Innovation like charisma
Scan any publication and you will be hard pressed to find a day where innovation isn’t hailed as the key ingredient in the drive to stand out from the competition, meet customer needs, or even attract the best talent. Just innovate for success. Sound simple?
Simple it may sound, but true category building innovation is a difficult thing to grasp and even harder to implement. In effect, innovation is “untouchable”. Much like charisma or that X-factor moment, you can define it but to experience it or be able to take control of it is a different matter.
Charisma used to be seen as something you were born with, and only a few were naturally gifted. You either had it, or you didn’t. Stars, politicians and business leaders dined out on their charisma. But we now know that this isn’t entirely true. And while there are a lucky few who are naturally gifted, through a bit of hard work charisma can now be taught to those unlucky not to be. There is even a long list of charismatic leadership tactics (CLTs) which you can learn to incorporate into your approach. Leaders around the globe are learning to connect with their teams, customers and suppliers on a deeper level and leverage the language of charisma to positively impact their businesses.
Like charisma, innovation does not come naturally to most. In our natural state, most of us have too many cognitive biases or blind spots to be able to innovate truly naturally. But in today’s highly competitive and evolving world it is mission critical for organisations to stay relevant in today’s digitally paced society. Therefore, startups must be innovative, and corporates must innovate. However, unlike charisma which was known to be difficult and admired, innovation has fallen into muddy waters. What is often seen as innovation can often just be a poorly designed experiment or a badly designed “digital transformation” that only touches on the possibilities. And therefore, many haven’t noticed that innovation if not natural needs to be learned and even then, cultivated.
Real innovation isn’t an accident. It’s the result of going on an ongoing journey of discovery, developing processes, building skills and delivering a good dose of hard work. We believe that innovation is actually a learned skill that startups and corporates alike need to embrace at all stages of their evolution. To harness the power of innovation and build businesses or propositions that drive real competitive advantage you need structure and what may seem counterproductive to the nature of innovation, process. At SBC InsurTech London, we’ve recently seen two distinct, but innovative businesses leverage this approach:
- ForestCar – car sharing service for airports
In January this year, ForestCar announced that its customers can now park for free at Manchester Airport and support the planting of trees a further step in their goal to eliminate the need for dedicated rental cars and restore rainforests.
What we learned working with a truly experienced and truly social conscious ForestCar team is that a small idea can become a real business model aligned to key trends around sustainability.
Charlie Palmer, co-founder at ForestCar, feels the accelerator programme allowed the company “to take advantage of a structured series of courses designed to take an idea and turn it into a killer innovative business”.
- Laka – community-based bicycle insurance
What structured innovation programmes also deliver is speed. Organic Innovation takes time and if you can bypass those cognitive biases or blind spots you can still find yourself spinning your wheels down rabbit holes without even realising it until you’ve hit a dead-end.
Tobias Taupitz from Laka discovered that having a great idea wasn’t all you needed while driving cycling and insurance innovation. “I guess that’s the real value of an innovation start-up accelerator programme: knowledgeable people who guide you through the process and challenge your thoughts frequently so that you run in the right direction, without too many wrong turns,” he comments.
The one thing we’ve discovered while we’ve been busy driving bespoke innovation programmes within the insurance industry is that innovation doesn’t have to be a maybe, it can now be a definite. You can, through the right approach create the environment by which innovation can take hold. It’s not only the start-ups. What is astonishing is how quickly it can happen in corporates too. Within weeks, structured ideation and facilitated engagement with access to the right expertise can foster highly effective partnerships and deliver sought outcomes.
No matter where you are on your journey, innovation shouldn’t be a nice to have but a focused goal with real-world outcomes. Our recommendation? Start-up or corporate, make innovation an ongoing mission, not a faraway destination.
By Tshidi Hagan, programme director, SBC InsurTech London
SBC InsurTech is an initiative of Rainmaking, a corporate innovation and venture development firm