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.

Digital Insurance - - THE INNOVATORS - By Paul Leahy

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.

Rare finds

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.

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