Ongoing innovation is an imperative for the modern corporation, and this is particularly true in the insurance industry. Advances in mobile and automotive technology, sensor networks for our homes and communities, and new ways to store, share and analyze vast amounts of data all are accelerating the pace of change. It is necessary to understand and adapt to these advancements while delivering one’s own innovations to stay ahead in the market.

There are many steps along the path to delivering successful innovation: idea generation, identifying the most worthy ideas and delivering a fully formed product or technology to market. I’ve been thinking lately about the first phase of the innovation journey — creating or finding the right ideas in the sea of concepts competing for our attention.

Sometimes I hear concerns that companies are overlooking promising ideas from employees already within the company; other times I hear worries that “not invented here” syndrome is keeping teams overly focused in their existing network echo chamber, unable to see the great ideas just outside their own walls. Both of these can happen, so the best solution is to balance and blend the strengths of looking outward while cultivating “intrapreneurial” skills within.

It’s important to not overlook the assets within one’s own organization; there is a reason that teams have been successful over time. Teams know the customer, have product expertise, understand operational excellence at scale, are able to recognize and manage risk, and have access to vast stores of data and IP. Within our own walls we have so many smart people who understand the industry and how to deliver for the customer. Delivering today’s demands while simultaneously looking to the future is no small task, but it’s one that must be achieved.

Outside of one’s company, a mere glance at the business or technology press, a click on Twitter, or a visit to a hackathon will provide a sense of the continuing explosion of ideas. With so many tools now widely available, it’s become easier and easier for anyone to take an idea and develop a working prototype.

We should not overlook the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a source of ideas for the future. In fact, we should actively seek ways to connect with those ideas. Allstate recently participated in the Illinois Corporate/Startup Challenge, and at the event I saw some strong presentations from teams working with universities and Chicago-area incubators. There are a lot of great ideas out there, and I believe smart companies will recognize how the best of these ideas can be adopted to serve their customers and the markets of the future.

We all know too well that picking the right ideas, technologies and business model innovations doesn’t guarantee success in either execution or in market success and companies … but it’s the critical first step to successful innovation. How are you and your teams positioned to identify the “next big thing”?

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. Published with permission.