Thirty one bright minds sat around the conference table, looking at me expectantly. They were lawyers, engineers, marketers, IT specialists, government workers, project managers and many other unique backgrounds. There was also clear diversity in age, gender and ethnicity.
I was presenting to the University of Sydney post-graduate students at the kick-off to their final Capstone subject – which brings together all their learnings from the MBA program into a real world business environment.
For the past four years, Swiss Re has collaborated with the University of Sydney by setting the business problem and providing advice and expertise as the students apply their learnings with 'real-life' problems, customers and business stakeholders. This year's problem: we challenged the students to engage with the Agricultural sector – a customer base that many were not familiar with – and come up with a solution that would appeal to them.
So what benefits can we receive from tapping into the brainpower of a group of people who know very little about our industry, products and customers?
Swiss Re is always looking for ways to access fresh perspectives and innovative thinking – and an understanding of the user experience without bias of past experience, industry norms or internal agendas.
Internally, diversity of thinking is generated through the use of cross-functional teams – leveraging the skills and experience across our value chain to workshop, debate and create scenarios and solutions. Our global network is also a great source of diverse thinking due to the range of markets, regulatory practices and competitive environments that Swiss Re operates in.
With regards to the University of Sydney program, avoiding technical jargon meant we were talking in plain English about human behaviours and decision-making processes that we can all relate to. The diversity of thinking drove the issues down to the root cause, and simplified the problem.
From a personal perspective, the alternate views and curiosity of the students made me look at perspectives I hadn’t previously considered, and think of simpler and more relevant ways to explain technical concepts. I was particularly tested when trying to explain some of our industry practices – and found myself wondering: why do things end up being so complicated?
I realised that simplifying concepts is a great way to test the benefits of what you are doing. As an industry looking to connect customers, how can we successfully communicate our messages to an audience with limited knowledge of the topic and limited time to understand it?
The program delivered insights that have helped us and some of our clients reconsider how we engage with customers in the Agricultural sector, building a relationship with them outside of the traditional insurer/insured transaction and subsequently providing solutions to new markets.
Maybe as well as the 'voice of the customer' we should also ensure we think in the 'voice of diversity', or even the 'voice of simplicity'?
Location: Sydney NSW, Australia