Ed Longley, Head of Onine at Hiscox, is a member of the judging panel for our Innovation Awards. 

I’ve been talking to Ed about how Hiscox encourages forward thinking within the company, what he will be looking for from awards entrants, as well as examples of innovation from the last 12 months.

What makes something innovative?

Innovation is being the first to try a new approach, whether this is in your geography or vertical industry and challenging the accepted norm by taking calculated risks.

How do you build an innovative company, or foster innovation within your organisation?

It needs to be top down, or at least from a very senior level to enable an environment where people are empowered to try out new ideas.

After that, the mind set needs to embrace and celebrate success while recognising and improving on ideas that don’t deliver their full potential.

Are most stakeholders at Hiscox happy to go along with innovative ideas, or do you have to work hard to persuade them to take chances?

At Hiscox, we have a management structure that actively encourages and embraces employees to take a step back and look at ways of doing things differently. Our company culture makes a point of challenging the norm.

An example of this is where all new employees are invited to lunch with our Chairman and senior Executive team where everyone has to bring a new idea to the table.

Can any company become innovative? What are the barriers to innovation within organisations?

Absolutely. The main barriers are culture and decision-making. Innovation requires creativity. personal accountability, teamwork and rapid decision making.

How do you persuade people to take risks and embrace innovative ideas?

Foremost we have to hit our numbers,  we are a Plc. After that, having delivered your numbers and earnt your stripes we are actively encouraged to bring fresh thinking to the table.

Being up front and open about the risks and how to mitigate against these is an important part of selling an idea in. After that, it is belief in your abilities and good judgement.

Why is innovation so important in the digital arena? Is there still plenty of scope for new innovation?

If you don’t do it, someone else will and potentially gain a competitive advantage as a result. It can limiting to view innovation in purely digital terms as people don’t view the world as online / offline or analogue/ digital.

Innovation should be integral to developing a campaign and digital fits in as part of the mix.

What will you be looking for when you judge entries to this year’s Innovation Awards?

Something that makes me wish I’d done it! It may or may not have an ROI.

What are your top three innovations for 2011?

In May we launched our first mobile proposition that included a mobile brochure site, segmented PPC traffic, mobile SEO optimised, mobile Pay Per Call, iPhone App and QR code integration across online and offline. We have learnt a lot from this, and it presents new opportunities.

In July, we ran a full attribution study that included all digital activities to channel, campaign, keyword and creative level. In conjunction with our programme of AB and MVT testing, we have improved our digital marketing efficiency and effectiveness, with a very strong ROI.

In October we invested marketing budget in the launch of a new Kindle “clipping service” (www.clipdo.com) that allows Kindle users to send website content to the Kindle to be read offline – a UK first.

Clipped articles include Hiscox advertising and the website carriers our branding. This was principally about exploring a new channel to reach our target audience.

What do you see as the major trends in digital for the next 12 months?

Beyond personalised location based mobile services, we will see a closer alignment and integration of online and offline, where brands increasingly offer customers a proposition, rather than online this and offline that. Blippar will be one to watch.