Vinaj's Spotlight Series features insightful dialogues investigating both the current and future state of innovation and how mindful leadership is advancing our workforce, industries, and global citizenship.

A Perspective on Innovation Challenges

with Faye Sahai

I'm Faye Sahai, Global Head of Technology Innovation for AIG (2015-18)
VINAJ: Introduce yourself briefly and your role at AIG

FAYE: I'm Faye Sahai, Global Head of Technology Innovation for AIG. My role is to identify and evaluate emerging technology that may impact or disrupt the insurance industry. Through our unique innovation capabilities, we then steward these innovative technologies across the innovation lifecycle, from concept to prototype, from pilot to scale. Our focus areas in 2017 include: AI/machine learning, cybersecurity, sharing economy, blockchain and industrial IoT… and understanding their ability to deliver values, in the unique contexts of risk prevention/management and value-add. To learn more about our work, please visit aig.com/innovative-tech

VINAJ: What was the motivation in running innovation challenges?

FAYE: For the AIG University Innovation Challenge, we cover many opportunities with this one event. The online portion allows us to identify talented students across the U.S. and Canada (and hopefully beyond in future challenges). These students represent both our future workforce and our future client base. We want to know how and what they are thinking when it comes to insurance.

The country challenge we operated in Canada allowed us to identify the startups emerging in the insurtech space. This challenge had a very different feel and purpose because we were seeking revenue-generating solutions aligned with our business strategy.

While both challenges had different purposes and outcomes, both also had a similarity. They allowed us to showcase how innovative AIG is and how this translates into being our clients’ most valued insurer.

VINAJ: What are the main differences between running a University challenge vs. a challenge sourcing startups?

FAYE: The main difference is the audience/participants. In our University Challenge, we partnered with AIG University Relations and had a recruiting focus. For the country challenge, we were aiming to drive business and partnered with AIG Canada and the Consul General of Canada.

VINAJ: Describe the AIG Canada Innovation Challenge that you ran in the fall of 2016.

FAYE: As you can see in the video below, we wanted to highlight how startups and a large incumbent, traditional insurance company can not only co-exist but benefit mutually from each other. Startups who entered the challenge demonstrated their innovative capabilities to use emerging technologies to provide on-demand travel insurance, prevent fraud detections, and enable immersive VR-based risk assessment tools.

VINAJ: How did you engage internal employees and what was the general feedback you received from them?

FAYE: One of the unique components with the country challenge was to embed a strong internal engagement component to it. In the weeks leading up to the challenge, we shared a weekly innovation-based question with our AIG Canada workforce. Employees could respond each week. The more engaged the answers and responses, the more opportunity they had to be involved in the challenge. Based on participation, employees were able to be part of the finalist selection committee, coaches for the finalists, and two were selected to be part of the judging panel with senior executives. Volunteers for the challenge were AIG Canada employees; and the challenge delivered positive results both internally and externally.

VINAJ: What are 2 or 3 key lessons learned that could be beneficial to other innovation challenges?

FAYE: With any challenge, the business stakeholders must be engaged from the beginning so they are committed when the real work begins – executing and implementing the winning ideas. Secondly, an engaged internal workforce drives commitment, passion and insight. This component cannot be overlooked. Finally, it’s easy to find 100 solutions to 100 problems. The more specific the challenge question is, the better the result will be for the business. It’s better to have fewer strong solutions than a multitude of mediocre, vague ideas when choosing finalists.