insurer feedback, was that insurers tend towards communicating by their products while customers tend to only understand insurance within their own context. 

In Week 8, the team created a concept that maps what matters to customers to an insurer’s existing products. A number of “care items” were identified during this exercise and we worked ensuring these components were integrated into our solution. 

Screenshot of the current insurance loyalty and rewards prototype, representing some examples of “care items”. 

The mobile app, codenamed “BACON”, centers a digital experience around care items to represent what customers are really protecting when they invest in insurance. However, with any mobile app, stakeholder motivation is key to success. The team sought answers to some very important questions through feedback, research, and observing market trends. 

What’s in it for customers? (Based on feedback and research)

  • A way to have all their insurance coverage in one place
  • A new way to share “positive and negative stories” with their insurers to earn rewards
  • A new place for them to leverage their wearables and IoT data

What’s in it for insurers? (Based on feedback and expert trends)

  • A new way to better understand their customers via personalization and technology (eg. IoT)
  • A new way to engage their customers by rewarding
  • A new way to incent and motivate risk mitigating behaviour (supported by research conducted)

After the needs of the stakeholders (insurers) were identified, the team focused on the commonalities between them.  Addressing these common overlapping desires is the secret sauce towards an optimal digital experience.  Follow up interviews were conducted to dig deeper in order to identify the following common opportunities. 

Common insurer opportunities:

  • Direct communication possibilities via notifications 
  • Engagement and retention via challenges 
  • Connecting Internet of Things devices to the app 
  • Behaviour changes possibilities 
  • Point conversion model 
  • Data scraping and obtaining personal info 

Although we are in the delivery phase of the project, the team remains true to the iterative feedback methodology as we continue to collect feedback on a weekly basis.

Next week, the team will continue on delivering the final MVP with a focus on some customer behavior based challenges and the development of a points to rewards financial model.

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Loyalty & Rewards Project (Week 7): Reflection

We have now passed the halfway mark of our project journey. The team has made fantastic progress so far, iterating through the design thinking journey. Combining design thinking and lean startup methodologies, the team has completed version one of the insurance loyalty and rewards MVP based on end-user feedback.

As we continue through our unique Cookhouse Lab experience that combines co-creation, open innovation, and insurance expertise, the team now moves on to another customer segment: The potential investors. 

As part of this reflection exercise, the team spent the week preparing and connecting with stakeholders at each of our (re)insurance member companies,  IRB Brasil, Munich Re, Hannover Re (Ireland) DAC Canadian Life Branch and Forester Financial to identify their needs. 

Although everyone was interested in retention, it was very interesting to experience the feedback each of the companies provided as each had their own perspective. While one focused their interest around the IoT and wearable integration technology of the project, another focused on our gamification experience. 

The team found it valuable that this reflection exercise was done at the half waypoint. It not only kept us aligned with the needs of potential customers, but also reinforced our focus on overlapping the value between end-users and the companies.

To support the retention of customers, our loyalty and rewards MVP will:

  • Provide a new channel of end-customer engagement through positive behaviour challenges
  • Earn end customers valuable points that they can use to redeem for extended insurance
  • Offer a personalized experience for end customers as the MVP will allow them to store and update (through IoT & wearables) all of their insurance information

In Week 8, the team will deep dive into each of the values stated above and prepare for our second pitch breakfast to internal stakeholders of each member company. 

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Loyalty & Rewards Project (Week 6): Friendly Competition

Innovation can be sparked through a variety of different ways. Sometimes, the spark comes from sheer necessity but other times, it can be born through an “Aha!” moment from a high-pressure environment.

Personally, I am a fan of innovation through the approach of “friendly competition.” Without some form of pressure (whether it be friendly or not), it is hard to innovate effectively.

In week 6, Cookhouse Lab focused on creating a “friendly competition” environment by running a four-hour micro-hackathon. We began with a team kick-off to determine the scope of our competition.

We decided to focus on the project’s unique value propositions (UVPs) which included data, proactive insurance check-ups and behaviour motivating challenges. Each of these UVPs enable our Loyalty & Rewards solution to provide a new level of personalization and care for insurance customers, addressing the problem statement we defined in week 2.

