Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’


At dinner tonight, I heard the oft-repeated Albert Einstein quote, “What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

There seems to be little question about it anymore – Technology has been changing the world around us for some time. With the advent of personal technology that connects the individual to the crowd in real-time, the human dynamic of Social Technology is accelerating that change. Read the rest of this entry »


Thanks again to all who shared thoughts. It’s been interesting. Before I share some interesting statistics for those of you that like numbers, let me pull some of what I see as the most salient concepts and see if there’s a pattern.

Restating the question:

“Best in class organizational setup. Where should social media be located in the organization (Marketing, Online Service, Corporate Communication, own department). What are the typical function to be in place to run it and what are the key skills and competencies the staff need to bring in to fill such roles?”

“None of this means that we [insurance industry] can’t change, just that we’re very S L O W to change. And that’s something we will need to improve upon if we’re to survive the fast paced world of the 21st Century.”

VP Marketing, U/W – Large Health Re-insurance Company, NYC

Speed. Reminds me of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park: “Must go faster.” The insurance industry – as it exists today – should start acting like there is a T-Rex ready to eat it. Because there is.

“Organisations should realign to structure teams around the consumer/customer experience with your brand…One of the most effective ways I’ve ever structured a team was when I had individuals who were skilled up across both traditional and online media, focused on running a campaign from start to finish across those channels. They were also trained in PR and social, and this focus on end goals and know-how across media helped us achieve a lot in a constrained budget environment…requires a willingness to challenge the orthodoxy of silos and a commitment to training and education…”

Director – Brand and PR, Creator of Erin Esurance, London

Experience. Training. Change. Customer experience rules. The 25 year-old, female, college grad stereotype Social Media Manager? Probably not a good idea.

“The Hub and spoke approach … is my vote as it stands. Build up a center or excellence, that is the phase we are in today and then migrate that group to be that center. There will still be a triage center, the social equivalent of the switchboard. … it should have a direct line to senior management because part of the requirement is speed and the ability to take action…”

Consultant, Web & Social Properties, insurance industry analyst, Boston

Speed again. Central Hub with distributed SME’s.

“…it is best driven by the CEO who takes an active role in the process.  Ideally the company would have a single individual who is adept at organizational change, and that individual would lead the charge while reporting directly to the CEO on this effort.”

P&C, Life Insurance CIO, Dallas

CEO influence. Btw, Follow CEO of Aetna and CEO of AmFam on Twitter. Case in Point.

“For the first, what sprang to mind was the telephone, which — like social tech — is used for two-way communication. So who inside your company gets to have a phone on their desk? And who is responsible for deciding what the people with phones on their desks should be saying to the people to whom they talk? And, even more important, who decides what to do with the information they get back?”

CMO, Life & Accident Insurance Distribution, Columbus

Good analogy that seems to suggest that Social Tech activity should be ubiquitous. Agreed

“Chief Customer Officer.  Today’s insurance enterprise must be built around customer engagement. Across product-lines, markets and sales channels, companies need be able to drive organizational customer-centricity… Consumers talking to consumers…they need to be at the center of everything an insurance enterprise does.”

CMO, Insurance Marketing Services, Chicago

More on customer centricity. Change.

“Couldn’t agree more. The ideal org setup would be a Chief Customer Experience Officer heading up a consolidated Internet (business) team, with at least dotted line reporting relationships from Corporate Communications, Agency/Brokerage communications and Service communications.”

SVP Digital Marketing, Old-line, Captive Agent-driven Life Insurance Company, NYC

More on Customer Experience, definite pattern starting to appear.

“What will be truly interesting is the increased sharing in rich media formats.”

CEO, P&C Insurance Marketing and Branding Services, D.C.

That speaks to required to skills to create the rich media – video’s, meme’s, infographics, etc.

“An organization must first decide what it wants social media to do for it. Brand? Customer acquisition? Customer retention? Customer service? All of the above? As for organization structure, where to house social media depends upon the org itself.”

VP Distribution, B2C Health Insurance Company, Jacksonville

Strategy. Actions must be smart, thoughtful, purposeful. Form follows function.

“Your communicator will have the skillset: a strong knowledge of the business, coupled with great writing skills…”

Consultant, Web & Social Properties, NY Metro

Insurance-savvy with Writing skills. Again, the 25 year-old, female, college grad stereotypical Social Media Manager is probably not the right choice.

“Corp Comm is in most companies the WORST place to house Social (and the wider world of the Internet). It almost always has a defensive and protective mind-frame — not the innovative and truly communicative mind-frame necessary for success in Social.”

SVP Digital Marketing, Old-line, Captive Agent-driven Life Insurance Company, NYC

Innovation and creativity, combined with risk-taking, extrovert, must love people

“I think it can vary depending on the organization, its structure, etc… In the end, EVERYONE in an organization has to get social, just like they had to get internet savvy… With social impacting every part of the organization–sales, marketing, service, business intelligence, product development, agency distribution, etc.–the question isn’t what ONE place should be most responsible but how can all corners of the organization best work together to avoid conflicts, redundancy, compliance issues, reputation issues, etc. Here’s the important part: No matter where it [the "hub" i.e organization, education, best practices, common tools] is run, their job is to empower everyone in the organization.  If they fail to do so, then the models breaks down, collaboration and consistence is lost and problems develop….governance becomes the essential issue and not where social is run. It [USAA] has a strong sense of governance, a great culture of collaboration and a willingness to give and take across silos in order to do the right thing for the brand and its members.”

