Filed Under:Carrier Innovations, Technology Solutions

A design-thinking approach to innovation for creative insurers

Six steps

'Design thinking' is a fun way to generate constraint-free ideas and shape them into tangible business solutions. (Photo: iStock)
'Design thinking' is a fun way to generate constraint-free ideas and shape them into tangible business solutions. (Photo: iStock)

Our business environments are changing rapidly, at a faster pace than most of us can keep up with.

Related: 4 innovation gateways for the insurance industry

In insurance, we’ve got nimble competitors entering our space, challenging the status quo, and disrupting our existing supply chains and networks.

Our customers are more sophisticated, demanding that we engage with them on their terms.

New technologies are coming at us faster than we can evaluate and consume.

The new reality within the insurance industry: Innovate, evolve, adapt, or wither.

We’re all tasked with the same objective: Be more innovative, be more creative, find the next breakthrough idea, do things faster and cheaper

But how do we get there?

Why pair design thinking with insurance innovation?


Innovation is about creating something that adds value to the customer, whether internal or external. Innovation helps us find new ways of doing things. Innovation is not simply a new product, service, or technology. Real innovation engages people, and when you engage your employees, you create a positive environment for generating breakthrough ideas.

Innovation is about creating something that adds value to the customer. (Photo: iStock)

Innovation is about creating something that adds value to the customer. (Photo: iStock)

Getting people into an innovative mindset doesn’t happen by taking a course or seminar, although those can be helpful. It happens by solving for real human-centric problems.

A great way to engage employees in innovative problem solving is to use design thinking. While this method has gotten a lot of buzz recently, the techniques have been used for quite some time in creative endeavors, such as user experience design, product development, and even lean continuous improvement.

Related: Innovation can overcome growth obstacles for insurers

Consider these words from Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, a leading design firm: “Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibilities and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

Basically, it’s a fun way to generate constraint-free ideas and shape them into tangible solutions.

In our design practice at XL Catlin, I advocate a six-step approach that’s based off of Stanford University’s D School framework. (The D School offers lots of really good, free resources to kick off your own internal design thinking sessions).

Here's what applying design thinking to insurance innovation can look like:

Design thinking pairs a designer’s sensibilities and methods with available technologically to conceive viable business strategies. (iStock)

Design thinking pairs a designer’s sensibilities and methods with available technologically to conceive viable business strategies. (iStock)

Step 1: Educating your (design) team


What is design thinking and why are we here? There are a number of ways to organize your team. There may be a specific challenge you want to solve, or it could be more unstructured idea generation. Cross-functional teams are the most effective.

As you get started with a design thinking session, spend time discussing the process, setting expectations, and providing the right space for the teams.

Related: Insurance 2017: Priorities for innovation, automation and transformation

Step 2: Putting yourself in the customers’ shoes


In thinking about and defining our customers as people with individual needs, we uncover opportunities to provide a better experience for them. Through qualitative and quantitative research, we shape those needs into personas, a hypothetical person that represents a set of specific customer behaviors.

As you get started with a design thinking session, spend time discussing the process and setting expectations. (Photo: iStock)

As you get started with a design thinking session, spend time discussing the process and setting expectations. (Photo: iStock)

Step 3: Mapping the customer journey


We trace that customer through their experience journey, identifying all of the context and events surrounding our area of influence. Through this process, we identify new product or service capabilities that add value to the customer.

Related: 10 lessons in customer journey mapping for the insurance industry

Step 4: Defining the solution space


With a list of innovation ideas to start with on our idea backlog, we narrow down our focus to those ideas that support our business objectives.

Innovation in insurance is not simply a new product, service or technology. Real innovation engages people. (Photo: iStock)

Innovation in insurance is not simply a new product, service or technology. Real innovation engages people. (Photo: iStock)

Step 5: Visualizing and prototyping the solution


Seeing is believing. The team visualizes their idea in the form of a wireframe or mockup of what the solution could look like. If it’s a technical challenge, the team could even code a quick solution.

Step 6: Presenting your concept


Most teams will need to sell their concept internally. Use storytelling techniques to guide your audience through the user experience and your solution design options.

You can leverage design thinking even within an active project. One internal development team in our organization was struggling to prioritize features for their new product offering. We sat down and crafted a series of personas (which gave us some great insights in who we should develop for today and in the future).

We took the personas and created journeys for them, thinking about what was happening before and after they interacted with our product. By doing this, we came up for a number of new solution ideas (and challenges!) that went on our idea backlog that could be evaluated and prioritized by our steering committee.

We created visual artifacts for the persona and their journey. These documents helped the team communicate the intent of the design and illustrated how our personas would interact with the product. Application mockup screens and working prototypes facilitated the feedback process before development began, saving us time and money.

If you’re looking to infuse a little energy into your innovation efforts, get your teams engaged using a design thinking approach and let the ideas flow!

Rachel Alt-Simmons is vice president of Program Enablement within the Strategic Analytics team at XL Catlin. She can be reached by sending email to rachel.altsimmons@xlcatlin.com.

See also:

From start-up to scale-up: Deploying insurance innovation at scale

In claims, all roads lead to innovation

Related

5 hallmarks of insurance industry digital leaders

In today's insurance business, your choice is disrupt or be disrupted.

Featured Video

Most Recent Videos

Video Library ››

Top Story

Top 10 cities attracting millennial homebuyers

When they want to start settling down, many millennials are opting for the quieter life paired with plenty of career opportunities.

Top Story

Oh, deer! What drivers should know about animal collisions

One-third (34%) of all animal collision comprehensive claims are filed during the fall, according to Farmers Insurance.

More Resources

Comments

eNewsletter Sign Up

Carrier Innovations eNewsletter

Critical news on the latest tech solutions, information security, analytics and data tools and regulatory changes to help decision-makers at insurance carriers keep their business thriving – FREE. Sign Up Now!

Mobile Phone

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.