Nationwide opens “CoOperative” innovation center

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Nationwide’s new “CoOperative” innovation center grew out of the carrier’s goal to redesign the work around insurance, says chief innovation officer Scott Sanchez.

Built in the former Arena Grand theater in Columbus, the CoOperative replaces a smaller off-site location that served as the company’s innovation HQ. The new site incorporates a number of hallmarks of ideation spaces inside and outside insurance; it’s modeled after a small town with a “Town Center” area for collaborative meetings and “neighborhoods” for quieter solo work. Its conference rooms are constructed to recall farmhouses, with movable walls and furniture to facilitate a wide number of group sizes and objectives

Sanchez says that Nationwide applied its design-thinking principles, which it has been using in innovation efforts overall, in designing the space for those efforts. The idea was to mitigate some of the backlash that’s been happening against the open-office concept.

“Having the other space before was allowing us to watch how people work, what worked and didn’t,” he says. “Lots of companies, even outside of insurance, open a space, live with it for a little bit, then have to adjust more than you expected. That’s because you didn’t redesign the work.”

While solo work like building spreadsheets or similar desk-based tasks are still done by the innovation team, “people have different postures during the day” based on the work they are doing or the conversations they need to have, Sanchez says. The CoOperative, then, has spaces that are designed for brainstorming and ideation sessions first, rather than re-purposing spaces meant for solo work. “One of our intentions is that you can move every piece of furniture very easily,” he explains.

While Sanchez’s innovation team is growing, he’s quick to make clear that the facilities are going to be open to all of the company’s associates that have to work with his team, and that they’re hoping that people who work at the headquarters bring ideas back with them.

“We want other associates to come in as well and see the different models, then go to their own spaces and use some of the same tools and techniques,” he says. “The thing I’m most excited about is not just to do great work, but also to enable our people.

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