If one year ago you had handed Caroline Bedford (pictured) a crystal ball that told her what the next 12 months would bring for her and her team at EDII, she would have been equal parts delighted and terrified. It has been a remarkable first year, the CEO noted in conversation with Insurance Business, and one that has brought with it so many lessons, successes and opportunities.
A year in, EDII is already a different organisation to the one it was when it began, she said, and the team has learned fast and evolved quickly – two hallmarks of success when operating in the innovation space. Looking at some of the key highlights of this inaugural period, she identified kicking off EDII’s first cohort as a standout moment.
“One of the key ways our programme works is an evolutionary process,” she said. “Digital Minds is all about embedding a whole raft of innovation skills in people who do not naturally believe they sit in innovation roles. So, in terms of seeing that evolution, we recently had the cohort one end-of-year showcase.
“And seeing those delegates from day one through to the end of their 12-month programme, standing and presenting to an audience of over 100 people about projects that they had created and ideas they originated was a really powerful, emotional moment. Seeing those adjusters, actuaries, comms specialists and directors of operations bond and deliver that message was a great moment but also [a real sign] that the product works.”
Another highlight of the year was seeing the success of the next generation delegates who came to EDII via its partnership with the East London Business Alliance (ELBA), Bedford said. Each of these delegates has done very well for themselves, but it was particularly great to see one of them land a highly coveted full-time role within the insurance industry. This success story is exactly what Bedford and her team first set out to do with EDII – to give people an opportunity to help themselves.
“It’s about getting your foot in the door and taking this for every opportunity that you can, and about getting all the knowledge and skills that you possibly can,” she said. “And this particular individual really did that - and now his entire career trajectory has changed because of it.”
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Other highpoints of the year for EDII include several high-profile additions to the team, including that of Hélène Stanway as a non-executive director and coaching director, and Paul Willoughby as coaching director. In addition, EDII has moved to start a Digital Minds programme outside of the insurance industry having been introduced to a wider audience by insurance clients who, having availed of the programme, could see how it meets the demands of their own clients or partners.
“We’ve now got a chain going, where we are spreading that innovation language, capabilities and mindset with the organisations who are clients of the insurance industry,” she said. “Digital Minds is our flagship product, but we’ve also now adapted some of the specialisms from that to put together some different techniques and toolsets and we’ve aimed those at senior leaders. So, we’ve added more products to our suite that have been very well received and our menu has really grown.”
Adopting an innovation mindset is just as much about changing attitudes as it is about learning skills or developing capabilities and changing people’s attitudes is one of the hardest things to do. Bedford sees her role firmly as a “corporate designer” because in design, you’ve got the creator, the maker and the audience. Those three elements exist in the business world as well, she said, and what EDII is looking to do is spread that message.
People are really catching on to that messaging now, she said, and what’s ahead for EDII is to start leveraging the burgeoning understanding across the market of the crucial role of corporate creativity and “intrepreneurs”.
“We’re looking to develop those people in an organisation who are bringing projects and concepts but also adding energy and tenacity,” she said. “We are helping them harness that because we’re also aligning it with the corporate aspect of the business case, resource management, influencing, stakeholder management etc.
“I would say that’s one of the top challenges we’ve had over the year – being able to temper people’s desire to get straight into the ‘shiny parts’ of technology - whether that’s Blockchain or the Internet of Things, etc. Because those are just tools that are always going to change. Innovation is really about process. And [you’ll always have] people that get frustrated with that and our challenge is being able to really ensure that people buy into the fact that innovation is a culture and a mindset and a process.”