Innovation takes root in unexpected places

A CEO says he can run his company entirely off his smartphone, and customers can interact with the company entirely via apps and chat, too. 


This week will be quick, because I'm at the AAIS Main Event in beautiful Amelia Island, FL (a rough job, but somebody has to do it), where I delivered a talk to the general session and held a breakout.

The best example I've seen of innovation thus far here came from Art Meadows, CEO of Panhandle Farmers Mutual Insurance, a little company that would hardly be expected to be on the cutting edge. Panhandle is based in Moundsville, WV, population 8,813. TripAdvisor's list of Things to Do in Moundsville puts at #1 the West Virginia Penitentiary, which closed in 1995. No. 3 is Archive of the Afterlife: The National Museum of the Paranormal. No. 8 is Foster Glass, which left town in 1986. Yet Meadows told the general session that he can now run his company entirely off his smartphone and that customers can interact with the company entirely via apps and chat, too. 

If the 60-something Meadows can be so advanced in rural West Virginia, can't the rest of us at least do somewhat better?

Two articles to call to your attention:

"An Insurtech Greenhouse: Future US-UK Regulatory and Fintech Collaboration," by our friend Paul Thanos, director of the office of finance and insurance industries at the Department of Commerce and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. It's a very smart piece laying the groundwork for U.S. companies beyond our shores. You'll recognize the name of the guy quoted at the top of the piece.

"Teaching Watson the Urban Dictionary Turned Out to Be a Huge Mistake." This one offers a bit of comic relief but also a lesson. The comic relief: Once Watson absorbed the dictionary, it sometimes responded to queries with an answer like "bull****." The lesson: Every innovation has unintended and unforeseen consequences.  


Paul Carroll,

Paul Carroll

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Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is the editor-in-chief of Insurance Thought Leadership.

He is also co-author of A Brief History of a Perfect Future: Inventing the Future We Can Proudly Leave Our Kids by 2050 and Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn From the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years and the author of a best-seller on IBM, published in 1993.

Carroll spent 17 years at the Wall Street Journal as an editor and reporter; he was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. He later was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.


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