We then structured our friendly competition by utilizing these hackathon best practices:

  • A short timeframe to create a pressured environment
  • A diverse team-based competition
  • A dedicated team space for the duration of the competition
  • A single competition goal that is broad enough to creatively tackle but narrow enough to be solved within the designated amount of time
  • Clear judging criteria
  • Periodic mini-challenges to keep a level of high energy throughout the challenge
  • A novel prize to incentivize the participants

The focus of the micro-hackathon was to create a new product out of only one of the UVPs. We split the project teams at random into two groups. Since our project deals with insurance customer lapse rates, each team would benefit from an actuarial perspective and insight. Therefore, both teams were led by our own member actuaries. 

To provide impartial evaluation, we invited a judge from Hannover Re (Ireland) DAC Canadian Life Branch. This individual scored the presentations as each team pitched their product.

In the end, Team Red won with their focus on customer behaviour. Addressing each of the judging criteria areas, Team Red had a more customer-centric solution resulting in a longer value lifespan. They also provided a flexible and nimble solution with a realistic ROI that fit within the judge’s investable band.

This week, it was great to see our project scope narrowed as we move towards a flushed-out MVP within our target date. We are approaching Week 12 with much evidence that our insurance Loyalty & Rewards product is becoming more focused and addressing some of the questions that were surfaced during our Week 5 Pitch.

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Loyalty and Rewards Project (Week 5): The Pitch

Loyalty and Rewards Project (Week 5)

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of presenting my first venture capital (VC) pitch for a startup that I was working on called PetBot. Prior to the pitch, I was under the impression that I knew everything in putting together a successful pitch that would blow everyone away. Boy, was I wrong. Nearly every slide I spoke to was faced with brilliant and constructive critiques.

Fast forward to this week. The Loyalty & Rewards team was hard at work preparing for our initial pitch centered primarily on the end-user feedback and research we’ve collected from the first 30 days. We welcomed our member companies and collaborators for our first monthly breakfast pitch event. The objective of these events is to get initial buy-in from the target ‘investor’ group who would potentially fund the development of the proposed product towards market launch after project completion in the lab.

Attendees included: Munich Re, Hannover Re (Ireland) DAC Canadian Life Branch, Foresters Financial, KPMG (Canada), Highline Beta, and IRB Brasil RE (who attended via live video stream).

In preparing for this pitch, we leveraged many best practices from both academia and real-life experiences. Using the Business Model Canvas, a tool widely used to describe, design, challenge, and pivot our business model, we narrowed down several categories of content that the team focused on.

The first of these was the creation of a unique value proposition for our Loyalty & Rewards invention followed by the initial product tagline: “Improve Quality. Earn Rewards.”  With my guidance, the team utilized a four-quadrant competitive analysis to carve out a niche that was unique and defensible.

Secondly, we refined the problem statement. During the completion of these exercises, it was encouraged that the team create a customer persona linked to the problem.

From our research, we observed that:

  • Only 8% of millennials surveyed had interest in our innovation
  • Whereas 70% of parents surveyed had interest in our innovation
  • Parents aged between 24-45 had the most number of insurance products
  • 1 on 1 interviews concluded that mothers of young children showed the most interest

Based on these observations, we created our target person: Katie, a 35-year-old mother of two small children who does not have a lot of time. As such, she would appreciate the ease of use and is incentivized by free insurance (not discounts). 

Finally, we focused on the opportunity and the solution. We walked through how the persona would interact with the solution via high fidelity demo screens that highlighted both the marketing approach, the business opportunity and model.  Specifically, the team pitched how Katie used the platform to save time, earn free insurance and be engaged with her insurance.

It was a very productive and interactive morning! Our collaborators and fellow members asked some great questions and offered their initial thoughts to the project team for consideration as we approach our next phase. The group was curious about our upcoming plans on how we will be collecting insurance policy information and potential integration. You’ll have to continue to follow along to find out!

Personally, the most interesting aspect of this process was the level of trust and personal connection that the participants had with the insights that were gathered from their peers on the project team, this provided a level of reassurance that our Loyalty & Rewards project was headed in the right direction.

Up next week, the project will move its focus from end-user feedback to member company feedback, specifically how investable ventures and programs are determined.

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Loyalty & Reward Project (Week 4): Structured Corporate Co-Innovation

As a child, I was fortunate to have access to one of the most popular creative tools of my generation, LEGO.  Many of my peers took the typical path of buying the box set and assembling the intended toy, but I tended to follow the more rebellious path by trading pieces with my friends so that we could each create our own custom masterpieces.

