A Mid-Year Toast to Global Collaboration

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

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

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

Here’s a look at our year so far:

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

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

2. 150+ innovators joined our community this year

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

3 . We ran 6 major co-creation projects

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

4. 155+ ideas were generated in our projects

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

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

5. We hosted 9 innovation trainings

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

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

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

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

A Race Against Time – Innovating to Reduce Global Bankruptcy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Business Value of Design

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

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

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

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

What design actions can leaders make to unlock business value?  

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

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

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

What exactly can design do within my organization?  

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

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

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

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

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

IoT — a Game Changer for the Insurance Industry

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

How can this type of technology be disruptive? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who knows where it will take us next? 

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

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

Community, Collaboration, Co-Creation

A few weeks back we ran a sprint focusing on Innovating to Save Community Businesses During COVID -19. Clearly, the word Community is in the title, as a reminder of what we stand for at Cookhouse Labs: Building a community, connecting with a community, taking care of our community. In essence, Cookhouse Labs takes us back to what insurance is all about – community.  

During our sprint, we interviewed small business owners, and what we heard from them was how stressful, scary, and frustrating this current situation is for them, which is no surprise; we expected similar words. Even though entrepreneurs are used to uncertainty and sometimes thrive and use uncertainty as a motivator, the current level of this uncertainty is even higher and scarier than usual as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, which has resulted in a tremendous impact on their immediate families, their teams, and the families of every employee involved.  

Empathy is our compass during our process and our journey, as it is the key ingredient for our methodology. Listening to our personas, we identified the current level of fear, stress, and worry. It is one thing to KNOW that there is such an impact; is another thing to SEE and FEEL the impact as the team heard the words and saw the expressions on the faces of the owners we interviewed.  

So, what lessons did we takeaway?  

The current situation is creating an environment of: 

  • Confusion – People are not sure what to do next, since no one knows how long the lockdown will be in effect; 
  • Frustration – Everyone is feeling stuck because, again, not knowing when the business will be running again, there nothing or little an owner can do or plan; 
  • Loneliness – Many people are feeling alone and isolated, as if they are only ones feeling stuck or confused; 
  • Fear – Owners worry about what will happen to their businesses. For all of them, this is their passion, and for some of them, their longtime dream 

The biggest takeaway was seeing their reactions as the team interviewed them. For many business owners, it appeared as if it was the first time someone took time to really listen to how they felt and how this is impacting their life. Even more important, it was the first time someone asked them, “What do you need? How can we support you?”  

The sprint team did an amazing job at connecting to their human side and empathizing with each person they interviewed, truly feeling their real emotions.  

As the result, the team defined a solution: Providing a virtual space that can be available for these small business owners quickly, while they need it, at no cost to them. It’s a solution that provides them with the feeling that they are not alone and that someone does have their back. Who? The insurance industry, specifically the insurance members that participated in the sprint.  

So, stay tuned and keep coming back to learn more about this virtual space: What it is, how it will be created and how YOU can be part of it, if you wish. Meanwhile, this sprint is moving on to a Phase II. At Cookhouse Labs, Phase II means, we are moving forward from ideation and testing to bringing the idea to life.  Click here to find out how you can join Phase II!

We would love to say thank you to those business owners that were happy to share their time and stories during the sprint. And we invite you, our community members, to learn more about those businesses whose owners were comfortable with sharing details about their companies. Links are listed below, so pay them a visit!  

Thank you to our business owners – check out their pages and share if you feel inspired to do so! #CommunitySupport 

Jessica Ash 
Pristine Services 
Whatsapp: 289-380-6900

Raquel Furbert 
Blueprint Hair Studio  
FB: Blueprint Hair Studio
Instagram: @bphairstudio 

#MakeInsuranceBetter with InsurTech Startups

How can insurance organizations successfully collaborate with InsurTech Startups to accelerate innovation?

While an increasing number of organizations are investing in these collaborations, the success of these initiatives is fairly low. We know that there are many insights large organizations can gain from InsurTech startups, and our most recent Sprint aimed to create a long-term win-win solution for both groups.

Over the first two days of the project, the team focused on empathizing with both sides. The team interviewed a corporate Mastermind and 3 InsurTech Startups, and each innovator brought their own experience of working with Startups to the project. Through these interviews, the team discovered many pain points for Startups, as shown below.

During the interview analysis, the team realized that all of the Startups frequently spoke about one pain point – the issue of time wastage. As one Founder shared, “It can often take 1 month between the first email request for a meeting and the actual in-person meeting”. Some of the reasons cited for this issue were

1) Not being connected to the right person

2) Delayed responses

3) Bureaucracy, which required booking a meeting room instead of a phone call to communicate

On the third day, the team used the Design Thinking methodology to establish an empathy map, which helped them visualize the thoughts and feelings of these Startups. Equipped with this deeper understanding, they defined a persona – Betty, a recent graduate and InsurTech Startup Founder. The team mapped out Betty’s journey, where she attempted to connect and collaborate with large insurance organizations. Next, they created a “How Might We” statement: “How might we identify the right decision makers to speed up the process of collaboration, improving Betty’s experience?”

Within 5 minutes, the innovators produced 26 ideas for solutions to this challenge. Together, they decided on the winning solution – a dedicated committee of decision makers. This solution was further developed on the fourth day and presented to the community via an interactive presentation. The team invited the audience to share their insights through a poll after the presentation, which opened the floor for a discussion around the future of collaboration between InsurTech Startups and large insurance organizations.

A big thank-you to the participants, Masterminds, and community members for sharing their time with us during this exciting project!

As we continue our Virtual Events calendar into June, we would like to invite you to check out our upcoming trainings and events. These events are free for members of the re/insurance community, as part of our gift during these challenging times.

We look forward to seeing the community at our upcoming events as we continue to collaborate to #MakeInsuranceBetter!