Member Stories: Meet Abhi from HSB Canada

Member Stories Abhi Gupta

At Cookhouse Labs, we’ve worked closely with many members to successfully innovate within their organizations. In the next part of our Member Stories series, meet Abhi Gupta, Business Development Manager for Applied Technology at HSB Canada. Read about Abhi’s innovation journey below!

Abhi, thank you for joining us today! Before we dive into your experience with the Lab, let’s start with a quick introduction of yourself and HSB Canada.

I am a Business Development Manager for Applied Technology, which is a new part of HSB Canada. It’s part of the Leap initiative, which accelerates innovation for HSB Canada. As part of this initiative, we promote different kinds of technologies, especially for the insurance space, in the space of sensor-based devices. These are devices that help in communicating and minimizing losses for insurers, and so working with our clients and insurance companies is part of my responsibilities.

Thank you for sharing that! We were happy to see you quite a bit this year — you’re one of our active and engaged innovators. We’d love to know what inspired you to become an active participant!

HSB Canada has always fostered innovation and there is no better place to start than Applied Technology, because it’s all about innovation. We were looking for opportunities where we could collaborate with people who could help us and our teams think differently, and I found that perfect fit with Cookhouse Labs. You foster innovation like no other and you work in the insurance space, so in terms of synergies, that is the perfect fit. We want to collaborate and gain certain synergies and competencies, even in the way we do our business. That is the perfect driver for us!

Reflecting on your experience, what made you happiest when collaborating with us?

I would have to be biased and say that I loved the team! There are certain places that talk about innovation but are not really centric to innovation, but the Lab is one place that really fosters innovation in every sense of the word. I have been fortunate enough to be associated with Sven (Co-Founder of the Lab) and from personal testimonial, I can say that there have been times where I have reached Sven after-hours and he has been just as active. I talk about the entire team — you’re still happy to connect after-hours. I’m not trying to promote working after-hours; all I’m saying is that it’s just the spirit and the infectious enthusiasm that really talks to you about a certain place, location, or people, and we found all of that at Cookhouse Labs.

Thinking about your experience from a different point of view, what has surprised you most during this collaboration?

When you are looking to do business in a new way, you want to be pleasantly surprised. The biggest surprise was how exponentially beneficial these takeaways could be. I have attended workshops in the past in different organizations, but what I found extremely useful to us was the true spirit of working with teams. It’s because of all the amazing events that you do, where you put us in a time crunch so that we have to work very collaboratively as a team. The Lab is so great at putting everything together to create those kinds of workshops and tools, and it really helps someone who wants to learn about these new technologies, methodologies, and tools achieve this holistically. I talk particularly about Design Thinking, and I think using all these tools and bringing all these people together from different facets and industries to work and collaborate together, that creates magic really.

What is your favorite memory from your time with us?

I have to say, jogging down memory lane, that we stood second place at WinterHack 2020 — what could be a better memory than that, right? Competing with 11 other great organizations from all over the world and coming second — to this day I cherish this, and I’m not saying this because it was a victory, but because it was incredible how the team came together despite having disagreements and time crunches. Everything came together and was a beautiful symphony. How can you describe that? I think it speaks volumes when you’re doing something so beautifully in a team environment, and that’s what truly brings out the spirit of our organization: an organization like Cookhouse Labs.

On that note, what have you been able to achieve since attending these trainings and events?

I keep referencing the Design Thinking workshop, but I think it has had a huge impact compared to other workshops. Cookhouse Labs offers a better way to work towards creating more innovative insurance products and services, and so holistically I would say that it is fostering a different way of thinking about insurance, which is invaluable. The tools I have taken away from these workshops have helped me think innovatively, which is the first achievement.

The second is that these workshops have taught me how to create teams and work amazingly well and collaborate with teams. I do thank Cookhouse Labs for that skill, because I have always led teams, but I have never learned the skill and art of leading them so well, so thank you for that.

You have already recommended the Design Thinking training, but besides that, what trainings would you recommend to others?

