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Life After Innovation

Carrie Burns
Insurance Experts' Forum, May 6, 2014

At a recent insurance technology event focusing on innovation, the day started out with a mention of Progressive and ended with a mention of Progressive. What's interesting is the context.

Craig Weber, CEO of Celent, began the research and consulting firm's 2014 Innovation and Insight Day by taking a look at some of the past few weeks' news headlines in relation to innovation. Dead center was the news of Progressive's telematics patents being cancelled, which hints at a more accessible telematics market for insurers. But Weber's message with this news is that even when a company has innovated, as Progressive did with its telematics technology, something could come along and upend it.

Near the end of the day, a non-insurance speaker was asked by an audience member, "What insurance companies do you see doing innovation right?" He turned the question back to the audience. Crickets. Then one audience member spoke up with "Progressive." The problem with a discussion like this is that innovation is so subjective.

In its "IT Planning for Innovation: A CIO Checklist Report," Novarica categorizes innovation as "taking place when it impacts any business model, marketing effort, process, product, or service that ultimately generates economic value for both the innovator and its customers. Innovation can be either complete and fundamental changes in a business process or paradigm, or an incremental gain that positions a carrier to be better competitively than it was prior to making a specific set of investments."

But one thing most can agree on is that insurers should always be aiming for innovation and look at the bigger picture. What happens once the innovation is "completed?" In the Novarica report, author and principal Rob McIsaac says managers and executives often do not consider the longer-term implications for key staff members. "In addition to making notable contributions to bottom-line results, these opportunities allow staff members to build new skills and insights with broad applicability to future stages of their careers. Recognizing this upfront allows teams to consider when and where it would be appropriate to ramp people off innovation efforts and onto dedicated teams. While innovation teams may be focused on the here and now, executive sponsors need to be thinking considerably into the future in order to ensure that changes have both impact and longevity. Working with team members to develop individual career path plans can make a significant difference in both the formation of teams and how results are ultimately executed."

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