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MetLife Guest Blog: Hacking to the Future of Innovation

Hacking to the Future of Innovation
By Pawan Verma, MetLife Chief Information Officer

Creating a culture of innovation is critical as companies compete for market share. Leaders are always looking for new, creative ideas to move the needle in this space. One way to think differently is to harness the creativity and great thinking inside your company through a Hackathon.

At MetLife, we just wrapped a Global Hackathon event where more than 2,700 current employees across departments, functions, and geographies signed up to ‘Hack to the Future of Customer Care’. During the four-week challenge, participants ideated, finessed, and pitched innovative ideas to heighten the customer experience. The Hackathon teams developed 300+ unique, tech-forward solutions that have the power to drive business initiatives and increase efficiency.

We learned a lot – from driving global engagement to raising our engineering culture. Here are a few lessons we took from our event, as well as tips to keep in mind for driving innovation, experimentation, and collaboration:

Eliminating silos to fuel innovation. Innovation is everyone’s job. Eliminating silos and promoting cross-organization collaboration goes a long way in kickstarting innovation. Hackathon participants were different ages and genders, came from different geographies, and worked in different teams, which went a long way in fostering new concepts. Some team members didn’t even know one another before being assigned. These cross-functional groups truly fueled off each other’s talent and expertise to create winning solutions in only a few weeks.

Innovation is not about chasing the shiny new toy. Our Hackathon provided clear direction to participants as they set off to create solutions: come up with ideas that will help improve our customer experience. This wasn’t about developing something cool that wouldn’t provide customer impact. Everything you do as an organization should revolve around the customer experience, and a Hackathon is no different. Provide an opportunity for participants to build real-world solutions for your business challenges, and everybody wins.

Spotlighting and investing in employees. Bringing together employees to solve a challenge promotes networking and engagement – and facilitates excellent learning experiences and skill development opportunities. It’s also a great way to identify employees’ hidden skills. For employees working remotely or in the office, a Hackathon can serve as a connection point and build culture, office vibrancy and heightened engagement.

One winner. Many ideas. Our Hackathon identified one global winning team that is slated to receive funding for their idea through MetLife’s Experimentation Fund, a pool of money set aside each year for employees to test new ideas. The solution created by a cross-sectional team (including two colleagues who work at our Cary, NC Global Technology Hub), the Real-time Claim Tracker, helps customers understand exactly where their insurance claim is in the process and shares real-time updates. Aside from the winning solution, the event resulted in hundreds of unique concepts that have the potential to benefit MetLife in a major way for years to come.

Implementing new internal initiatives, like a Hackathon, can be the turning point in igniting a company’s creativity at a whole new level and equip leaders with fresh ideas, a clear direction, and a unified employee base to hack to the future of innovation.

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