In the end though, it didn’t matter how our creations stacked up against the preset box set toys, but rather that we were all happy with our own personalized toy.  Today, this LEGO analogy embodies the same experience of a crowd-based platform, where customers can propose, create, and support new creations.

This week our project members followed a similar methodology as we started our alpha prototyping exercise. Alpha prototyping (a step prior to Beta) is an internal MVP build that has only partial user testing completed and key features that are still missing. We began the week with low fidelity prototypes that represented high-level ideas. 

A key part of successful innovation is a business model that supports the sustainability of the proposed innovation. It is extremely valuable to have input and participation from a variety of roles and levels of a member organization. That input married with the customer insights we had gathered from previous weeks provides both tactical and strategic guidance in order to potentially bring the innovation to market and to monetize the venture once there is market maturity.

With the goal of producing an investable minimum viable product at the end of 12 weeks, it was great to have a rotation of members join the team at various stages of the project. 

Members from Hannover Re (Ireland) DAC Canadian Life Branch and Foresters Financial participating in our project.

With a couple weeks under our belt, it was exciting to see the initial hesitation to create disappear as members took to the whiteboards, LEGO sets and digital tools to create.  Iteration was definitely a key theme as we built, collected feedback and murder-boarded ideas in moving towards our final goal.  

Members Whiteboarding

One exercise I found particularly useful was prototyping along a customer journey map.  We identified our target persona and had mapped out an ideal experience for them, but this was even more impactful to have supporting prototypes every step of the way.  We employed traditional prototyping exercises such as Crazy 8’s and Product Box prior to digitally creating these in our toolset. 

Prototyping along a customer journey

In the end, it was inspirational to see the acceleration in creation in this project.  From strategic input validating our business model to innovation artists creating beautiful new innovations, it was definitely a week of awe.  We continue to work and iterate by applying our structured approach of Empathizing, Defining, Designing, Creating, and Testing as we march (no pun intended) towards the final stages of our project output.

I’ve observed over the last 4 weeks that given the ideal collaborative environment, players and tools, ideas can be turned into real customer focused masterpieces.

Masterful Art Created at the Cookhouse Lab

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Loyalty and Rewards Project (Week 3): Minimum Viable Product Supporting Partnerships

At the core of Cookhouse Lab’s values is the belief that co-creation through collaboration brings forth greater value than the sum of its respective parts.  I have previously discussed about our diverse member pool as well as ongoing interactions with customers, both, directly impacting our day-to-day lab work. In addition to these, we have formed several partnerships to provide support to our members and projects. The first question we often get asked is how we handle Intellectual Property (IP). Given the competitive nature of the insurance business, IP is a critical topic of interest. To address IP and other legal inquiries, our lab partners, Dan Pollack Law and  Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP (Blakes) provides legal and advisory expertise to our members and the innovation projects being facilitated in Cookhouse Lab. With this partnership in place, we have the appropriate legal knowledge and tools in place to continue with our project milestones, every step along the way. 

In January, we announced our partnership with Highline BETA. As an early-stage investment firm, we recognized that Highline BETA brings new venture (startup) acceleration expertise and connections that we can leverage. Three weeks into our journey, and they have introduced us to several relevant InsurTechs, ideated with our project teams and planned thought leadership sessions.  This has not only contributed to the velocity of our project progress, but also provided us paths around roadblocks. 

“Cookhouse Lab is an extremely unique and collaborative space for Open InsurTech Innovation.  Developing solutions to problems is always a challenging task, yet that challenge is easier met through smart collaboration. Cookhouse Lab is a true catalyst for bringing it all together and we are excited about what’s to come.”  Ron Kunitzky, Chief Partnership OfficerHighline Beta 

On our launch day, we hosted six InsurTech startups as they pitched their businesses to our panel of experts.  Each of the startups were compelling in their own way but in the end, the judges decided on Drop as our inaugural winner.  Since then, we have invited Derrick Fung, CEO of Drop to share his experience with us that propels our Loyalty and Rewards project to the next level. 

