Ask the customer! ICMIF members collaborate on the best ways to innovate new products

23 July 2018


How does the process of innovation work in mutual/cooperative insurance companies in other countries? Nadine Anemüller, Head of International Cooperation and the Future Workshop at German ICMIF member DEVK Versicherungen (DEVK) was keen to find out and so, earlier this year, she invited representatives from Danish ICMIF member the LB Group to visit DEVK’s headquarters in Germany so that they could share their experiences and methods of innovation at their respective organisations.

The team at DEVK learned about the great importance that the LB Group attaches to the opinions of their member policyholders and whenever the Danes come up with new services and products the LB Group innovation strategists ensure that the wants and needs of the organisation’s membership are kept firmly in mind. Member policyholders of the LB Group are consulted to see if they have suggestions for new products and they are also asked to comment on new products throughout the development process.

The innovation model at the LB Group is not simply about internal process changes the teams discovered, but about developing innovative products that actually meet customer needs. Listening closely and consulting consumers before introducing a product has already proven advantageous in many cases. New product lines can be modified based on customer feedback throughout the development process, before they are actually launched, which saves wasted time and cost to develop a product that customers might otherwise reject.

Ann Kristine Krag, Innovation Manager of the Danish LB Group, and her colleague Mathias Helsted Jakobsen, Junior Innovation Consultant, spent two days sharing the LB Group innovation strategy with Nadine and eight employees from DEVK’s Future Workshop who all work on innovation projects.

The LB Group has around 660 employees and only provides insurance cover to certain occupational groups, for example people working in the health sector. The product areas that the LB Group focuses most on are mobility, home, health and communities. Work to develop new product lines is done using agile methodology which, the two organisations discovered during their meetings over the course of the two day visit, is carried out in a similar way to the way in which the DEVK Future Workshop operates.

The meeting and exchange of information took place after Nadine Anemüller, Head of the International Cooperation Unit at DEVK, established contact between the innovators at the LB Group and the DEVK Future Workshop. The meeting was much more than simply a general visit between two mutual organisations from different countries.  Both innovation teams from the companies reported having gained a great deal of very valuable information.

Both companies have developed products in the area of telematics and Smart Home, and the meeting gave each a chance to present the innovation process they had followed in creating these products. There were discussions to compare and contrast methods used during the innovation process and agree what went well and what was not so successful at each company for each product line. One of the DEVK team spent the morning one day explaining how DEVK developed their driving app “Fahr clever” – from the initial idea, to finding the right service provider to the ultimate roll-out of the app, and all the challenges that the team met and overcame throughout the development process.

Each company also gave a general presentation on their innovation process. Nadine Anemüller noted that the approach of the Danish innovators impressed their German colleagues at DEVK, for example, by their clear structure and the direct approach of liaising with potential customers. The LB Group were able to take away some very good learnings from the DEVK Future Workshop innovation management processes, especially in the area of “mobility” and so, it was unanimously agreed that each company took away new and important information to use going forward. Anemüller says there was definitely real added value from the visit for both companies.

The meeting came about following a conversation between Nadine and Simon Hartington (formerly of the LB Group) at a meeting of the ICMIF Intelligence Committee. Simon was looking for an opportunity to meet and exchange information with other innovation labs at ICMIF member companies. Nadine says: “We soon found out that our labs were principally working on the same topics but were working on different angles at different stages of development. The innovation lab at LB is still very new and there are less people working there than at DEVK and we were happy to invite two representatives from the LB Group to come to Cologne”.

Nadine continued: “The visit was an enormous success. Everybody was very well prepared, the atmosphere was excellent and we soon found out that LB could learn from our work in telematics and DEVK from their experience in Smart Home. So it was not just a friendly visit (although it was also a lot of fun), there were real learnings and the discussions gave everybody the opportunity to look at their knowledge from a new angle. Apart from the exchange of information the meeting gave an excellent opportunity to widen our personal network as working on a personal level for two days gave us the chance to get to know each other much better than it would have been possible during a formal meeting”.

Nadine told ICMIF that, for her, the two pictures shown above, sketched by the working groups during the meeting of the two organisations, give a good idea about the conclusions of the two day exchanges of information. “The first image is called “Journey to the stars”, the stars being a symbol for a new, unknown destination (the digitalized company) that we want to explore. Our journeys are not the same, we need different tools but in the end we reach the same target – with the help and support of others who go the same way. The second picture “Common roads” describes the same situation whilst focusing a little more on the exchange of information part of the meetings. Each organisation has the same destination and we each have to find our individual solutions, but our paths will keep crossing and it’s so much easier to move on when there is a chance for an international (in our case Danish, French, German) knowledge exchange”.

To conclude Nadine says: “I can only encourage other ICMIF members to contact the Federation to ask for help in organising this kind of bilateral exchange, I think there is no better way of learning than talking directly to colleagues with the same background and challenges but with different experiences”.

For member-only strategic content on the cooperative/mutual insurance sector, ICMIF members have exclusive access to a range of online resources through the ICMIF Knowledge Hub.

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