Envisioning the future of insurance
Together, we co-discovered how virtual reality technology can change how the company approaches innovation.
Technology enablement, Experience design
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Accelerating innovation at Allstate
With technology changes and customer habits accelerating, Allstate wanted to find commercial applications for new ideas and enable employees who were eager to experiment with emerging technologies.
The insurance giant has already made big investments in innovation, from partnering with startups to building apps that protect teen drivers and help customers archive possessions.
But it wanted to accelerate its growth as an efficient and open organization that embraces innovation among employees. That meant understanding things like how to hold hackathons, and how to use Part of the answer was a joint hackathon with Slalom Build to explore both process and technology.
Slalom Build's Role
- Facilitate workshops to foster ideation on business opportunities, and facilitate new insights using emerging technologies.
- Provide innovation, business strategy & technology engineering leadership.
- Organize, host & deliver the hackathon logistics.
- Provide insights into how claims adjustment training is currently conducted.
- Drive internal interest in Allstate personnel participating in the hackathon.
- Obtain business sponsorship and buy-in on resource availability.
“It was like a blind date with the future of the company. How do we repeat that?”
Building a culture of engagement
The mutual goal: Road-test the capabilities of Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets to address specific Allstate business objectives.
“We wanted to role model that kind of exercise,” says Brian Gore, director of talent development, organizational culture, and customer strategy at Allstate. “We thought our biggest deliverable would be advancing our problem solving and innovation skills.”
Along the way, says Gore, a deeper benefit emerged: a “culture of engagement.”
Exploring emerging technology
Allstate’s examination of virtual reality technology used a two-phase approach.
In the first phase, Slalom engineers explored the edge of the envelope as it existed at the time, looking for the art of the possible – and barriers likely to waylay newcomers.
For instance, Slalom developers quickly discovered that 3D environments for virtual reality headsets lent themselves to a roller coaster experience – where, for example, a goggle-wearing participantcould enjoy a 360-degree view of their surroundings while traveling through an environment along a set path. Or it could be used to explore a defined space, as in first-person video games.
The second phase brought the excitement. A daylong hackathon for Allstate teams, alongside seasoned Slalom developers, at which some of Allstate’s most tantalizing business challenges were fair game.
Allstate employees volunteered from across business units, including technology, claims, and finance.
They were encouraged to form teams in advance and brainstorm a plan for the hackathon to best push the technology – and themselves – to unexpected insights.
The approach asked more from Allstate engineers and developers, who had to think beyond the technological limits of the technology to explore concepts that could support real-world business goals.
“The behind-the-scenes pre-work that Slalom did allowed us to enter at a more common point.”
BRIAN GORE, DIRECTOR OF TALENT DEVELOPMENT, ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE, AND CUSTOMER STRATEGY
Hacking a new approach to problem solving
The rapid ideation helped Slalom Build understand the problems Allstate was facing And for Allstate, this approach to innovation not only helped them begin to solve real-world problems, but also elevate the thinking and the confidence of the people who participated. Six working virtual reality prototypes were presented on the very same day they were concepted, and were presented to a wide range of Allstate executives. In the end, everyone walked away with a keen understanding of how to approach new technologies and quickly ideate on how they could be applied broadly. For many of the company’s employees, the virtual reality hackathon has infused ongoing efforts. That was table stakes to the big bet that followed, says Gore: “The process opened the mindset to opportunities.