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March 21, 2014

Striking a Nerve: Google and Insurance

Summary:

Google is bringing an outside-in, customer-driven approach that is causing insurers to rethink, reimagine and reinvent their visions of a technology-enabled future. 

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To say we struck a nerve in the industry with the Google and Insurance: Far Reaching Implications research is an understatement! It was picked up by all the major industry media – in some cases multiple times. It has set a record for downloaded and purchased SMA research, generating a torrent of follow-up calls and discussions. It has been shared and used by executive teams for discussion and strategic planning. The companion blog for the research had nearly 10,000 views – and continues to be posted, tweeted and retweeted a month and half after it was published! 

So why has there been such a strong interest and reaction in the industry?

Well, one reason might be that there is a fascination and admiration for the competitive drive in Google’s transformation from a search engine to an innovator of technologies and solutions like Android, Google cars, Google glasses, wearable devices and others. And then there is the fact that Google is securing a strong, growing (and enviable) customer loyalty. Don’t overlook the challenge to other innovators like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft – it’s impossible to ignore, just like Google's impressive growth and financial results! But the appeal that underpins all of this is Google’s unwavering vision of making information universally accessible and useful. Having a huge imagination that is spearheading innovation in multidimensional ways doesn’t hurt either! 

As Google drives innovation, offering an integrated and seamless customer experience and making available the use of its ground-breaking technologies to people in their everyday lives, the levels of customer intimacy and loyalty continue to increase. In the opposite direction, the vast amount of data becoming available via some of these technologies concerning individuals and their cars, homes and bodies is breath-taking. The change will be transformative! 

This is why the implications for insurance are so great. Google is bringing an outside-in, customer-driven approach to innovation that is causing insurers to rethink, reimagine and reinvent their visions of a technology-enabled future. Google is organizing data, technology and location around people, creating a level of customer empowerment and -centricity unheralded in any industry, let alone insurance. Not only is this powerful, it is fundamentally changing the business of insurance!   

Innovation is no longer just a nice-to-have initiative. It has become a must-have, strategic, core mandate that will define a new era of winners (and losers). Why? Because the increasingly rapid pace of change is challenging decades of business traditions and assumptions and demanding a response. This is unprecedented in the history of the insurance industry. All the while, the changes just keep coming: new technologies, the mash-up of technologies and new uses for these technologies.

These changes are highly disruptive, but they are also transformational. One industry innovation leader whom we recently spoke to about innovation noted that: “There is an outrageous level of individualism – from devices, data and components that will break the traditional infrastructure, culture and systems of traditional insurers.” Companies like Google, Apple, Uber, Zipcar and others, as well as next-gen and emerging technologies, are intensifying this level of individualism. 

Many insurers, large and small, are struggling to get their heads around a comprehensive view or a full understanding of the impact that these influencers will have on the disruption and transformation of the insurance industry. That is why the Google and Insurance research report has provoked such a response in the industry – because it provides insights and a glimpse of the challenges and opportunities for the industry. It also points to why, as an industry, we need to rethink how we respond to and embrace innovation as the core of a new culture and keystone of a new future. 

Other industries, from retail to books, music and movies, have experienced the same thing the insurance industry is now encountering: the very foundations of their businesses are being challenged, requiring novel thinking, experimentation, innovation and adoption of the new and emerging technologies. As one industry leader and CIO recently commented, “Insurers must build knowledge, a network and an ecosystem of outside-in relationships to reimagine and contribute to their company’s future.”

This persistent and continual disruption will necessitate a new way of embracing change and innovation. It will require a culture and model built around continuing collaboration and ideation that extends outside the traditional insurance organization. This is why an innovation mandate is critical.  

The innovation mandate must track and assess trends and influencers both inside and outside the industry, prepare plans and scenarios, experiment and collaborate to gain competitive advantage. Unfortunately, the day-to-day operational demands, time constraints and shortage of expertise or resources for evaluating the many implications for insurance will find most insurers unprepared or unequipped to respond to this level of disruption. More troubling is the way that many insurers are continuing to operate with the long-standing approach of wait-and-see or being a fast follower. With the accelerating release of next-gen technologies, eager competitors, new influencers and increasing customer demands, failing to adopt a culture of innovation and collaboration could create a potentially unsurmountable risk to survival of the business.

For insurers, the coming years promise unparalleled opportunity to increase their value to their customers. Those that are best able to capitalize on the key technology influencers will reap the most in rewards. In contrast, those that do not prepare for the future will find themselves falling behind, losing both competitive position and financial stability. To capture the full potential, insurers must determine to create and participate in an ecosystem of outside experts and resources; inspire their leadership; and enable their journey of change, transformation and innovation. Why will this be so important? Because the ecosystem will integrate new ideas and thinking from outside the organization, and provide that outside-in perspective needed to break legacy assumptions.  

The innovation journey toward rethinking, reimagining and reinventing the business of insurance has started. Strategy Meets Action has joined the journey. Have you?