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Deep Dive - 24 risk factors

This Deep Dive follows on from the Overview. It looks in detail how you can improve your innovation projects. Our platform embeds this knowledge and manages everything from Ideation through to Digital Prototyping through to Going to Market.

In theory, to succeed you only need to do two things a)  de-risk your project and b) elevate creativity. However, while this sounds simple it really isn't. Otherwise, there wouldn't be smart companies with very bright people experiencing failiure rates in excess of 80% 


So, how do we fix it? We use a combination of tech and human psychology to help you manage 24 risk factors devided into 3 categories -

1) Avoid the 5 basic mistakes (Difficulty level: EASY)

2) Improve 9 Creative capabilities (Difficulty level: EXTREME)

3) Set up 10 Governance aspects differently (Difficulty level: MODERATE)

1. Avoiding 5 Basic Mistakes


'Thinking outside the box' and 'Blue Sky thinking' are goto techniques for many innovation projects.

The problem is, they put you behind the start line before your project has even began. The uncomfortable truth is nobody really knows what they mean. This is  because they present a  prize but offer no real creative guidance.


Worse still, there is an opportunity cost because you could be using authentic creative techniques that work.

Most of the time the difficulty of being innovative is underplayed - it means coming up with an idea that nobody else has ever thought of before. That's extreme, that's the kind of challenge that needs a rock solid strategy.

No wonder then, when teams without the right strategy simply find it too difficult to come up with an authentically new idea.

Then, this happens - often without it being even being noticed - the project morphs into someting different, a soft option that is not innovation. 


This is how and why 'Imitation innovation' or 'Showcase innovation'  happens. These are the precursiors of 'Innovation fatigue'.




'Innovation fatigue' is a recognised term. Its the result of too many innovation initiatives  not being set up properly and draining the enthusiasm of those involved.

The best way to avoid it  is to set up projects that are de-risked (i.e. manage the 24 factors on this page),  use elevated creative techniques and overlay them with smart governance. 

Fortunately, in the same way repeated failiure causes 'fatigue' it only takes one success to breed success.

Sometimes, with good intent, teams of smart people are 'chosen' and ring-fenced for the task of innovating. This is the precursor for 'isolation innovation'.


The problem is, for Flow-State creativity you do need diversity and the constant ability to switch new participants in and out of the mix.


Otherwise, the danger is, groups become too comfortable and lean towards consensus  which is good normally but no good for creativity.


2) Improve 9 of your Creative capabilities 


Being Creative is difficult because its a hard learned skill just like critical thinking. But we can make it easier by using AI to do some of the 'heavy lifting'.


Sometimes it takes years for trained creatives to iterate through ideas to find one good one. Our algorithm cycles through potential concepts in a structured way while following certain creative 'rules'.

This provides you with a list of potential ideas to which you can then apply human intelligence.

 Its unreasonable to expect trained logical thinkers - i.e. insurance people - to become creative without some very clear guidance and appropriate tools.


We reduce the creative process to the atomic level and then build it back up so everyone has a clear understanding of how it really works.



Projects can fail even if everything else is set up correctly if this is not addressed. 

Innovation team members vary. They can be extrovert-introvert, pessimistic-optimistic, high level-low level, logical thinkers-creative thinkers, fatigued-unfatigued ... and so on.

You need a way of giving everyone an equal voice because if you don't many ideas won't be heard. 

This overlaps the previous point. What often happens is  'stronger' personalities will run the show. If they are also pessimists the others will not be able to maintain forward motion and the project will slowly stall.


Creativity needs forward motion at all times while stepping from one idea to another. Of course, all points should be treated with respect and serious concerns can be checked by the governance team but - the show must go on.



'Cognitive Surplus', first coined by Shirky just means treating your community of employees, partners and customers as one big corporate brain.

Their collective experience is unstructured data which can be surfaced to seed innovation. For example, the discussions at the water-cooler, in the bar, complaints from customers, suggestions from partners, etc can all be surfaced and put to good use.

This overlaps the previous point. Have you invited the right contributors to your project, can you swop in and out fresh talent with relevant domain knowledge?

Sometimes, all it takes is fresh pair of eyes to take your project over the line.



'This may or not apply but it should always be considered.

The fact is, insurance is society's safety net. It supports when bad things happen. So, if you can hook your innovation into meeting the needs of an emerging trend it can be a real positive. 

Its not the only way but this 'bottom up' approach of starting with 'the Why' helps root innovation in commercial reality.

Flow-State was first coined by Csikszentmihalyi and it is central to what we aim for, see About.

Its not always possible to achieve Flow-State but for our purposes its the intent - the direction of travel - that matters.


As mentioned earlier, forward motion is critical for creative activity. Implementing Flow-State principles improves the chances of this happening.



This is a strange one because just about everyone - including us - says 'I'm not biased' but we are.


Our personal belief systems which have evevolved over the years acquire built in biases. We demonstrate this to you in a workshop.

Removing a couple of these biases will significantly improve your teams' creative abilities.

3. Set up Governance differently 


The project Governance team can use our platform to track the 24 risk factors not tracked by conventional project management software.

This is vitally important because otherwise those factors are free to bring havoc to your project in so many different ways - which historically is exactly what happens 80% of the time.

Think of it as an insurance policy for your innovation project .