Director, Social Media, Old-line, Captive Agent-driven Life Insurance Company, NY Metro

Company-wide, Education, Governance, Collaboration, Teamwork (Can you say Jive?)

“Organization, to my mind, is THE issue when it comes to realizing the Social vision in a company, not to mention eventually becoming capable of proving the elusive ROI of Social…it was centralization that enabled virtually all our successes — and it is the dispersal of that organization into other Departments — and most of it under traditionalist Corporate Communications, no less! — that will hobble all the company’s “Internet” activities now and in the future.”

SVP Digital Marketing, Old-line, Captive Agent-driven Life Insurance Company, NYC

Governance, Hub, CoE, and another vote against CorpComm.

“What I have seen work most successfully is that one department be the leader, usually marketing or sales. That department coordinates who does what and how everyone is involved. They are in charge of being coordinating the voice, brand and message that is going out to the world. Another success is when there is a Community Manager that has full authority to manage social, involving everyone in the company in a manner similar to what is described when led by a department.”

Consultant, Web & Social Properties, P&C, Ft. Worth :-)

A vote for Marketing and/or Sales. Full authority. Managing Social by Committee? Nope.

“Digital communication does not work in a silo… it works best when there is one “owner” in each business segment who reports up to a manager of some sort. It really starts with culture though.  There is no “best practice” if the culture of the organization, which includes above all else leadership, doesn’t embrace digital and social communication.”

Director of Agency Sales and Marketing, Regional P&C Agency, Albany

Culture trumps Strategy, right? Culture starts at the top. Follow Tony Hseih, Zappos and watch.

“Ideally, all of those areas of the organization and more should leverage social technology and practices to move the business forward. If you are first bringing social business concepts into an organization, place it with the leader best positioned to champion it, and assign a person who can help each area adopt social in a way that is relevant to the organization’s goals.”

Director, Social Media, Independent Agent-driven P&C Insurance Company, Columbus

A Champion that loves Social Tech – and can also facilitate and bring along others.


  1. Around 50 discreet ideas
  2. 20 Comments (not including mine)
  3. 6 Channels used (Blog, Linkedin, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, email)
  4. Several Shares and Retweets
  5. Global conversation – page seen in 9 different countries
  6. Visitors: 108 Total to the site since the post
  7. Time on Page: 7:52
  8. Page Views: 82
  9. Source %: Direct-37; Google-46; Facebook-13; Linkedin-12; Twitter-7

Time spent:

  • .5 hour on the post
  • .5 hour on the graphic
  • 1 hour asking people to Comment
  • 1 hour thanking Commenters on the fly via email

Some may say these aren’t significant numbers. I agree. The sheer volume is small on a relative scale. But the important part is not the total, it’s the individuals.

Essentially, the answers to the original question were Crowdsourced. What’s the key to successful Crowdsourcing? Building relationships with a community via face-to-face interactions, Social Network dialogs and mentions, emails, and phone calls. Just like anything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Was it worth it? Yes, absolutely. Who knows how many of the readers took away something. I know the Commenters definitely did. And I know I did – on several levels. And over time, the SEO implications will only grow.

Or I could have watched the Miami Heat v OK City Thunder game for 2 hours.


When it comes to insurance companies and large agencies, it’s common knowledge that, in general (yes, there are exceptions), there are three speeds of doing business: Slow, Really Slow, and Just Barely Moving. Sometimes these organizations move so slow that it’s like watching the progress meter of a 45-minute HD movie upload to YouTube. Kidding of course. You get the idea.

So one of the ways that Social Tech can be leveraged for ROI is by harnessing the power of the information flow to increase the velocity of the organization. Here are at least Nine Pathways to Increased Velocity. Without going into all the details, this will be skimming the tops of the waves. (Come to a Boot Camp, or schedule a private session, to drill into these.) Perhaps as you read this, others will come to your mind. I’d be curious what you think?

Part One, Number one, my personal favorite

1. Shortened Sales Cycles and Pathways to Revenue

Especially in this recessed/depressed economy, depending on what products you’re selling, sales cycles can stretch on for months. So it’s critical to cash flow to find any avenues to shrink those timeframes. For example, take the ‘check references’ stage of a sales process. Reference checking can take weeks as busy decision-makers play phone tag or exchange emails. And do people really trust them anyway? Enter Linkedin Recommendations. Not only can they provide immediate relief, but they are actually better in a few significant ways – clearly user generated content, click through to the source to see their credentials, etc. Heck, just starting your sales processes based on warm introductions from trusted sources rather than cold calls will shrink the sales cycle. By the way, did you know that because of Social, the old “6 Degrees of Separation” is now down to FOUR.

