Business today requires innovation to respond to or spark a confluence of societal, economic, and technology trends that are shifting how entire industries operate. Yet despite massive shifts taking place in the world around us, companies often approach innovation the same way: gather their smartest people in a room and say, “innovate.” The result is often incremental steps forward addressing industry challenges too narrowly and missing meaningful change.
To avoid that fate, innovation needs to be everyone’s focus. The approach should be systematic, continuous and collaborative with a commitment to redefine what is possible. But innovation is not a one-size-fits-all process. For example, as an established SaaS company in the multi-trillion-dollar insurance economy, we at CCC Intelligent Solutions serve multiple interdependent industries across the insurance economy including insurance carriers, collision repairers, auto manufacturers, lenders and many others. These are very different industry segments in terms of age, size, culture, technical sophistication, infrastructures and resources, with each aspect influencing the pace and shape of innovation differently.
Organizing for Innovation Success
The idea of innovation can sound boundless but to drive innovation through a business, products or services, finding a construct to guide your efforts is important. From my perspective, innovation requires three things:
- Understanding of the pain point or the issue that you are trying to solve
- Creativity and experimentation to identify new ways of solving for things
- A growth mindset that allows you to continuously evolve thought and approach
Embedded in these elements should be differing points of view, which will not only maximize results but will also enable smarter decisions, more robust frameworks and expanded solutions.
Critical Innovation Ingredients
Dedicated teams that can operate with this innovation mindset constantly think ahead. And an infrastructure and environment that support strong innovation will lend themselves to keeping up with technology and provide more insight into whether to support existing solutions or build completely new. Companies or teams can start off by identifying areas in which innovation can occur, prioritize experimentation to understand what is possible and what solves a market need. Allow teams to play, fail and learn.
Experimentation is not a luxury; it is an essential building block of innovation. Encourage your data scientists, engineers and subject-matter experts to constantly explore emerging and enabling technologies. Explore how these technologies can be further developed to solve new problems or recreate paths to new solutions. Then bring your customers into the discussion to better focus explorations.
Teams that can focus on innovation are a necessity; innovation is not a part-time endeavor and is in part a result of full-time collaboration between dedicated team members. Innovation teams require more than capital—they require leadership, commitment and a long-term view and focus on the industries you serve. In-depth knowledge is a catalyst for success.
Reverse Engineering Innovation from the Customer
We mentioned the importance of the customer; innovation is born from this. Do not innovate in a vacuum. Understand customers’ needs or user experiences and collaborate with them to discover the best solutions to their problems or identify new areas of opportunity.
Technology becomes the enabler to deliver value to customers—whether it is a single technology like AI or a combination of technologies such as mobile, AI, IOT, analytics, etc. And leaders who focus on delivering the best possible user experience to engage with employees and customers more effectively will ultimately create more meaningful experiences and better products.
Take the iPhone, for instance. The first generation was an iPod, which then became Wi-Fi enabled, next a telephone, a camera and so on. Feature after feature was added, leading to constant improvements or major additions, ultimately turning into a completely different solution than where it started, keeping pace with available technology and consumer demands for a powerful yet simplified set of digital experiences through a singular solution.
Innovate by Connecting the Dots
Sometimes powerful innovation can be achieved by just “connecting the dots.” Over the years, in response to customer and market demand, we have developed several very valuable claim process solutions which have typically been deployed by insurers and provided attractive ROI and other benefits, but as stand-alone solutions. More recently, enabled by digitization, AI and cloud technologies, we have innovated by integrating and enhancing these solutions to drive toward the industry’s vision for straight-through processing, experiences guided by technology and provider connections to advance the claims experience with little to no human intervention.
Enhancing the Experience
User experience (UX) must be a driving force in innovation. It inspires adoption and preference. UX experts can both improve the implementation of innovation or be the catalyst for it. Music existed long before the iPod. You could find the weather before Siri could recite it to you. Experiences themselves can be the catalyst for change.
The look and feel, portability, approach to security—touch, facial recognition or 30-character password—all shape innovation adoption. Function matters. This is true for consumer and business solutions.
And user experiences expand beyond mobile devices and intuitive design into the world of touchless experiences. Connected devices, including smartphones, vehicles, smartwatches and ubiquitous IoT sensors, are fundamentally changing consumer interactions, preferences and expectations.
Leading with Innovation
Many industries are on the cusp of large-scale digitization. To achieve digitization at scale and to breakthrough what is possible, innovation must be approached with focused discipline and an eye on an ever-expanding landscape of possibilities. To truly accelerate your innovation strategy, you must organize for innovation success.