May 08, 2013

Innovation is a watchword in insurance, as the industry seeks to shake off a stodgy image and be viewed as more dynamic from a technology standpoint. At ACORD LOMA, Chubb Group chief innovation officer Jon Bidwell said in a presentation that years of working to facilitate innovation has revealed a particularly important truth:

"There were people who were very close to the customer, producer, transaction, product -- tip of the spear type of people -- who figured out what needed to be done and what needed to be new," Bidwell says.

Chubb uses an enterprise social platform from Jive to help organize and give feedback on innovative ideas. The analytics applied to ideas submitted reveal that some people are "idea machines," Bidwell says -- but it's the "long tail" of "onesy-twosies" that represent the most successful and effective innovations.

"If you don't construct the systems to connect the dots, it's hard to build an organization that's continuously innovating," Bidwell says. "The development of social tools for innovation has come to some maturity in the past three to four years."

[Chubb's 4 'P's of innovation]

Progressive agent experience manager Jim DeVito is leading the charge for password standardization and single sign-on for independent agents -- but that's not the only place he sees value in that technology. Innovative insurers can find lots of value in streamlining log-ons, he says.

"Before I got involved in ID Federation, I did some internal research to find out where [Progressive's] IT standard levels would be and I was pleased to find out that other parts of the enterprise were looking at federated ID," he says. "We're working on adopting similar technology internally [at Progressive] and will test it in a low-risk application soon."

Progressive also uses social tools, including Microsoft Sharepoint, to disseminate innovative ideas in what it calls "Edison projects," DeVito says. He agrees with Bidwell that it's the people who are closest to the customer -- for example, the company's 35,000-strong stable of independent agents -- who often come up with the best ideas.

"The people closest to the work see solutions, but sometimes they don't know whether they're empowered to propose it -- so you have to not just the environment, but also the framework for strategic change," DeVito says. "There's technological ways of doing it, then there's just going out and visiting folks and talking to them."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...