Creating An Innovation Culture

Rod Willmott looks at how the best innovation cultures are created


Rod works as an Innovation Director at financial services company LV. His career has spanned banking, the Home Office and the insurance sector, which gives him a broad perspective on the creation of innovation.

Ahead of the Chief Innovation Officer Summit in London, we sat down with him.

What do you see as the key challenge that you are addressing?

In insurance particularly, balancing the need for innovation and preparation for a potentially very different but unknown insurance market and managing the need to update and modernise existing legacy to cope with todays market.

Would you describe your organisation as having an ‘innovative culture’? If so, why?

Yes, we have invested in innovation capability from the ground up with collaborative staff innovation engagement to industry experimental services such as ‘CORA’ (intelligent automated pensions advice) and ‘ALVIN’ (Automated intelligent natural language agent) and foster innovation with senior executive roles dedicated to ensuring we have an innovation culture.

How do you measure ROI on innovation?

Individual projects we embark on are targeted to bring specific financial benefits to the organisation, as opposed to just ‘playing with good ideas’ we take a very practical view on returns within 6-12 months and the returns far exceed the costs of the investment as we go.

Does a specific ‘innovation’ role need to have a position in the boardroom, such as a Chief Innovation Officer?

We have a ‘Fast Track’ director and also other key executive roles with innovation responsibilities.

Should teams pushing new innovations be placed outside of the main organisation, in something such as a lab?

We believe that innovation needs to be driven as a core part of the delivery organisation, but we do foster the ‘two speed IT’ concept. Having a totally external LAB would be potentially too remote.

With technology converging industries, have you found you now have new, non-traditional competitors? Where are they coming from?

The knowledge about customers and their behaviours and subsequently potentially ‘risk profiling’ is emerging from organisations that have high volumes of customer data and good data analytics capabilities. This and small start-up organisations that do not have the traditional insurance legacy are potentially pose a threat of a different domain for insurance.

What do you think the biggest potential pitfall for an innovation executive is?

For business executives the struggle is the focus on ‘Todays’ business making innovative ideas seem like a distraction. For people focused just on innovation, pursuing what seems like a great idea but one which may not have business value is a risk, it’s easy to spend large amounts and become committed to a new concept that does not ‘gel’, hence we focus on smaller , faster and immediate pieces of a bigger puzzle.

Is the job title ‘Head of Innovation’ a symptom of an organisation’s lack of it in their DNA? If so, will these jobs disappear once this is rectified?

The world is changing so fast that the role needs to adapt, there will always be a need to think about what’s next, but the role may change from encouraging the organisation to change to facilitating the innovation that pours out once that change is embedded.


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