Characteristics of top innovators

Last time Cover caught up with Guidewire’s Chief Evangelist, Laura Drabik, she highlighted three industry trends.  This time we asked for her thoughts on the people side of things.

  1. What mindsets, qualities, or talents have you found to characterize top innovators that you most admire and how does one cultivate these attributes?
    • Top innovators embrace the challenge and embrace the change.  
    • They choose people who think differently even if its uncomfortable for the group.
    • They iterate.  They don’t need perfection and they don’t need to build out the full process.  When you iterate you create feedback loops better alignment with your target goals. 
  1. What metaphor best describes successful insurer innovation leadership styles?  Do they change their leadership style based on circumstances? 
    • Be the buffalo.  Buffalo unlike cows, do something very unnatural. When they see a storm coming, they don’t turn and run away, instead they charge right at it. Running as fast as they can into the storm. This counterintuitive act actually shortens the length of time they spend in the storm. Charge at the task at hand.  Don’t try to avoid it. Be the buffalo!  
  1. What is the most important thing an innovative leader could or should do regularly to stay effective and fresh in their work?
  • Talk to your customers.  They have great ideas.  They just don’t know how to implement them.  
  • Read.  Every day I allocate an hour to reading on my industry, on insurtech and interesting periodicals like HBR case studies, Mckinsey, Forbes and Fast Company. 
  • Stay connected to thought leaders in your industry.  I am connected to senior leaders in our industry that I can reach out to and gather their input.  
  1. How does the legacy of an insurance company enhance or deter their ability to innovate? Do you have any examples of how insurers have built upon their company’s legacy or have had to alter strategy because of their legacy, especially elements that have stifled innovation of late?
  • The #1 factor effecting an insurer’s ability to innovate is their culture
  • When a culture is one that is tied to the legacy way of thinking or doing business and they aren’t open to new ideas, they will be severely limited in their ability to achieve their vision.   
  • If an insurer doesn’t open up their minds to a new (better / efficient) way of doing business they will inevitably rebuild the legacy environment.  
  • Companies who have successfully innovated with Guidewire create an “innovation culture”.
    • They create clarity around the change and communicate it well and often
    • They include team members with diverse talents – business, technology and people from outside the industry.  One team with diverse talents. 
    • And this leads us to the question of a shortage of skills which will hold back innovation and growth – the need to focus on talent development.  Which is why Guidewire supports the IIG educational programmes such as The Insurance Academic Programme. 
    • Challenge status quo.   Successful companies don’t rebuild the old factory.  They build a new one.   Some go as far as to even create a new brand symbolizing breaking away from the legacy mindset, products and way of doing business.  
  1. What have been the most surprising insurtech failures?  
  • Chatbots losing momentum. They are still a top theme, but declining in momentum. Conversational AIs need to evolve to help carriers achieve anytime, anywhere service. It’s good for the consumer and its good for the carrier. Bots empower the carrier to transition employees from manual redundant activities to ones that require intelligence, empathy and skill. I think insurers weren’t using them in the right way which is for low complexity, highvolume transactions e.g. Frequently Asked Questions. Also, AI isn’t where it needs to be to make this a solid service approach… yet!

Related posts

Where we are and where we are going with insurance technology


Data-driven Insurance


Sapiens Acquires Tia Technology to Expand its Nordic Market Presence


Africa insurance pulse on the digitisation of Africa's insurance market