Post Digital Insurance Collective Blog: Design thinking, feeling uncomfortable and three centuries of caffeine fuelled innovation

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Following last week's Digital Insurance Collective meeting, I promised to put together a blog consisting of my top eight take homes from my discussions and observations. So here are my thoughts, please share your own in the comment box below.

1 ) The coffee house is as important now as it was 300 years ago

Speaking to a member of the Digital Activist Board at the event last week they pointed out that it was fitting coffee shops are now as important to insurance innovators as they were in 1688 when Lloyd's of London was established.

Then insurance innovators met to work out how to underwrite the likes of ships and their cargo; today their digital successors meet to not only share ideas, but also try out their ideas of unsuspecting members of the public on a laptop or tablet device.

The choice of beverages might be wider; wi-fi the community enabler; but the caffeine fuelled thinking is helping keep insurance as relevant now as it was then.

2) It is good to feel uncomfortable...

At the first Digital Insurance Collective meeting Pancentric strategy director James Downes and his colleagues led the assembled members through a design thinking exercise.

This included drawing a picture of their customers; coming up with heaven and hell statements about the insurance market; conceiving an idea for a new business and coming up with an elevator pitch to sell it.

Afterwards one of those in attendance told me that they thought the two hours had been very rewarding, not least in that been thrown into teams with people they did not know to deal with issues they were not forewarned about had bought a level of discomfort they described as positive.

They remarked that after many digital events they returned to work with a sense of reassurance over what they were doing, but that this had left them with much to ponder making it a far more useful experience.

3) ... and provocative leadership can help that

Keynote speaker Andrew Brem from Aviva supported the above sentiment during his opening presentation. He noted that his CEO Mark Wilson's feedback to him after three months was: "I am hearing some good stuff Andrew, but I have also simply not had enough complaints about you".

Brem added: "If you think about it [Wilson] is right because when anyone of us is changing something within our industry or business, not everything we do is going to be comfortable for everyone. It is all very well being nicey-nice and collaborative, but actually you have to do things that knock people sometimes."

He also joked that Wilson had told him if he went [insurance] native he would be no use Aviva.

4) It is not as simple as incumbent versus start-up

Last week Digital Activist board member Steven Mendel wrote a provocative blog warning incumbents not to get to comfortable themselves about the challenge posed by start-ups.

However, the feedback from the meeting was - and this is something even Mendel would agree with based on his third point- it is often not as black and white as incumbent versus start-up.

There are many start-ups represented within the Collective that rely on incumbents for their underwriting capacity among other things.

However, that should not mean incumbents rest on their laurels; those that are actively involved with these start-ups will inevitably gain a lot of insight into what is working with these innovators, not least by being challenged and made to feel uncomfortable [there is that word again] about what they are doing.

As Mendel says, start-ups should not be ignored.

5) We need to keep hold of our great digital staff

Given the amount of attention insurtech and digital is presently getting the investment that insurers are putting into this space is making it an increasingly attractive landing spot for any wannabe disruptors.

The challenge identified by some I spoke to at the Collective meeting is how do we nurture, train and keep these people; especially when their natural mind set might be to do something on the side as almost a hobby?

Give them one day of a fortnight to work on that project? It might not be as daft an idea as it seems.

6) Is digital equality some way off?

Last week was International Women's Day, something that was celebrated with the Women of the World Festival on London's Southbank.

This might have attracted some potential female Digital Insurance Collective members from attending, but the event did seem to be very male dominated.

This inevitably raised questions about whether the digital insurance revolution was being too heavily influenced by men; and how this imbalance - if such a thing exists - could be corrected.

We should have a better idea as the year goes on, but if you want you be involved please do not hesitate to sign up here.

7) Aviva's Digital Garage ... was once actually a garage

Never has fuelling the digital revolution been more apt.

8) You can't beat a good name

The Pancentric-led design thinking exercise saw the assembled teams come up with some interesting challenges from making business insurance invisible to its users to bringing data together in a single hub.

But qudos to the team with RSA's Activist Board member Stuart Booth for coming up with an app to help policyholders faced with crises overseas.

The RSAver [pronounced ‘arse saver'] idea [twitter handle - @rsaver1] produced some chuckles from those in attendance and it would not surprise me if the insurer gave it some serious thought as it looks to build on its recent strong results.

It is a better name than More Than after all!!!

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