In business and in marketing, there are few words more overused than ‘innovation’ – but it has real impact on a company’s ability to remain competitive. Previously, we talked about the innovation gap for health insurers, and how smaller players are leveraging technology to develop new consumer tools. Here we take a look at how insurers can develop their own innovation programs.
In the health insurance market, there is a red-hot battle over the evolving digital consumer interface and online enrollment in particular. With millions of Americans expected to go online this year in search of health insurance, insurers will largely win or lose based on their ability to differentiate themselves within the marketplace. But beyond the key milestones ahead, like any successful product company, health insurers will need to create a culture and methodology for sustained innovation.
As a Creative Director, I help companies reinvent digital experiences and products. Often that means helping brands establish methods for continuous improvement and innovation. Here are some starters for creating your own innovation program:
Culture Is Critical to Invention
Innovation takes courage. As an organization, it means investing in unknown ROI, embracing change, and accepting occasional failure. Individually, it means putting your credibility on the line. Proposing ideas, accepting new ways of thinking, and supporting risk can be difficult. Creating a culture that embodies these qualities doesn’t happen overnight. Like many grassroots movements, it starts with a small, committed group. Build your core team and adopt a digital lifestyle. Momentum begins with conversation – consume, share, and socialize.
Innovation is a Design Process
You’ve formed a multidisciplinary team that brings together varying perspectives and subject-matter expertise. Nice job! Now, what’s your methodology? There is a simple notion at the heart of innovation – translating ideas into something tangible. That means visualization and prototyping. Your process needs to include various prototype formats that cultivate ideas from doodle to user-acceptance testing. The trick is doing it quickly, efficiently and effectively. Visualization is fundamental to invention but it is not a natural talent for most. Few of us learn storyboarding and storytelling in school. Invest in tools, training, and even specialized staff to facilitate and help improve these skills over time.
Part of sparking new ideas is breaking the routine and formal structure of our daily work life. You can foster innovation by creating workspaces dedicated to the process of invention. The goal is to break away from the rigid environment of offices, cubicles and conference rooms by creating a space more reminiscent of a laboratory, newsroom, and art studio. Open, modular, environments inspire team members to connect, share, and build. Immersive spaces where walls are papered-over in stimuli and team members meet around café tables set a tone for ‘what-if’ conversations.
Scope and Define Innovation
In the broadest sense, innovation is a holistic approach that considers all the critical aspects of a business – business model, operational process, systems, technology, consumer experience, and beyond. Defining the scope and specific areas of engagement is an important starting point for each project.
Similarly, it’s essential to define your concept value statement, key benefits, and reasons to believe. Approach every concept from the consumer’s perspective: How does the product work? How do I get started? What do I do next? These details are critical to the function and acceptance of your ideas. Focus on crafting key messages, copy points and calls-to-action, and consider adding a part-time copywriter to your team.
There’s always room for improvement, even in how we innovate. We’re continuously on the lookout for new techniques and methods. Dive in and keep experimenting.