Digital Insurance recently held its annual Women in Insurance Leadership conference. It was a day and a half event for insurance industry leaders to learn, network, and share ideas. The event nurtured the need for both continued professional, industry education and personal leadership growth.
Risk Taking Lessons
The speakers and panelists all had diverse backgrounds and shared nontraditional paths they took to get to their leadership position. This greatly inspired conference attendees. The common thread throughout was courage.
The insurance industry traditionally avoids risk; indeed, its entire existence is to help people and businesses manage and avoid risk. Knowing this is the foundation of the industry, it was this juxtaposition of the message from this week’s conference that most definitely encouraged the insurance industry and the women who lead it to take risks. The message of courage was prevalent both from the speakers’ and attendees’ stories of career path and from the stories about the teams and products in their charge. These women are courageously changing the insurance industry and changing what’s traditionally viewed as a woman’s career paths.
Open to Change
Another common message at the conference is that insurance consumers are evolving and there is a direct cost in failing to innovate to meet consumers’ needs. When outside influences like online shopping, movie and video streaming, and payment apps are the new normal for customers, insurance products can’t fall behind. Product delivery and the customer experience model is changing. Rarely in customers’ daily lives are they making phone calls, shopping at store fronts, or sending paper forms in the mail. Even ordering coffee at Starbucks has a digital experience. This means that insurance needs to be open: open to changing process, open to sharing information with customer partners through APIs, open to scrutinizing its data for usefulness. And insurance is expected to do all this innovation while still complying with regulations, confidentiality and privacy, client contracts, and underwriting rules. Leading this change takes courage.
The Women in Insurance Leadership conference offered solid and usable tools for overcoming these hurdles. The conference provided a forum in which we can both sharpen and open our mindset to meet this changing marketplace in which insurance operates.
Be Open to Failure as a Path to Transformative Change
There are few topics that tend to be unheard of in the traditionalist hallways of the insurance industry. Indeed, even in a risk-averse industry like insurance, failure is now encouraged. In fact, failure is now viewed as a necessity – especially when it happens often and quickly. For the faster the failure, the quicker to learn and offer a product that meets customer demands. In one session, the audience was challenged to transform, not just optimize, using digital tools. This encouraged attendees to think differently about technology: by using technology, were they merely optimizing a broken process to go faster and cheaper, or could the technology be a transformative means to impactive change.
Because, what got insurance to a solid stable industry, even if tried and true, is not what will maintain the industry’s relevance into the coming decades. Simply put, question whether you hold on to old processes with new technology or can the industry challenge itself to break the mold, just like recent technologies transform how we go about our daily lives.
Consider how Waze GPS directions changed the way we drive, touch screen smart phones changed telecommunications and computing, and artificial intelligence like Siri and Alexa changed internet searching. What changes will we see in the insurance industry after we try, and fail, and try, and learn, and try and change?
Hiring for “Spark” Drives Innovation
Listening to the speakers share their personal backgrounds and experience leading teams provided new insight to how the industry needs to cultivate talent to support change. It’s clear that hiring for current skill and experience, while a safe practice, does not lead to innovation. Instead, hire those with spark and a desire to learn and achieve. Skills can be taught, as most women at the conference have proven. But hiring someone with diverse backgrounds and unique ideas, a true non-conformist, can truly drive innovation. Leave the tasks to the machines, for artificial intelligence is here to stay. Hire people who will do the innovative thinking, which can be achieved by taking someone with skills, education, and training from other industries and plopping them into your insurance organization. That’s where the true innovation will happen.
This conference was exciting and challenged leaders to innovate and modernize the buttoned-up insurance industry.
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