Canadian Underwriter

The latest in P&C professional development training: How to be innovative

February 3, 2020   by Jason Contant

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Canadian insurance professionals want to learn how to be innovative, and they are enlisting the help of a Canadian-based open innovation centre to explore the new frontier of design thinking.

Design thinking revolves around a deep interest in developing an understanding of the people for whom we’re designing the products or services,” as defined by the Interaction Design Foundation. “Design thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding.”

The Canadian P&C insurance industry has approached the Toronto-based Cookhouse Labs, an innovation centre, regarding staff training, according to the lab’s co-founder, Sven Roehl. “It wasn’t even on our plate at the beginning,” he said. “It was one of the ones they really pushed for.”

One topic under discussion is how insurers could use methodologies like design thinking in their daily work. “Now we offer more of those trainings for the insurance industry,” he said. “We just had one last week in which we had a couple of insurance companies and universities come in, and they were trained in a two-day training on design thinking. The topics are insurance, and also give them the skills so they can use this in their daily work.”

Ibeth Ramos, program manager and innovation coach at Cookhouse Labs, said that “you can go anywhere in the world for design thinking. What we did at the lab is focus the training on the insurance industry specifically.”

She pointed to a design thinking program offered at Harvard University. “The challenge was everybody had different questions about how that methodology applied to their industry, from government agencies to teachers to doctors.”

Roehl stressed that the lab is not building solutions that are ready to be used in the market. “The incubator is for the industry itself to come up with their [own] ideas. That’s our ultimate goal: provide all the skills that an insurer needs to be innovative in their own organization.”

To date, the lab has worked with more than 40 insurance companies and vendors like Apple and General Motors.

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