The Spark of Innovation: Changing your mindset to become an innovator

by Eric Lowenstein

The Spark of Innovation: Changing your mindset to become an innovatorInnovation is not new a concept. Innovations have always been the major catalyst behind humankind’s success. Whether it’s early man’s first use of fire or the birth of the space shuttle.

But some of us are better at innovating then others and it all comes down to developing that innovation mindset. In this post I hope to raise awareness to help you think about the skills needed to change your mindset and unlock your inner innovator. Don’t be misguided – like any skill it requires practice – and one of the things you need to do is to practice how to unpractice conventional thinking…

What I mean by that is humans naturally have a cognitive condition called “functional fixedness”. We rely on storing patterns for spontaneous recall so once we form a pattern in our mind we go into autopilot and accept things the way they are. This is needed to reduce cognitive load but can also limit us to thinking about things in the traditional ways we have been programmed to think. So what can we do to break out of these established patterns in our mind?

In the book The Four Lenses of Innovation, Rowan Gibson highlights four key perspectives or thinking patterns that have driven great leaps of creativity and innovation; challenging orthodoxies, harnessing trends, leveraging resources and understanding needs.

Challenging Orthodoxies – What if the dominant conventions in your field, market, or industry are outdated, unnecessary, or just plain wrong? The insurance industry is an example of this; traditional insurance business models are being disrupted by companies born in the digital age that can firstly run at substantially lower cost due to automation, self-service, efficient distribution models, and, secondly operate at lower loss ratios due to data analytics, claims management and loss prevention techniques.

Harnessing Trends – Where are the shifts and discontinuities that will, now and in the future, provide the energy you need for a major leap forward? Again, looking at the insurance industry, we are seeing a whole new ecosystem evolving with the use of telematics, the Internet of Things, smart homes, wearable technology and even self-driving cars. These trends will have a profound impact across the entire insurance industry value chain and organisations need to start thinking about how these trends will impact their business model and how they can take advantage of the opportunities.

Leveraging Resources – How can you arrange existing skills and assets into new combinations that add up to more than the sum of their parts? This perspective allows organisations to figure out how they can stretch, recombine or re-purpose skills and assets to do totally new things. One great example from history on redeploying assets and skills was how Johannes Gutenberg took his skills as a metal worker and the inspiration from the wooden wine press to invent the printing press.

Understanding Needs – What are the unmet needs and frustrations that everyone else is simply ignoring? This is the final ingredient based on the premise that in order to innovate you need to have a rampant curiosity about how everything works. You need to be inquisitive and ask lots of questions – and not just to people that know and use your brand; Innovation is about trying to solve a problem so make sure you speak to people who have a problem with your brand. And don’t forget to speak to your “outlier” customers – again if you don’t challenge the norm you risk the echo chamber of feedback. Finally, explore your customer engagement lifecycle (reach, engage, convert and retain) and try to ascertain the pain points and activities along the journey where you can differentiate and enhance the client experience.

The first step towards change is awareness and I hope this post gives you something to think about.

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Eric LowensteinEric has over 10 years insurance experience in a variety of sectors including legal, underwriting and broking. Eric’s experience within the insurance industry has resulted in an in-depth understanding of account management, corporate risk management, claims management, policy drafting, pre-acquisition due diligence, post-acquisition risk and insurance review.

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