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Delve Talks: Ryan Rist, American Family Insurance

Delve Talks is a podcast that digs into the challenges around design, product development, leadership and innovation. Our first season focuses on what it takes to create a corporate culture that supports innovation.


Dave Franchino: Hi, thanks for joining us everybody. I'm your host Dave Franchino and joining me today. Our guest is Ryan Rist, the Director of Innovation at American Family Insurance. Ryan's got a really interesting position. He leads a team of innovative consultants who work within the larger American Family organization to help reimagine insurance, which is a really interesting challenge, which I'm sure we can get into that. In 2014 and 2015, Ryan managed the Microsoft and American Family home automation accelerator in Seattle and that incubated 10 really promising startups in home security, energy, water, and automation. So welcome Ryan. Thanks for coming in the show. We really appreciate it. Maybe a good way to start would be just to sort of tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, how you got into the field, and how it might impact some of your thoughts on innovation.

Ryan Rist: Sure. Well, thank you Dave. Thanks for having me. I'm a huge fan of yours and Design Concepts (now Delve). So happy to be here. My background … I stumbled into innovation and it all makes sense now, but it didn't make sense along the way. So, a little bit about me … I never knew what I wanted to be in life. I went from biochemistry to pre-med to veterinary to law to business and finally said I'm just going to go work in the real world and then figure it out. I’ve always been intellectually curious. It put my first computer together, took up photography later in life, then home brewing. My wife jokes I’m like a serial hobbyist and I can't do anything else because the attic is full of my crap that I’m not using anymore. My career started with Lucent Technologies. And I think there's a thread here about technology that I am a technophile and I am fascinated with technology. That was a good place to kind of cut my teeth. That was the height of the dot-com bubble. So, I got to see the absolute peak and the bust and then moved up to Madison where my wife is from. I got married and American Family has been my employer for the last 17 years. In the middle of that, I co-founded a startup that ended up getting acquired by marine electronics company. It was in the recreational fishing space. So, a lot of different things and about five years ago I was asked to take over the innovation team function and make some changes. I was sort of drafted into that role and kind of had a “oh, crap” moment. Why does this function exist? What should it be doing? What does a world-class team look like and how do we go build one? That's been what I've been obsessed about over the last five years.

Ryan Headshot web 03 e1467896389685
Ryan Rist, Director of Innovation, American Family Insurance

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Delve has merged with Bresslergroup. Learn more →