"Whether companies use design or not is really about what type of activities they partake in. We have some decision makers who keep talking about design, while others are actually experiencing what design can mean in terms of business development: Actually doing it is a huge victory," Nisse J. Krenchel, Head of Innovation at Alm. Brand, points out. Krenchel, along with his team, is in charge of ensuring that the insurance company meets the market needs of the future. In this context, he points out that the company has completed three steps towards an increased use of design methods: From working with UX-design to digital solutions offering strategical insights to the user-driven design of solutions - and now, finally, strategic use of design.
Alm. Brand: The journey from service design to strategic design thinking
The first journey began in 2007, as Alm. Brand worked on digital solutions and new services. Alm. Brand enlisted user experience designers who introduced terms such as service design. Since then, the company has worked with design as a method to test new segments and markets.
According to Nisse J. Krenchel, Alm. Brand is driven by design in the sense that the management has a professional interest in design methods and the insights they create. Design is increasingly recognised as an important part of the company's strategy.
Customers are involved in product development
At Alm. Brand design methods are used to identify problems and focus areas, to give the company ongoing insights into customer segments, and to streamline and operationalize development and innovation processes. The insurance company is inspired by Lean UX and Google Design Sprints in their strategic work with innovation. This approach allows the company to rapidly test whether they are moving in the right direction. "It's more important to gain insights quickly than to do everything right from the beginning", Nisse J. Krenchel points out.
The management understands that design is necessary, and the value visible: A competitor spent five years taking their services as far as Alm. Brand did in just six months. Nisse J. Krenchel believes the will to involve customers from the very beginning of the product development, and in this way gain a better insight of what matters to the customers, is what helped speed up the process.
Interdisciplinarity is a prerequisite
One of the challenges the company is currently facing is digitalisation. To meet the development, Nisse J. Krenchel believes it is necessary to think interdisciplinarily. Today, the designers in Alm. Brand are customer-driven:
One of our key learnings is that when we succeed, it's because we've managed to work interdisciplinarily. I don't believe it's possible to work with design thinking and agile innovation in a company like Alm. Brand without a high level of cross-organisational and interdisciplinary efforts.
Nevertheless, there are some barriers when it comes to working across different departments and areas. Good design-driven work requires intensive processes. These are challenging in a work culture in which most employees have multiple tasks over long periods of time. On top of this, the employees have different background and prerequisites. When working with innovation, this condition contributes with important knowledge, but it can also be a challenge when employees don't speak the same language or have different priorities. Therefore, it's important to have the required patience to get the process established and to get the support of the management to focus on tasks that aren't related to the daily operation of the company.
Future insurance companies and design
According to Nisse J. Krenchel, the insurance industry is facing developments which require a new strategical approach.
With a business model that is more than a hundred years old, the technological development now allows insurance companies to meet their customers in new and more relevant ways. Welfare technologies and intelligent systems that can prevent everything from house fires, car accidents, flooded basements and unwelcome guests mean that people have less need for insurance. The insurance companies have an important job to do when it comes to helping their customers take care of risks that can be prevented in the future.
In the near future, trust and transparency will be important parameters that determine the choices of the customers. This means that the transparent insurance companies will be the most popular ones. Because of this, user-involvement and values such as empathy and trustworthiness will be crucial to a successful business. As Nisse J. Krenchel points out, in conclusion, this new approach goes hand in hand with being design-driven.