Fostering a culture of innovation in insurance
Insurers need to nurture `intrapraneurs,' uniquely talented individuals that look for effective ways to transform their companies from within.
They don't measure success by money. They don't accept the status quo. They are a rare blend of confidence and humility. And they are an indispensable part of every successful company: They're intrapreneurs. The concept of “Intrapreneurship” was first developed by Gifford Pinchot III and his wife, Elizabeth, in 1978 while attending the Tarrytown School for Entrepreneurs in New York. Like entrepreneurs, these risk-takers possess conviction, passion and drive. The differences is that while an entrepreneur works to build something on his or her own, an intrapreneur operates within an existing organization and is motivated to move their company forward. Intrapreneurs can often be found working for a major organization — like, for example, a large insurance company — enabling them to make a significant business impact. Intrapreneurship is mostly about conceiving an idea and playing it out in thought. Proactive by nature, intrapreneurs seek feedback about their ideas and are willing to listen to what their contemporaries have to say. Intrapreneurs take their ideas and try to overlay them on the existing organization of their business to create new products and distribution models. Once an idea has morphed into a plan, the focus quickly shifts to putting the plan into action. For a company to address and nurture new and innovative ways of doing things, intrapreneurs must not only recognize potential barriers, but also address how to break them down. It's because of this cultural challenge that many startups and nontraditional players succeed faster and with greater results. “It's better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission” is a phrase that's misused in many corporate settings. However, at AmTrust Innovation, our intrapreneurs often apply this belief to challenge the norm. Taking this step makes it possible to achieve our desired outcome and create new opportunities to reach customers through new distribution channels.
Intrapreneurs, like four-leaf clovers, aren't easy to find. When an employer discovers one within its organization, it should support, even empower, this individual, rather than squashing or derailing his or her ideas. Let's look at some of an intrapreneur's core attributes: Self-belief – Intrapreneurs have to believe in themselves before they can win over the support of their colleagues. Fearlessness – These forward thinkers refuse to allow fear to slow their momentum. Not being afraid to speak up and stand by what you believe in is an absolute must for moving forward. Drive – Consultant Gifford Pinchot writes that intrapreneurs are “dreamers that do.” Inventiveness – Innovation is in every intrapreneur's DNA. It's a key driver of not only change, but also advancement.
Fostering a culture of innovation
To be truly innovative, a company must be willing to venture outside its comfort zone. Here are a few organizational best practices that will empower intrapreneurs, while positioning their companies for future success: Blasting away barriers. Many things can challenge a great idea, from dealing with protracted red tape to seeking buy-in and the ultimate green light from upper management. By removing these barriers, a culture of innovation will provide the ideal environment for these individuals to flourish. There are trigger statements every intrapreneur should learn to recognize. The best way to combat them – the kind dripping with doubt – is to simply ask “Why?” and then begin working on ways to refute them. Here are some examples: “We've never done it this way before.” “The system can't do that.” “That will cost too much.” Statements like these shouldn't be deal-breakers, but rather indicators that disrupting the norm could have a positive effect on your company. Rallying behind risk-takers. Fear of failure is an anti-innovation trait we must remove from the physiology of our budding innovators in the insurance industry. One should fail often in order to find a solution to a problem. Or, in the case of insurance, take risks — an approach that isn't aligned with most disciplined actuaries. Intuition and gut feel should inform a decision or action. It's best to fail fast and often to learn. Then correct the fault; adjust the offer; and test again. Promoting collaboration and cohesion. While providing protection within an innovation unit is a solid practice, we must avoid housing our innovation people in a separate unit. This practice will almost definitely foster a “them versus us” mentality. True and real innovation only comes from inclusion across the entire company. Every employee should be encouraged to participate in innovation, not just a select few. Remember: Intrapreneurs are everywhere, and some of their innovations have touched millions of people – perhaps even you.