Innovation is a core component of Zurich’s business strategy. The development and launch of new insurance ideas is part of their strategic response to the pace of change in the insurance sector and broader markets. The Head of Innovation, Mark Budd, was tasked to develop an approach which would enable initiatives to be developed at pace in a controlled way, and to embed an innovation culture across the organisation. Key elements to resolve included:
- Approaches to structure and curate an effective ideation process
- Options for creating a culture of insurance corporate entrepreneurship.
- Methodologies for prioritising, filtering and evaluating new insurance ideas.
- Delivery approaches for experimentation, MVP development and market pilots.
- Facilitation requirements, Agile coaching, and physical lab environment setup.
- Operationalisation and scaling pathways for successful ideas.
- Optimal options for embedding a wider innovation culture across the organisation.
In an insurance innovation landscape in which the lab / garage / hub / factory model is increasingly discredited, a major element of the challenge was to avoid the mistakes that others have made.
We deployed a digital innovation team to work in partnership with Zurich, embedding our team members into their innovation team, and co-created an approach which would enable fast-start activities through a model that could operate on an enduring basis.
Whilst the work was clearly led by Zurich’s Head of Innovation, our teams worked to achieve a set of key outcomes:
- Examining and running safaris to a variety of innovation models (from in-house models through to start-up models), and determining the optimal model for Zurich.
- Standing up an innovation lab with the right structure and processes to explore and accelerate ideas to outcomes.
- Developing clearly defined sources of ideas (both internal and external) and a prioritisation approach to manage and filter the backlog.
- Creating a structured methodology – based on our own 123 Framework – to develop ideas in a structured and focused way.
- Producing employee communications, corporate entrepreneur playbooks, and “Blue Boxes” containing a starter kit for new innovators.
- Setting up a governance model with appropriate measures to maintain control and staged funding, yet also maintain agility.
- Building support for the innovation approach with advocates across Zurich as part of the ongoing embedding.
Throughout, we worked conscientiously with Zurich’s Head of Innovation to tackle the three main killers of insurance innovation labs:
- The lack of focus on the commercial viability of ideas: we embedded the 6 key topics from our 123 Framework into the new Zurich innovation process, heavily emphasising the commercial / financial viability workstream through all stages of idea development and incubation.
- The failure to effectively hand proven ideas off to scale: we encouraged careful planning with more operational and traditional delivery teams, whose skillsets are better attuned to scaling and running proven ideas at scale.
- The “them ‘n’ us” syndrome fostered by standalone lab cultures: we helped democratise the innovation process at Zurich by building it to be an open accelerator for all employees’ ideas, rather than a closed innovation elite.
Our work was completed through weekly sprints with rapid and regular deliverables, and engagement with stakeholders throughout. As is often the case with our engagements, we co-located and co-created with the Zurich team throughout.
The team delivered an insurance innovation lab, process and toolset within Zurich, known as the Zurich Innovation Foundry, within 10 weeks. The Foundry has been launched across Zurich and ideas are now being sourced, both internally and externally, and prioritised prior to entering the Foundry’s idea development process, known as “Begin”. The Zurich team have been trained in some of Ninety’s methodologies, and we continue to work within the Foundry to help the Foundry team deliver the first set of corporate entrepreneur ideas. There is significant buy-in and engagement from across Zurich with senior Executives sponsoring ideas through the Foundry, and a growing community of functional experts who are advocates. In parallel, there is ongoing development and training of employees in innovative cultures and ways of working in order to help achieve a fully embedded innovation culture across the organisation.
“Ninety helped Zurich navigate some of the key challenges in setting up a successful insurance innovation process and culture in our Innovation Foundry. Having them help kickstart our ideation and startup process has helped us be increasingly self-sufficient.”
Mark Budd, Head of Innovation, Zurich.