There is a plethora of trainings that Cookhouse Labs does, and Design Thinking is just one of those. There are different kinds of sprints, where Cookhouse Labs helps companies collaborate and create better teams. The Lab will help you think about how to design a product or service, empathize with the customer, and understand the customers’ needs. I am extremely interested in attending one in the future myself.

In terms of the hackathons that the Lab hosts, those are great opportunities for people to come together to create something innovative. It gives you a different toolbox and mindset; I would never underestimate it because that is so invaluable. I also had the great opportunity to speak at the Back to Business Summit, and that was phenomenal because it gave us the opportunity to think from a customer’s perspective. Insurers are generally one arm’s length away from the customer, and in order to bridge that gap, there have to be different ways to engage with the customer. I think Cookhouse Labs really brings together the insurers and the customer, so hats off to you!

Final question: Is there anything you would like to add?

I just want to express my gratitude to Sven, Ibeth, yourself, and to the whole team. I really love to work with you, and I talk about HSB Canada as an organization. I have come across so many people, and they all have one thing to say: these workshops have added value. That automatically says to me that we feel really good about having an insurance partner of sorts that we can use as a springboard to reach higher levels of success in the future. That’s all thanks to all of you, so keep on doing the great work!

Abhi, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. We enjoyed collaborating with you and HSB 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!

Member Stories: Meet David from Argus

Member Stories David Simons

At Cookhouse Labs, we’ve worked closely with many members to successfully innovate within their organizations. In the next part of our Member Stories series, meet David Simons, Managing Director at Argus Group’s Center of Excellence. Read about David’s innovation journey below!

David, thank you for joining us today! Before we dive into your experience with the Lab, let’s start with a quick introduction of yourself and Argus.

 I am the Managing Director of Argus Group’s Center of Excellence, and Argus is a multiline financial services company. We have operations in Bermuda, Canada, Malta, and Gibraltar, and service customers in Bermuda, Malta, and Gibraltar. We have quite a broad range of services, such as P&C insurance, health insurance, life, pension, other financial products, annuities and so on, as well as other services, both B2B and B2C.

Our roots are in Bermuda; we’re a 70-year-old organization, and for the most part, we’ve operated in a very traditional way as a financial services company. We’re now at a point in our journey where we realize that the industry is moving beyond simply indemnifying its customers from risk, and are becoming more of a service company, truly addressing the needs of our customers. As we shift our operations (in the way we structure ourselves and the way we meet our clients), we’re really orienting around servicing a consumer’s needs. With that comes the need to innovate and invest in technology, people, and processes.

Where the Center of Excellence fits into that is that we’re a newly formed department within the company. Our remit is to be the voice of and to drive innovation at Argus, so we work with the departments to figure out ways to enhance innovation. Not simply focused on technology, but more broadly: how can we serve our customer’s needs in a better, more efficient, and more effective way?

That fits well into the next question: What inspired you to become an active participant at Cookhouse Labs?

Great question! As I mentioned, the Center of Excellence is a newly formed group within Argus that was set up in June of 2020. We recognized the need to change our product-focused approach, where we created a product and then found customers who wanted to buy that product.

Enter this whole concept of Design Thinking! We knew we needed to inject Design Thinking into the way we do business at Argus. After attending a couple of Cookhouse’s free Design Thinking trainings, we said, “This is an organization that really gets it”. Cookhouse promotes Design Thinking as an approach to product development, innovation, and generally meeting customers’ needs, but also promotes collaboration. There are some big, hefty challenges in our industry, and we don’t have to go at it alone. A Cookhouse Labs membership made a lot of sense because we wanted to partner with like-minded people to tackle some of these big challenges in a more collaborative way, and that’s what really inspired us to join.

Reflecting on the past year, what made you happiest during this collaboration with us?

It’s the people we’ve been engaging with at Cookhouse and through Cookhouse! For example, meeting other people that have joined various sessions, getting to hear their stories and their backgrounds. Specifically, Sven and Ibeth have been fantastic supports for us and what we’re trying to accomplish. They provided us with good guidance on how to think about some of the challenges that we’re trying to tackle. They gave us honest feedback, pointing out where we’re really going to struggle, and where/how we can make our lives easier. I would say that has been most rewarding of this experience.

