Smart In­no­va­tion at High Speed

Be­ing on the cut­ting edge means man­ag­ing un­fa­mil­iar risks

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - News -

Around the turn of the last cen­tury, at the most pres­ti­gious golf tour­na­ment in the world, a player with whom few were fa­mil­iar showed up and com­pletely out­per­formed the field. He won the ti­tle eas­ily, but he didn’t win many ad­mir­ers among his fel­low com­peti­tors or the me­dia. Wal­ter Travis tri­umphed at the 1904 Bri­tish Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship, which at the time was the big­gest com­pe­ti­tion any­where, us­ing a put­ter with an in­no­va­tive and un­prece­dented de­sign. The shaft at­tached to the cen­ter of the club­head—un­heard of in golf’s early days—and its dis­rup­tive ef­fect on the psy­ches of other play­ers was in­valu­able.

Reper­cus­sions and risks

Tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion is much dif­fer­ent to­day than it was in 1904, but the im­pact is sim­i­lar. In mod­ern busi­ness, you can gain a com­pet­i­tive edge by adapt­ing new tech­nol­ogy into your busi­ness suc­cess plan and man­ag­ing the risks that al­ways ac­com­pany op­por­tu­nity.

Or you can be like those golfers who grum­bled about Wal­ter Travis while their world was dis­rupted.

“It’s crit­i­cal to un­der­stand the ef­fects of tech­nol­ogy on your busi­ness when the pace of in­no­va­tion is as rapid as it is to­day,” says Craig Fun­dum, Pres­i­dent, Com­mer­cial Mar­kets at Zurich North Amer­ica. “For ex­am­ple, 3D print­ing will likely drive in­no­va­tion in ev­ery global in­dus­try—but if you’re a man­u­fac­turer, you will most likely be among the first and most pro­foundly af­fected. The In­ter­net of Ev­ery­thing will be a game-changer too. How con­nec­tiv­ity al­ters the way phys­i­cal as­sets are con­trolled will be felt across all busi­ness sec­tors. If you’re a soft­ware de­vel­oper, you won’t be able to fo­cus solely on mov­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing data. What you cre­ate could have new reper­cus­sions and cause fi­nan­cial loss.”

The risks and po­ten­tial as­so­ci­ated with tech­nol­ogy are es­pe­cially pro­found as the global busi­ness world goes about its work in these early days of what is be­ing called the Fourth In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion. The in­ter­ac­tion of tech­nolo­gies across the phys­i­cal, dig­i­tal and bi­o­log­i­cal do­mains will trans­form many in­dus­tries.

“This pro­fu­sion of tech­nol­ogy will likely af­fect the strate­gies and op­er­a­tions of most busi­nesses at some point,” says Fun­dum. “The fu­ture of busi­nesses will be shaped by how they use these in­no­va­tions—and how ef­fec­tively they man­age the risks as­so­ci­ated with them.”

Scope of in­no­va­tion de­mands re­silience

Im­prove­ments in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence— es­pe­cially in the ar­eas of fa­cial and speech recog­ni­tion, video an­a­lyt­ics and re­la­tion­ship anal­y­sis—are driv­ing greater de­mand for data to bet­ter un­der­stand cus­tomer be­hav­ior. In turn, the de­mand for both struc­tured and un­struc­tured data will drive In­ter­net of Ev­ery­thing-re­lated rev­enue to $1.27 tril­lion glob­ally by 2018, ac­cord­ing to In­ter­na­tional Data Cor­po­ra­tion.

At Zurich North Amer­ica, the fo­cus is on help­ing busi­nesses pro­tect them­selves by un­der­stand­ing and man­ag­ing the risks from one stage of this tech­no­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion to the next. Aware that its cus­tomers are em­brac­ing emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies, Zurich is pur­su­ing ad­vances such as robotics and cog­ni­tive com­put­ing to help the com­pany be more ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive in serv­ing cus­tomers.

“These ef­forts, com­bined with our data and an­a­lyt­ics, are en­abling us to think dif­fer­ently about ex­po­sures and help man­age busi­ness risks like never be­fore,” says Fun­dum. “It’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to fathom all of the po­ten­tial in­no­va­tion and growth in such a dig­i­tally con­nected world. Busi­nesses must pro­tect them­selves by con­tin­u­ally in­creas­ing their re­silience to the risks cre­ated by in­no­va­tion. If they can com­mit to a mind­set of re­silience and plan to mit­i­gate new types of losses, then when chal­lenges do arise, they can quickly get back to meet­ing the ex­pec­ta­tions of their cus­tomers and share­hold­ers. By adapt­ing to new risks and the new so­lu­tions to them, busi­nesses can en­sure that tech­nol­ogy can be a key com­po­nent of a win­ning strat­egy.”

“Busi­nesses must pro­tect them­selves by con­tin­u­ally in­creas­ing their re­silience to the risks cre­ated by in­no­va­tion.” — Craig Fun­dum, Zurich North Amer­ica

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