Innovation Works & UH Innov8 – Embracing Innovation at AF Group

If you check the table of contents or the LinkedIn home page for your industry journal of choice, chances are you’ll find an article on the importance of embracing innovation for the success of an organization.  At AF Group and its subsidiary, United Heartland, we’ve heard this message loud and clear.

Innovation Works:

AF Group first rolled out Innovation Works, its formal innovation department in January 2015.  Today, under the direction of Director of Innovation Abel Travis and Manager of Innovation Craig Bilinski, the department has contributed to AF Group’s growth and success through a variety of products and initiatives. These include research partnership with Johns Hopkins University, hosting of creative hackathons, and the creation of the Idea Pipeline, an idea management software tool used by employees and marketed publicly. Innovation Works closely monitors industry and market trends to identify new opportunities originating from new insurance models or technological breakthroughs.


Since 2014, a team of United Heartland (UH) executives, managers and employees from all departments have met regularly to brainstorm ways to encourage, support and leverage the creativity of their workforce. This exploration has included hosting annual United Heartland Innovation Weeks, assessment of hundreds of ideas submitted by UH innovators to the Idea Pipeline, testing and piloting of Innovation Works products, and participation in Innovation Works hackathons and Idea Pipeline Challenges.

We are incredibly lucky to work for an organization that encourages employees to share their diverse perspectives and bravely pursue new, innovative ways to contribute to the success of our organization. Our entire executive team actively participates in UH Innov8 team meetings and brainstorm sessions, and that support, along with the backing of Innovation Works, has made our efforts successful.

In future posts, we’ll discuss the business case for innovation in greater detail – for now, we’ll reinforce the importance of thinking outside the box and fully leveraging the diverse experiences and insights of a workforce, while being unafraid to pursue the new.  If we don’t innovate – if we stand still – we’ll be left behind.