As mentioned in Week 1, our approach to loyalty and rewards has been one that is rooted in a high level of customer care. One aspect of attaining this high level is a better understanding of our customers by gathering information in the simplest way possible. Collaborating with Drop gives us one of many avenues to pursue this, and this introduction from Highline BETA shows great potential.

Derrick Fug, CEO, Drop

All in all, we leveraged our partnerships this week towards finalizing the Month 1 release of our MVP.  Whether it was UX/UI, features, or trends, our partners have played an integral part in our progress to date. Aligned with our problem statement, we now have an initial solution that will move towards rapid prototyping and validation next week. I continue to be amazed at the progress we have made and our partners are an essential part of making this happen. 

Interested in becoming a partner, please don’t hesitate to contact us

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Loyalty and Rewards Project (Week 2): Balancing Customer Empathy and Business Value

Last week marked the end of a local restaurant festival where patrons from all over the city were able to try out a myriad of new restaurant menus. It was an ideal experience for connoisseurs from all walks of life to celebrate fantastic food, but to also give feedback to chefs.

Cookhouse Lab provides a similar experience by creating an ongoing experience that incorporates customer feedback into everything we do.

In week 1, we focused our attention on defining what innovation meant for everyone and introduced our Design Thinking methodology. I shared in last week’s progress that a diverse team can drive innovation acceleration. 

We established that each week, we will invite several customer personas to the lab, to share their pain points with us in their context. Being able to interact with customers is an extremely valuable experience, as many of our members may not have this direct opportunity in their existing roles.

During week 2, we were able to uncover several insights that led to our initial problem statement.

“Insurers don’t know how to show existing customers that they care about them.”

As the foundation for our innovative “care-based” digital experience, we went through several ideation exercises to produce low fidelity prototypes that we plan to iterate throughout the coming weeks. Working alongside our in-house designer, we further refined some of the most compelling concepts into reusable resources as we trek towards the creation of our Minimum Viable Product (MVP). 

We capped off the week with an exercise using the lean startup canvas to balance creativity and innovation with business value. Surrounded by customer insight, the team debated, discussed and collaborated on completing the canvas by utilizing several Design Thinking tools and exercises. 

“Great innovation concept, I’m excited to vision and create with such a spectacular group of people.” – Tim, Cookhouse Lab Member

A substantial amount was accomplished this week! Personally, it was refreshing to experience an environment where traditional competitors can work together to improve the industry as a whole. It truly emphasizes the need for organizations to physically be “off-site”, interact with peers outside of their own surroundings and have the right support and infrastructure in place to innovate effectively. 

Up next week…MVP partnerships! 

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Loyalty & Rewards Project Progress (Week 1): Innovation Acceleration Through Diverse Collaboration

Cookhouse Lab kicked off our first Innovation Project a couple of weeks ago and it has been an amazing start! Our gourmet ingredients have been sourced from diverse countries such as Brazil, Germany, Australia and Canada, and we are well on our way towards creating a fantastic meal.  

Our first week started with defining what innovation means for project members versus what innovation means for the organization they represent. It was fascinating to see a range of perspectives, from executives who view organizational change as innovation, to technologists who view innovation as blockchain use cases. In my opinion, this was such an integral yet simple exercise, and one that all future project teams will partake in.  

After our first day, members no longer viewed themselves as part of separate organizations but rather collaborators of a new Cookhouse Lab team!

The week continued with the Design Thinking methodology as we worked towards our weekly deliverable.  With a mixture of experience and global insight, it was captivating to see how quickly and thoroughly we were able to move through each phase and iterate along the way.   

The objective of an insurance loyalty and rewards program is to create a trusted relationship between the insured and the carrier. And that’s why we decided to add a special ingredient to include Weekly Customer Touchpoint Days, which will give the team crucial consumer feedback every step along their journey towards the final Minimal Viable Product (MVP). 

Based on several Design Thinking tools and customer feedback, we created a brand-new “customer care” based digital experience for insurance companies to deliver loyalty and reward program, which is an opportunity that has been identified with insurance companies globally. 

What did I learn this first week? Diversity and co-creation dramatically increases the speed of innovation. 

“In Cookhouse Lab, we accomplished in one week what would have taken several weeks in my company!” – Felipe, Cookhouse Lab Member 

Our journey does not end here! Read the Week 2 recap of our Loyalty & Rewards project, focusing on balancing customer empathy and business value