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Understanding Transformational Thinking: Part 1

Sam Medina
Insurance Experts' Forum, January 9, 2014

No matter who you are or what your role is in your organization, you should leverage the power of your thoughts. Thoughts are inception points and transformational thoughts can spark real change in your organization. The power of your thoughts can result in great ideas and can inspire and move others toward collaboration, innovation, and creating the future. It can transform your work, your organization, your company, and even an entire industry.

Working alongside numerous executives in the insurance industry, I have realized that transformational thinking can provide you and your organization with transformational results. Over the next few months, we will discuss transformation in every area of an insurance company.
To begin, let us compare two different types of thinking with regards to IT and insurance systems- Legacy Thinking and Transformational Thinking.

Legacy Thinking

Insurers have been focusing on enhancing their legacy systems for many years.These legacy systems are often viewed as dated assets that hinder plans to grow the insurance business by launching competitive products and services, tightening client relationships, and establishing new business models that meet changes in the marketplace.

However, it is often legacy thinking, not just legacy systems that prevent insurers from taking necessary steps to shape the company’s future. Legacy thinking is the thought process, whereby new ideas are filtered out in favor of existing beliefs, accepted concepts, and widely-known generalizations and norms.
Legacy thinking, whether it is conscious or subconscious, is a way of gravitating toward beliefs, which may or may not be correct, but over time has been accepted as truths. Two examples of legacy thinking are:

1.)    We at insurance company ABC have been utilizing these processes for over 15 years and therefore, they should not be changed.

2.)    Insurance products are commodity items so there is no room for differentiation, except on price.

If legacy systems are the ball and chain of insurance companies then legacy thinking is the prison cell. Legacy systems primarily reside in data centers. Legacy thinkers are spread throughout every organization. For insurers to successfully transform their businesses, legacy thinking needs to be spotted and challenged in order to create an environment that will enable insurers to focus on creating their future. Where possible, legacy thinkers should be encouraged to seize the opportunity to push the envelope of their business and the insurance industry. The strength of legacy thinkers is often their ability to understand all aspects of an organization and minimize risk. Some of the most effective transformational thinkers are legacy thinkers who have grasped transformational thinking. We will talk more about collaboration and people next week.

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Transformational Thinking.

The idea of transformational thinking is simple. Transformational thinking examines how the organization and its systems will best be transformed and it tends to keep an open mind regarding the methods and possibilities. Transformational thinking accepts that some solutions created will provide exceptional value and competitive positioning. The solutions may require considerable change in the existing processes. They may require that associates approach their jobs and their work differently. Transformational thinking does not require throwing everything out and building from scratch but, opportunities leading to a better path into the future.

Legacy thinkers are risk averse and run toward safety, whereas, business transformations require transformative thinkers – people who are passionate about what can be created versus what exists, and those who understand how to measure and mitigate risks.

The insurer that can best focus on game-changing opportunities, balance transformational programs with the day-to-day running of the business, leverage technology, and create a culture that challenges the norm and displaces legacy thinking will gain a dominant position in the marketplace.
Next week, our post will further talk about transformational thinking collaboration and the role of people involved in the transformation.

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About the Author
Sam Medina is a global business transformation executive at TCS, who specializes in advising insurance and healthcare executives on transformational thinking and leadership.

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