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“How much is this worth?” Humana’s Chief Innovation Officer Explains Why This is the Wrong Question

Troy Montgomery
MBR , Volume 1 , 2017
Chris Kay, Humana’s Chief Innovation Officer, shared insights into the innovation decision-making process. Kay discussed specific strategies employed by Humana to bring consumer insights to action and he shared examples of the development of innovation ideas.
“The first, and most often wrong, question is, ‘How much is this worth?’” Chris Kay, the Chief Innovation Officer at the $50B health and wellness company Humana, shared his perspective on the criteria in selecting innovation ideas. Business leaders have a tendency to examine how much an innovation is worth in the early phases of innovation, but Kay argued organizations should focus measurements on customer desirability.
During a one hour interview Kay discussed a number of interesting innovation topics including why asking “How much is this worth?” is the wrong question to ask early in the innovation process. Kay confirmed that the majority of value is created in understanding the customer experience and innovating around it. At Humana early metrics concentrate on experiential measures of member health. Experiential measures are driven by research and based on customer insights and unmet needs.
Kay also discussed the importance of Co-creation, an innovation approach where Humana partners with smaller startup companies on new ideas. Humana’s innovation team seeks the best and brightest venture capital backed start-ups to form partnerships. Creating a shared view of success allows both the partner and Humana to capture knowledge, build value, and learn from failures. Decisions on these disruptive innovation ideas are typically made by a team of external partners, advisors, and leaders outside of Humana’s established lines of business.
Innovation at Humana also occurs internal to the organization. Humana is a diverse health and wellness company with lines of business including health insurance, health data analytics, pharmacy, and healthcare service providers. Kay highlights the importance of working across horizontal lines of business in such a large organization to minimize the effects of innovating in silos. Working off of horizontal platforms allows the company to take advantage of diverse resources to gain synergies when pursuing innovation ideas. Innovation across horizontals also increases transparency and allows Humana to build a portfolio of innovation ideas.
Humana, Innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Co-creation, Chief Innovation Officer

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