Ki Series / 5th May 2022

Innovation is a process that any business can use – here’s how we do it at Ki

Explore Ki's five steps to innovation and the importance of technology and data teams in their strategic function. Plus, get top tips from an EDii coaching director on embracing decision-making and uncertainty.

Innovation isn’t a bolt of lightning or a sudden flash of genius. 

Well, sort of. Great ideas do occasionally come out of the blue, but it’s not a very efficient way to run a business. 

We want to consistently make innovative decisions – this is how we do it. 

What we mean by innovative thinking 

It’s a very deliberate approach. From the very start of a new project, we make sure to always put the end-user first, understand what is fact and what is an assumption and most importantly, throw people with differing perspectives (often contradictory) onto the problem. 

Some people call it ‘thinking outside of the box’, or maybe ‘lateral thinking’, but we don’t like to label it too much. 

It’s more of a mindset or way of working – the important thing is to create an environment where the most senior and most junior person in the room feels comfortable to input and most importantly disagree. 

It’s the most efficient way to launch projects faster and spot problems before they happen. 

Ki’s 5 steps to consistent innovation

1.     Create an environment where people can share ideas without judgement. Everyone should be on a level playing field, able to contribute no matter their position in the business.We always start with mood boards and design thinking. From there we generate hypotheses we can test. 

2.     Find people who think differently to you. As humans we naturally gravitate to people who look and sound like us, but to innovate, you have to do the opposite. The team shouldn’t automatically reinforce everyone’s thinking – they should be able to challenge established thinking and bring a range of perspectives. 

3.     Learn from other industries. Have others solved similar problems? What can we use and learn that’s already out there? Ditch egos and look for inspiration. 

4.     Work in cross-functional teams. We put together squads of people from different departments – actuaries, data scientists, underwriters, developers, strategists etc – who work together directly. If we’re in the office, we sit together rather than in our individual departments. 

5.     Take a lean approach. Our industry is full of large, expensive and seemingly endless projects. A more efficient approach is to ask yourself – how do I get the most value from the least amount of effort? Create products fast, fail quickly, learn, then build on a solid foundation. It’s a nimble approach that allows us to adapt to problems. 

Innovating at Ki

Ki is modernising the speciality insurance market with technology, but it’s all made by great people who are focused on achieving a single outcome. Having a clearly defined and measurable ‘North Star’ has allowed us to rally around a common product-centric goal and prioritise what we do to achieve it. 

In traditional insurance companies you have front-office underwriters with technology and data science seen as a back-office functions. At Ki we have switched this dynamic on its head setting up our technology and data team as a strategic function. Bringing our technology and data science teams closer to our users has helped us develop solutions that work for them. 

Whilst technology is central to what we do, the people that create that technology have and continue to be they key to our success – they are our true IP. 

Using EDii (Educate, Develop, Innovate, Inspire) to nurture innovation

I’m an EDii coaching director. EDii is an education company built for regulated markets like insurance. 

Essentially, it’s all about entrepreneurial thinking – my background is from start-ups and also running my own business – so I now use this experience to show others how to develop those skills and use them in their company. 

My top 5 tips – what I teach as an EDii coaching director

  • Don’t be afraid to make decisions. 
  • It’s better to fail quickly and make changes, than take a long time to fail. 
  • When you fail (which you will), face up to it. Once you accept what doesn’t work – it will be easier to understand what does. 
  • Embrace uncertainty, don’t try and solve every problem before you start. 
  • Frameworks are important but view them as a guide – listen to your team and figure out what works best for you. 

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