Oil and water. Cats and dogs. Insurance and innovation. At first glance all three may seem like equally odd pairings, but Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company is making all the right moves to ensure their company’s future is one where insurance and innovation go hand in hand.
“Technology is turning our industry on its ear,” says Wawanesa’s VP of Innovation, Al McLeod. “It is changing customer expectations across the board. People have come to expect speed and convenience in all transactions and we need to meet or exceed those expectations.”
What McLeod and Wawanesa understand as well as anyone is that no industry is immune to rapid change in today’s economy. More than ever, if a company is standing still it won’t survive for long.
“It’s an incredibly exciting time right now for Wawanesa. We have over 3,000 staff who all have great ideas on how we can serve our customer better. Making sure we learn from them and build on their ideas will make us a better company.”
To drive innovation forward, McLeod and his team approach their work through five key focus areas:
- Competitive research to stay on top of (and in front of) current trends
- Innovation practice and implementation
- Digital transformation
- The Wawanesa Innovation Network – a group of academic, government, tech and distribution partners working to identify opportunities for innovation in the industry
- Wawanesa Labs – an effort to draw innovative ideas from all staff across the company
To ensure these initiatives thrive, McLeod is working with John Ferris and the innovation experts at Invision Edge to hone his team’s skills in the identification, development and implementation of innovation opportunities within the company.
But what drives Wawanesa isn’t just the internal application of these skills, they’re also committed to using them to benefit the community around them. This is a philosophy that should come as no surprise to the philanthropic community – ask anyone in Manitoba’s charitable sector what Wawanesa has done for their organization and you’re likely to get a smile and a pretty touching story.
Currently, McLeod and Wawanesa’s innovation team have set their sights set on the Manitoba Open Innovation Challenge – a project created by Jeff Ryzner and company at North Forge Technology Exchange, with round one focusing on solutions for Manitoba’s low national ranking in literacy and numeracy skills.
That ranking comes from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation & Development (OECD), which places Manitoba youth 8th and 9th out of all ten provinces when measuring literacy and numeracy skills, respectively. Provincial research also shows that this gap begins at a very early age, with data showing in some Manitoba communities up to 77% of kindergarteners are not ready for grade 1 literacy and numeracy curricula.
Through the Manitoba Open Innovation Challenge, North Forge is looking for community-generated innovations to help solve this complex problem – something Wawanesa is thrilled to be a part of.
“We dedicate time to building houses for those in need, plane-pulls, etcetera, so why should this be any different?” says McLeod, with Wawanesa supporting the initiative both financially and by involving their own staff in generating ideas. “Right from the outset our goal with our innovation program has been to hold back some of our capacity for community projects and this seemed like a perfect fit.”
The Manitoba Open Innovation Challenge was announced in early November and those wishing to submit their ideas have until January 11th, 2018. To help guide participants and lead them through a unique innovation development process, North Forge and Invision Edge are holding an Ideation Session on Friday, December 1st – something McLeod and his team from Wawanesa are also proud to support.
“I’ve lived in Winnipeg my whole life. I love Winnipeg because I see limitless potential if we’re able to harness all the talent and resources our province has at its disposal,” says McLeod. “Using that talent to help develop something like child literacy and numeracy skills has a huge multiplier effect that can positively impact our province for generations. We at Wawanesa look forward to working with parents, students, teachers, early childhood educators, community leaders, youth and representatives from the private sector on this noteworthy initiative.”