Motivating and Energizing Innovation at Great American Insurance Group

October 30 2013 | Karen Furtado

Great American Insurance Group (GAIG), in recognition of their highly successful “i-Lab” innovation concept, was the recipient of an SMA Innovation in Action Award at the recent 2013 SMA Summit: INNOVATE for ADVANTAGE in Boston.

While GAIG did have multi-year projects underway to upgrade core legacy applications, they were concerned about the fact that there was no real focus being devoted to R&D or innovation projects. They feared they might be missing opportunities to take advantage of new technologies and novel approaches. Recognizing that it was critical to foster a culture of innovation and collaboration in their technology department and that it was important to empower their employees, they provided them with the power and responsibility to own a project and be accountable to each other.

Hence, the “i-Lab” concept was born. For six weeks, a group of six IT employees, from all disciplines and roles, were taken out of their everyday roles and surroundings to collaborate regarding specific business opportunities. Their task was to take an idea from concept to near-implementation within six weeks, without the usual project constraints that often hinder true innovation.

It is remarkable that with an investment of only 1% of their IT personnel allocated at any given time (six people from a staff of 600), five ideas were thoroughly explored and several fully developed. These concepts included a mobile underwriting application, an executive dashboard that used multiple information sources, exploration of text mining techniques, a desktop underwriting data gathering application, and an electronic signature service that is available for any application. Teamwork continues and fresh ideas are still being submitted. Many members want to continue to be involved in the formal projects that result, or continue in the ongoing creative thinking process. It is easy to see how engagement with the business at a more innovative and social level has facilitated collaboration.

The Great American Insurance Group success story exemplifies how setting the stage for innovation, such as they have done through the i-Lab projects, is not only creating new and innovative solutions, it is encouraging an environment where ideas are valued and employees are motivated to improve every process and interaction. This spirit of innovation is motivating and energizing.

Please contact me for any additional information about the award program or the 2013 winners.  I can be reached at or 978.239.2741.    


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To learn more, please contact:
Karen Furtado
ReSource Pro