In line with that, what about this experience has surprised you the most?

That’s a tough question. This experience has put a mirror in front of me to a degree, in the sense of representing Argus. It has really made me reflect on where we are today. As I spent more time in Design Thinking workshops and worked with Cookhouse, what surprised me was how logical these steps and techniques are, how much sense they make, and how doing things in any other way just doesn’t make sense. It made me think about our traditional product silos and product-lead approach to servicing our markets and about how almost inappropriate this approach is today. It was the recognition that we have to make some fundamental changes in order to maintain our relevance on an ongoing basis.

As you mentioned earlier, you’ve attended a few trainings and worked with us on projects during the past year. What has been your absolute favorite memory from this journey?

I’ve attended a couple of virtual workshops in 2020 and Argus has an ongoing student project that I keep hearing good things about. My favorite memory has been spending a lot of time with Sven and Ibeth in small group meetings. Together, we formulated an approach to building consensus amongst our leadership as Argus continues to develop our business strategy and create a modern strategy. Getting their insights has been very valuable and has led to some really rewarding conversations, especially when going back to share those insights with the leadership team and our CEO, who is very excited about this partnership with Cookhouse. Seeing this enthusiasm build up has created some positive experiences and good memories from our journey.

That’s great to hear! Reflecting further on your journey, what have you been able to achieve since you attended our trainings and participated in some of our projects?

Achieving a certain level of buy-in from our leadership has been a big achievement. It’s a very busy landscape of projects, initiatives, and efforts. Getting the buy-in that we need to create space to adopt some of the techniques that are espoused by Cookhouse — Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and so on — has been a good accomplishment. We’re at the early stages of our journey and while that buy-in might not sound tangible, it is foundational. To have achieved that in the midst of a very busy landscape, on top of which we’ve been dealing with the whole COVID challenge, has been a big accomplishment!

Congratulations, because often the most challenging part of a project is getting started! Based on your experience, would you recommend other innovators check out the Lab, and if yes, what trainings or events would you specifically recommend?

I definitely would! I’m sure there are still a lot of people who are looking at their business in a very traditional way. Everybody knows that we need to innovate now, but left to their own, many will innovate in a very incremental way. I think we need to make radical changes to our business and our industry. A partner like Cookhouse, and all the other partners that come along with Cookhouse, makes a lot of sense. You need like-minded people who are ready to tackle the challenges that are going to drive a radical transformation of this industry for it to remain relevant. Otherwise, there are other threats that are coming from outside of the industry that are going to figure out how to do it and they are going to take the market away from us, if we don’t do it ourselves. I don’t think society would benefit if suddenly, an external force came in and totally disrupted the insurance industry. Bringing our industry’s history and knowledge forward and delivering that with new and modern customer experiences — I think society would benefit from that more than just simply being disrupted by an attack.

Some may have heard of Design Thinking as a concept, but for me, attending a workshop was powerful. You don’t know what you’re experiencing or learning until you go through it. These tools and techniques are so simple, but you only see that on the backend after having gone through it. I would definitely recommend attending a Design Thinking workshop as a good intro to get into the space where you collaborate.

I remember a 2-day Design Thinking workshop, where the second day was more of a hands-on experience of building something with peers whom I met just the day before. That was really powerful: seeing how much we could do in such a short period of time and validating it by talking to real people and getting real customer insights. It was powerful learning, and I thought, “I should do that in everything I do”. Whether it’s an internally focused process or one that impacts our external customers, taking a customer-centric approach should be the only way to tackle those types of challenges.

Final question: Is there anything else you would like to add?

It’s nice to know that there are organizations that are not solely focused on their bottom line, but also recognize that there are some deep systemic challenges, and they need a different approach to tackling those. I really commend Cookhouse for their mission, and I think Argus is happy to be onboard and is looking forward to many more innovations as we move forward!

David, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. We enjoyed collaborating with you and Argus Group 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!

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!

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!