Why Your Agency Needs a CIO: Chief Innovation Officer

The words “insurance” and “innovation” are seldom used in the same sentence. Our industry has a well-deserved reputation for being behind the times. This is a problem because the world—and the people in it—are changing faster than the industry’s ability to keep up.


That is why your organization needs a Chief Innovation Officer.

In a recent list of the top 10 most innovative companies, the insurance and financial services industries were not represented at all. The insurance industry continues to be perceived as an “old-line” industry that is staid and set in its ways. Because of this, the industry doesn’t always attract the best and the brightest.

An underlying reason for this lack of innovation is the unwillingness of organizations to embrace—and even encourage—experimentation and the inevitable failures that will sometimes happen.

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to speak to the Agency Automation Forum of a well known national insurance company about trends I see in agency technology. This group is made up of senior level people from various departments within the company. A couple weeks after that presentation, I talked to the individual who brought me in about the experience. That person told me that there is no tolerance within the corporate culture of that insurance company for taking risks because a project might fail.

I suspect many insurance agencies have the same attitude.

Here are some thoughts on steps you can take to begin encouraging innovation and creative thought within your organization.

See curiosity as a good thing. Identify people within your organization who are naturally curious and like learning new information. Give them time to research and follow trends outside the insurance industry. Ask them to provide a synopsis monthly or quarterly on innovations they think might be helpful to your organization.

Embrace failure. Be willing to let people experiment and try new things. The reality is that nobody knows for sure what’s going to work for your organization and what isn’t. Encourage small experiments and steps so that if they don’t work you haven’t risked a lot of time or money.

Ask why. Encourage your staff to ask why they do a process or procedure the way they do it. There may have been very good reasons when the procedure was created that no longer apply. Valid answers do not include “because we’ve always done it that way” or “that’s what everyone else does.”

Talk to your partners. Insurance agencies generally are not able to create new insurance products. But the insurance companies you represent can. Talk to them about what you’re seeing in the marketplace. The insurance needs of consumers today are different than they were 10 years ago. And if your insurance companies are unwilling to embrace innovation, look for other partners that will.

Creating a Chief Innovation Officer mindset for your organization will help you prepare and position yourself for the changes that are yet to come. Consumers’ needs and desires are changing. We need to be changing along with them.

Steve Anderson provides information to insurance agents about how they can use technology to increase revenue and/or reduce expenses. He speaks professionally to hundreds of agents each year on the future of technology, the social web, and how insurance agencies can establish their Internet presence.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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