Recently, I bought a copy of Time magazine’s publication, TIME 100 Ideas That Changed the World: History’s Greatest Breakthroughs, Inventions and Theories, in an airport book store while on a business trip.
It was certainly a compact and interesting read, highlighting amazing innovations that we now accept as the norm of human existence on Planet Earth, from the discovery of germs to the foundation of a seven-day week to the building of the World Wide Web. I was amazed as I read through it and was reminded of how human existence since the beginning of recorded history has been truly shaped through ideas turned into game changing innovation results.
The purpose of this blog is not to get philosophical about our evolution as humans but, rather, to relate it to the world we live in every day: insurance. So of course, after I paged through the Time book, my wheels started spinning around the 100 ideas that have changed insurance – and I started to reflect on how we as an industry got to where we are today.
The history of innovation in insurance has largely been shaped by advances made in technology external to the industry. As markets, businesses and consumers start to access better ways of doing business, insurance companies adjust to meet those demands. The same can be said for many other industries. But insurance is unique because its very core concept is to protect our customers’ assets from loss and mitigate risks. So, inherently, the insurance industry will always adapt in some form to technology changes to assist the customer. That is what we do every day – we adapt – though some days we don’t necessarily remind ourselves of the core mission.
I started to ask myself, if we had to make a list, what would be the 100 ideas that changed insurance? I think it would be too hard to classify, in terms of the entire evolution of our ecosystem, because the last 100 years have changed so much. So let’s just focus on the last 40 years from a technology perspective: mainframes … client servers … personal computers … development of core systems and automated business processes … data processing to information systems … typewriters to the fax machine, copiers, printers, scanners and even email … our world on the World Wide Web … mobile phones … web applications … smart phones … big data … telematics and even some of the emerging technologies like Internet of Things, wearable devices, artificial intelligence, semantic technologies and even drones and aerial imagery. The list of maturing and emerging technologies does just go on and on. It might be hard to pare it down to just 100 ideas, even by looking at just technology.
The point is, when we talk of ideation and innovation, sometimes we forget to reflect on where we have been. Forty years ago, if someone described writing a blog for you that you could read on your mobile device, you may have seriously questioned their sanity. Today, it is commonplace.
As we move rapidly through 2015 – look at plans; take the time to reflect on successes; take the time to reflect on where we truly have been. Sometimes these reflections are the seeds of new ideas, new ways of doing business and new ways to gain an edge. Just think, for every great solution out there, there is a better one possible. Innovation should be inspiring our work, and I am excited to see where it leads us.