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IBX Insights

How Independence Makes Innovative Ideas Happen

By January 11, 2017August 23rd, 2021Innovation

Cross your arms. Now try crossing them the opposite way. Feels strange, doesn’t it? Try it a few more times, and it won’t feel as strange.

To be innovative, you have to practice getting comfortable doing uncomfortable things.

Independence Blue Cross (Independence) encourages employees to think creatively and step outside our comfort zone to solve business challenges.

We have access to tools, like our Human-Centered InnovationSM toolkit, and training to help us develop “the habit of continually doing things in new ways,” which is how we, as a company, define innovation.

Adopting creative behaviors to make innovative ideas happen

I recently participated in an interactive workshop at our Independence Center for Health Care Innovation to learn more about using the process of design thinking to put people first when you’re problem-solving.

Design thinking is being applied across multiple industries to design products, as well as experiences, services, and systems. Our workshop challenge, for example, was to design an experience or service to help our members who don’t use their health insurance coverage as often to engage with Independence in other ways.

Not all of us are born creative thinkers. But as our workshop showed, it’s possible to adopt creative behaviors to help you make innovative ideas happen.

Teach yourself to think outside the box

  • Greenhousing. Give new ideas time to grow, and resist the urge to crush them. It’s similar to the improvisation technique of saying “Yes, and…” to keep ideas flowing freely, something Upper Darby, Pa. native Tina Fey refers to in her book, Bossypants.
  • Signaling. Communicate openly with your collaborators so everyone understands where they are in the process and what they’re being asked to do.
  • Bravery. Take risks to share your ideas without fear of being judged. One person’s bravery can inspire others to share, which creates momentum.
  • Freshness. Try new things to help you make creative connections. Being “fresh” can be as simple as taking a different route to work or listening to a new radio station.

A strategic approach to innovation

Once you understand how to be a more creative thinker, you can begin using design thinking principles to help make innovative ideas happen.

How exactly do you do it? It’s not about throwing out a lot of ideas and hoping one sticks.

We learned that design thinking takes a strategic, phased approach: Investigate, design, experiment, and act.

There are steps in each phase to help you ask a lot of questions, generate ideas, gather insights from the people you’re designing for, and narrow your ideas to move forward with the best ones.

How design thinking helps you problem solve

  • It’s collaborative. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Design thinking brings people with different views and experiences together to support new ideas and work together toward a solution.
  • It’s playful. Doodling isn’t just allowed, it’s essential to the process because it demonstrates critical thinking. Markers, whiteboards, and sticky notes are the tools for capturing new ideas, journey mapping, and storyboarding.
  • It’s personally challenging. As part of insight gathering for our workshop challenge, we conducted on-the-street interviews. Approaching total strangers was not easy, but it provided deeper insights than an anonymous survey or a web search.
  • It’s customizable. Once you learn design thinking basics, you can use them over and over again, with smaller or larger teams, and for challenges of varying complexity.
  • It’s empowering. Although I’m not a designer (and I can barely draw stick figures), I left the workshop feeling more creative and confident I could apply design thinking principles to other real-life business challenges.

In just a few hours, our workshop teams came up with several original ideas that we could pilot within six months — one of the success measures for the “act” phase of our challenge.

Ways to become a more creative thinker

Do you want to be a more creative thinker but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:


Mary Eileen O'Connor

My personal philosophy about health and well-being is to have simple goals and stick to them — whether it’s drinking more water, working in a few extra steps each day, or just making time to unplug. When I’m not busy writing creative content for a variety of audiences, my favorite ways to unwind include enjoying local arts and culture, reading a good book, and watching TV cooking shows.