As technology continues to pervade companies of all shapes and sizes, leaders are questioning themselves and the future readiness of their organization, especially around the topic of innovation. What does it take for a company to truly be innovative?

OneAmerica, with its long history and a downtown Indy presence that dominates the skyline, is facing this very question. Its response has set the tone for how innovation can manifest in companies that may not seem tech-focused but are, in fact, enabling better work, better products and better service through technology.

Considering innovation’s role

One of the elder statesmen of companies in Indiana, OneAmerica can trace its Indiana roots back to 1877. The company, which is primarily known for its insurance and workplace benefit programs, has built a stable, traditional firm with about 1,700 Indy-local employees and more than 2,500 around the U.S. 

Like any company, OneAmerica is subject to changing tides. Tech’s disruption has challenged a lot of the concepts underpinning the company’s business lines. As its customers get savvier about applying tech to their interactions with the company, OneAmerica realized it needed to define how it would think about its position in the future and where technology could slot in and improve its work. 

The company has committed serious brain power toward understanding its position through the lens of innovation. An internal innovation advisory board includes OneAmerica’s Executive Council who craft the strategies to foster innovation, and an operations council then deploys the tactical elements. Within the umbrella of “innovation,” OneAmerica is targeting ideas around people and culture development and strategic partnerships, leveraging its current assets to determine its place in innovation and build out programs and business functions to capture the benefits from innovation.

Dream big and be a champion

Activating innovation at OneAmerica assumed a physical form during a recent Innovation Day. All associates were given the day off and encouraged to attend a day of workshops, speakers and programming at the Indiana Historical Society. 

“Innovation to us is listening to your customers and exposing a subject to creativity in order to create something uniquely valuable,” said Derek Clinton, enterprise innovation leader at OneAmerica. 

Derek and his team have been instrumental in activating the functions of Innovation Day. The heart of their pitch to associates is to think differently about the work they’re doing, to challenge how things get done at OneAmerica and how associates can champion their own or others’ initiatives to make things better. 

At Innovation Day, OneAmerica’s associates were exposed to all kinds of new tech, everything from VR and autonomous vehicles to the World’s Largest Pac-Man Game. The focus was on the innovations that could be making an impact on their lives in the future, and this event helps spark discussions around this tech. 

Throughout the day, speakers led sessions and challenged associates’ boundaries in figuring out where they can drive innovation internally. Representatives from Purdue University, D.C.-based InnovatorsBox, Cognizant and Amazon shared insights on innovation.

A gamified app, built by Indy-based Socio, injected some fun into the mix as associates engaged in friendly competition while exploring the day’s offerings. Attendees earned points for completing various tasks throughout the day, and high scorers were eligible for prizes.

During Innovation Day, OneAmerica associates earned points by completing goals and milestones. Points were tracked in this gamified app.

Innovation Day also played host to an internal pitch competition, in which associates with fresh ideas shared their innovations with a panel of esteemed judges, both local and national. More than 160 OneAmerica associates from every business line developed concepts that went through several iterations of Shark Tank-like winnowing. Out of this process, seven finalists competed in the rapid-fire pitch challenge during Innovation Day.

The judges selected several ideas as winners in various categories, including the grand champion concept Dashboard Angels, which integrates technology into a portal that provides a 360-degree view of a customer. Winning ideas will undergo more review as the company thinks about how it can develop them into actionable products and services. 

By the end of Innovation Day, OneAmerica looked to inspire its associates and plant the seeds of internal innovation. “We wanted our associates to walk away believing that they can innovate regardless of where they are in our organization,” said Derek. 

The company is considering best practices to keep momentum behind this major innovation push, including workshops and other ideation opportunities. While OneAmerica is currently considering another Innovation Day in the future, the company hopes associates continue to drive innovation and help answer the question of what it means for OneAmerica to be a truly innovative company.