Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Chubb accelerates with Innovation and Imaginatik

I know it sounds strange, but I spoke today with an insurance company that is interested in identifying new ideas and moving quickly. Yes, innovation has found its way to what appears to be a slow-moving, stodgy, conservative industry.

I interviewed Jon Bidwell, the Chief Innovation Officer at Chubb about their innovation experiences and goals, and their use of Imaginatik. Jon was very forthcoming about Chubb's opportunities and goals.

First, Jon told me a bit about Chubb's history and its current challenges. Chubb is an insurance and financial services company, so it faces many of the challenges we see in the market today. Additionally, Chubb is increasingly global and wants to tap its employees and partners for their ideas. Chubb realizes that speed is of the essence, and that good ideas exist inside, as well as outside the firm.

To give you a proper sense of the speed of the effort, Chubb's board approved the innovation program in June 2008 and requested that the innovation team start its first event by September 30th. That meant the innovation team had to come up to speed, identify some key areas of focus, build some processes and evaluate and select an idea management platform in that period. That's moving quickly in my experience, especially for a regulated firm not used to aggressive innovation.

Jon has developed a small permanent team of four people responsible for developing the methodologies, training and communication and managing the events and tools. Other people are drafted part-time as necessary based on the needs and the division or business lines involved in the innovation events. Note that most of the work they've done so far is "directed" - campaigns or events. Chubb has not yet provided an innovation "suggestion box" based on Imaginatik's tools, but that is in the works.

Jon's team also identified an innovation fund, to support the development of ideas that don't align to the annual plans or budgeting cycles. Most firms that we've worked with have found that a separate fund to speed ideas through development outside the typical budgeting process are far more successful, since they can react to market opportunities much more quickly.

One of the points of emphasis was the need for transparency throughout the process. Participants can submit ideas, comment on ideas and see their ideas in the innovation pipeline supported by Imaginatik. Another point of emphasis is speed. The Chubb team is conducting a number of events and has successfully implemented a number of ideas, with the goal of moving ideas from idea generation into the market as new products and services in six months or less.

Imaginatik's software has supported the development of the innovation community and campaigns and has proven easy to configure and deploy. While Chubb evaluated four competitors in a quick RFP, the team felt that Imaginatik's application provided the best solution combining idea generation with innovation processes. Chubb is using Imaginatik to capture ideas from agents and business partners, as well as internal employees.

Bidwell also discussed a number of activities his team undertook to overcome any cultural barriers, including a significant amount of communication about innovation from executives, and work to think through appropriate incentives, rewards and recognitions for the participants. Chubb is actively monitoring the statistics that show who generates ideas, who contributes to the development of an idea and so forth.

The Chubb story, one year on, is a fairly significant success. In short order the board approved the innovation team and investment, and three months later the team was actively engaged in generating and capturing ideas. Less than two quarters after that, new products and services were entering the market. While the majority of Chubb's ideas to date have been incremental or sustaining, Chubb is beginning to see more disruptive ideas. Bidwell's lessons learned: Be flexible, recognize that there's a lot of learn and be willing to learn and adjust as you go.

Our take is that Chubb has successfully integrated an innovation program and idea management tool by emphasizing the cultural aspects (recognition, rewards, communication, company history) and focusing on speed. Chubb's decision to set aside funds for the innovation program mean that ideas can be developed and funded outside of the annual planning process, which can speed products to market more quickly, rather than having to wait for the next budget cycle. Clearly the senior executives at Chubb have decided to accelerate product and service development using innovation and Imaginatik as drivers for success.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 9:28 AM


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