Blog

An Innovation Disconnect

Craig Weber
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 16, 2013

“Innovation” has become this decade’s go-to business concept. Its star is clearly rising, which makes it easy — perhaps too easy — for the C suite to champion.

The optimists and visionaries among us look to innovation for powerful, fundamental shifts. But for most people, the seduction of innovation is in incremental improvements, not disruption. We want the benefits of change, but only within the comfortable confines of our existing routines. We love the idea of fixing things at a fundamental level, but we settle for smoothing out the rough edges of our day-to-day experiences because fundamental change is such hard work.

So when a senior leader proudly proclaims, “We will achieve high performance through innovation … ” most of us, at least momentarily, suspend our disbelief. We let our enthusiasm for change overpower any cynicism left over from previous efforts to change the world. (“Reengineering,” anyone?) With our platitude filters temporarily disabled, we follow leadership’s directives down a path that is likely to fail.

But we know that hoping isn’t the same as doing. We intuit that innovation of any type requires immense levels of planning, organizational energy, and drive: It’s not the purely creative exercise that it sounds like on the surface. We know that the connection between bold and inspiring proclamations and productive actions is often not made, or made badly.

Talk Is Cheap

On the inspiration and the business trend fashion scales, the word “innovation” is probably a nine or 10 out of 10. So it’s not surprising that 27 percent of respondents to a recent Celent survey on innovation said that innovation is “critical” to their company’s strategy, and another 66 percent said it was “important.”

Some of that enthusiasm is driven from the C suite. Sixty-two percent of survey respondents said that innovation had C-level champions in their firms. But despite the near-universal understanding that important initiatives need do-ers to support cheerleaders, a relatively small number of firms Celent surveyed reported that they had a chief innovation officer (11 percent) or an Innovation Center of Excellence (27 percent).

The implication is that a good number of C suite execs are saying that innovation is important, but they expect it to happen organically, as part of normal operations.

This finding raises interesting questions. Is it possible to drive innovation through existing organizational structures? If there is no one with an “Innovation!” sign over his or her door, is it reasonable to expect meaningful innovation? Is the fact that the C suite champions innovation likely to translate to substantial improvements in business products, processes, and services that customers and intermediaries will notice?

The answers are all the same: no. Having C-level support for innovation is necessary, but it is not enough to create meaningful innovation of any type. Getting the executives to stand up and say, “This is important to us, and I’ll support you as you make it happen … ” is only the launching point for an innovation journey.

Check back here next week to find out how to make this a reality.

Craig Weber is CEO of Celent, a research and advisory firm.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Craig using the “Add Your Comments” box below. 

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

Comments (1)

Interesting article, Craig.
What are your thoughts on corelation between organizations having C-level champions on innovation to what they have accomplished successfully as a break-through process/solution?

Posted by: Saravana kumari S | October 17, 2013 1:59 PM

Report this Comment

Add Your Comments...

Already Registered?

If you have already registered to Insurance Networking News, please use the form below to login. When completed you will immeditely be directed to post a comment.

Forgot your password?

Not Registered?

You must be registered to post a comment. Click here to register.

Blog Archive

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Of Enterprise BI

When IT can't deliver, business users build their own applications focusing on agility, flexibility and reaction times.

The IT-Savvy 10%

IBM survey reveals best practices of IT leaders.

The Software-Defined Health Insurer: Radical But Realistic?

Can a tech startup digitally assemble the pieces of a comprehensive, employer-provided health plan?

Data Governance in Insurance Carriers

As the insurance industry moves into a more data-centric world, data governance becomes more critical for ensuring the data is consistent, reliable and usable for analysis.

Fear This

Just days before this Issue, which contains our security cover story, went to press, we got some interesting news: 1.2 billion unique usernames and passwords and 542 million email addresses were reportedly stolen from 420,000 websites, according to The New York Times. The websites ranged from Fortune 500 companies down to small online retailers.

Should You Back Up Enterprise Data to the Cloud?

Six questions that need to be asked before signing on with an outside service.