A clear goal needs to be set. Yes, it sounds obvious but it does not always happen.


Without one it's impossible to know if you are on track or not. It happens because innovation is viewed as somehow different so, normal business rules need not apply. 

A good goal is a great starting point and acts as a guiding beacon when being creative inevitably introduces some chaos and confusion.



This is a question of balance. On one hand, you need Governance to impose a set of rules to keep things on track. On the other, contributors tasked with being creative need a degree of autonomy to improvise. 

This all ties into the earlier points of achieving Flow-State, maintaining forward motion and setting up a 'creative democracy'. Without this set of conditions participants are not 'free' to be creative and will be confined to 'playing safe'. Clearly, this is not what we want to happen.

Governance needs to establish that collaboration is fluid. This is the Martini principle because it needs to be... anytime, any place, anywhere. Any contributor should be able to easily connect with the project's digital assets and collaborate with any other team member.

It also needs to be tested to ensure its productive collaboration. Because there can be a high level of activity which looks like collaboration but is not productive.

Unless monitored this can silently derail a project and no-one will know what happened.



This is the classic who watches the watcher question. Good Governance is critical for success. Its less about enforcing rules and checking timelines and more about creating the right conditions for the project to be properly de-risked and for creativity to flourish

We provide a self managing Governance layer that is monitored throughout the project lifecycle.

We have seen Actuarial being introduced too late to the party. Timing is important, better too early than too late for a number of reasons. The platform tracks and flags this to the Governance team.



Similarly we have seen Compliance being introduced too late to the party. Again timing is important, better too early than too late for a number of reasons. We help the Governance team optimise this process.

This is common problem. Lets say the team has a genuinely innovative idea thats commercially viable. At some point it needs to be digitally prototyped to test its feasibility. If there is no IT resource available - which can be for any number of reasons - then the project loses momentum or stalls.

We provide on-demand digital prototyping so, this never happens.



This is often overlooked because of the excitement and enthusiasm of having arrived at the stage of a nearly complete innovation.

The problem is, the focus is often exclusively on new business and the associated processes - quote, bind, issue, claim. However, implementation becomes 'clunky' if other processes are not automated like, self service, policy alterations, etc.


This is especially true as Embedded Insurance becomes increasing popular, full-cycle automation is key because margins are so tiny.

In many ways this is the final hurdle, you have a finished innovation thats been bullet-proofed and digitally enabled. Now, you need to distribute across different channels. But if you have legacy systems or simply lack the IT capacity then all of your good work can be in vain.

If required we provide distribution capability on a subscription basis which you can take back in-house at a later date if you prefer.



There is a lot more to Innovating than meets the eye. Its complicated, out of the 24 factors we discuss above some are obvious, some are subtle and others are totally hidden. Left unchecked they interact with each other in unpredictable ways.

For example, it might be obvious that IT Resource availability could be a problem, less obvious that seemingly active collaboration might actually be unproductive and its plain misunderstood that creativity can be undermined in so many different ways.  

Its a nuanced problem with many permutions of how it can all go wrong. However, once aware of the 24 factors you can raise the bar a little in each area to improve success rates. Our platform is designed to address each one and manage them through the life-cycle of the project in a consistent way..

Once you have the comfort that your project is safely de-risked it leaves the path clear to really push your creative boundaries in a commercially viable way. Add in to that we have a constantly evolving AI algorithm to give your creativity a competitive edge and its starts to get really interesting.

Prologue: The 'Science'

Lets be clear, we're not scientists. We're mix of insurance, creative and extreme sports people that could not understand why so many innovation projects fail. Given there are many people that are a lot smarter than us we figured why not ask them. The result is the Data-Sandwich Innovation platform, inspired by scientists and built by nerds.


The platform uses Data-Science (AI) to identify the unique hidden risk factors that can silently derail innovation projects. In other words, we use it to keep your projects safe. This predominantly uses analogical reasoning and pattern recognition


AI is also used to accelerate the generation of new ideas. It does the heavy lifting in terms of cycling through raw possibilities. To be clear its not a substitute for human ingenuity, think of it like a power tool e.g. an electric drill - its incredibly powerful but needs direction.

Behavioural science is used to create the right set of conditions for creativity to thrive. If you think about it, everything about an innovation project starts and ends with a great idea. It doesn't matter how much tech you throw at the task if your group cannot tap into their human creativity. 


In short, we optimise conditions for creativity by balancing the serious stuff like actuarial integrity, market awareness, compliance, etc with a playful but directed creative vibe. We know in the insurance world that sounds a bit woohoo but it works - in fact, its the only way it works.


Some like a more serious explanation and here it is. We liken Insurance Innovation to the mental  equivalent of an extreme sport where the goal is to see things never seen before, by entering group Flow-State (Popularised by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura - see About)

The platform embeds our own insurance experience with know how from Flow-State theory, Cognitive Surplus theory, Cognitive bias, Human Psychology, Right Brain-Left Brain thinking, Lateral/Divergent thinking, Creative Democracy theory, Surfacing subconscious ideas and more.


To sum up, we use all of the above to get to what matters - a great idea. We use the power of AI when brute force is needed to cycle through creative options and keep the project safe by flagging up risks unique to innovation projects (KPI's for the 'unknown unknowns'). Then it gives way to creative input which can only come from you. 

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