Why Your Big Ideas Go Nowhere

The old problem was a lack of game-changing ideas. The new problem is our bias against them.

After several years of having courageous leaders in the insurance industry begin to fund the flow of new ideas, it is evident that we have begun to overcome one problem and are now facing another. The old problem was a lack of game-changing ideas. The new problem is our bias against them. Result: The game-changing ideas are not getting launched. The operative phrase here is “game-changing.” The insurance industry has no trouble launching products, services and business models that are similar to the ones we already have. In fact, the industry is pretty darn good at incremental thinking — but we must do better. When inspired thinkers offer up disruptive ideas, we turn our backs on them. Why? Many think it is because their cultures are afraid to fail, and the likelihood of failure is high. The real reason for “failure to launch” is that (most of) your people are repulsed by the real game-changing ideas. Repulsed. What an ugly word. But it’s true. Why? Because those ideas are different. Natural instinct is to push it aside, try to get rid of it, or wish someone else would deal with it. GE has a fabulous commercial spot that personifies the new idea as repelling people socially. If you think about what happens to people who are pushed aside from groups, it is usually because they are different in some way. They may communicate differently, look different, eat different food or live by different rules. It’s the same for game-changing ideas. They have their own language, their own rule sets, and must be measured differently than familiar ideas because they were created to be disruptive. See Also: How to Choose a Great Coach The most successful innovation leaders are beginning to address this bias. They start by helping their teams answer these four questions: 1) How do we determine consumer acceptance? An idea must be boiled down to its core components, and the key hypotheses must be tested. This usually requires several rounds of testing because, with each test, you learn more about what’s missing and what’s not necessary. With game-changing ideas, consumers can barely articulate a need but know it when they see it. The most important skill set here is the ability to prototype so people can imagine themselves experiencing this product or service. Most insurance companies are weak at prototyping. That’s OK because these skills can be borrowed or bought. 2) What critical capability is needed to make this idea work? Take the most important benefit of the idea and determine what might stand in the way of its being realized. With game-changing ideas, believability is typically a barrier. So you need to figure out ways to help consumers trust the outcomes. This might require some proof or a creative way to tell a story. 3) Who has these capabilities? If you do not find the capability within your organization, you must look externally for pieces of that capability. For game-changing ideas, companies must almost always look externally. Entrepreneurial start-ups often have solutions looking for a home, so they are a great place to start your search. 4) What are the right measurements and milestones for this idea? The “language” of measurement is totally different for game-changing ideas than for familiar ones. If your CFO is looking for revenue numbers, the expectation needs to be reset because measuring a game-changing idea with short-term financials won’t work. Instead, measure key indicators of consumer acceptance. For example, many new start-ups get their early funding by setting up an offer that isn’t available and seeing who clicks. The clicks become the measure, and when they get to a certain number, it marks the milestone for funding. Big ideas matter. Overcoming short-term bias and becoming skillful at disrupting ourselves are the only things that will keep us from being blindsided. Now, who wants to embrace a big idea with me? This post was previously published at National Underwriter Life and Health Magazine.

Maria Ferrante-Schepis

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Maria Ferrante-Schepis

Maria Ferrante-Schepis is the managing principal of insurance and financial services innovation at Maddock Douglas.


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