2. Research and Pathways to Advantage

Every enterprise, almost every job in an enterprise, especially in insurance, is knowledge-intensive. When the Web came along, research became somewhat easier. With search engines, Whoa! Mastering Google is now a skill in itself. Now with Social Tech, research can be automated. And so, as with anything, the better business leaders are at leveraging Social Tech for Research, the more likely they will drive their KPI’s in a positive direction. This applies to personnel, products, partners – you name it. As always, if you can efficiently research the data, you’re in a better position. The great thing about Social Tech is the incredible volume of guy-on-the-street data or User Generated Content. Yes, this puts more emphasis on Content Curation, but in reality, that’s always been there. And that can be automated as well.

3. Communication and Pathways to Nimbility

One thing’s for sure: I’ve observed countless insurance executives take WAY too much time to move information via their communication channels. This is not a function of how fast their brains move – quite the contrary. They are often extremely smart and savvy, just bogged down by simple technology. Windows-based laptops and desktops, Blackberry dumbphones, voice mail systems, no twitter, no text, and so forth, completely hamstring busy executives. If they only knew what they were missing. If I were to set-up an exec? Macbook Air 15”, iPad, Samsung Galaxy 4 for hardware, all synced together, Gmail Enterprise, and HootSuite for individual Social. The differences these simple technologies can make in the pace of communication flow is stunning. And when you increase the flow of communication, you become more nimble. Nimbility enables velocity.

4. Innovation and Pathways to Relevance

The twin brother of Research, Social Tech can definitely solve the Innovation conundrum. As I say in the Boot Camps, creativity is almost anathema to insurance. Creativity is driven out of insurance people at a very early age. “You know, we should have flavored coffee-mate in the lunch room.” “Hey, you can’t have those thoughts around HERE. We’re a conservative industry. Keep your wild ideas to yourself!” As a result, we not only lose the creative juices that inspire innovation, but we lose the people themselves. Our people, products, and processes then tend to stagnate, leading to irrelevance when it comes to insuring various risks in the lives of constituents in the dynamically changing world around us. But enter crowdsourcing “Ideation” via facebook, twitter, linkedin, pinterest, instagram, intranets, etc. – as one of many examples. Insurance peeps will find significant pent-up innovation if they start using Social Tech to tap it.

5. Customer Response and Pathways to Satisfaction

Let’s face it – we live in an instant-gratification culture. Social Tech feeds that beast. I carry a Smartphone (HTC S1) in my pocket constantly. Obviously I’m not alone in that. Just like anyone else, when I have a pleasant experience, I want to share it. When I’m upset, I want the issue resolved, or at least reconciled. So via Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, YouTube, etc., we now have access to Pathways that can lead to faster positive impacts and resolutions. It’s a sure thing. And that’s a good thing – we all know that festering problems only get worse. The faster we get to healing, the better. And since we all run in circles, good things can be spread faster and results gained more quickly as well.

Well, that’s all I have the time for now. Hope these concepts and simple examples are helpful. Velocity of doing business is critical as technology takes over. Like I say about Progressive in my home city of Cleveland – It’s a technology company doing insurance.

What are your thoughts? Drop a comment before you leave. We’ll all be richer for it. Please Like, Comment, and Share. Thanks.

Part 2:

Virtual Meetings and Pathways to Productivity

Education and Pathways to Competence

Recruiting and Pathways to Retention

Crowdsourcing and Pathways to Profit


Running in between PIMA and ICMG with tons of follow-up from the former while getting organized for the latter. Geesh! All the while, Cleveland and the Midwest is getting pummeled by “snow-pocalypse”.

Future note to keep me accountable: At the closing session, I asked several attendees the question, “What is the one thing you would say to someone who wasn’t here regarding all the innovation content we heard?” And then, “What is the one BIG barrier to innovation that we must overcome?” Really looking forward to sharing the content with you.. very interesting mosaic of comments. Look for that next week.

In the meantime, a few thoughts collected real-time. Curious for reader comments. Btw, if you are serious about Social Technologies, especially as they relate to Innovation, Mobile, Viral Marketing, e-Word-of-Mouth, etc., I’m meeting with a few clients at the Scott Klososky Enterprise Social Tech Bootcamp in Dallas in early March. I’ve got one open spot left.

Seismic changes in this age of the consumer, disruptive technologies….

“Innovation is a necessity.”

Unknown and unarticulated needs

Culture of failure is important

No such thing as B2B anymore – just the relative distance from the consumer.

…the things that didn’t work… “We lucked into innovation…”

“Big Slow Staid Bureaucratic”
good descriptive of our industry

“All the innovation is already there; you just have to unleash it.”

Mobile is changing everything – right in our customers hands

recognize failure “a lot” – words of encouragement

Lessons Learned
#1 Solve for Ideas
Innovation process… THEN product development process
#2 Unpeel you Onion – innovation is already there…

“disruptive innovation: product or utility that does less and cost less”

Huffington – embrace the new economy, embrace the link economy

Extreme Affinity – LA City Employees Association – referral from American General

“Insurance wasn’t enough”

Captivating and compelling use of innovation. Gobs and gobs of take-aways…


PIMA hashtag search

Next Meeting – The Broadmoor

Meantime – Brand project, continuing the discussion on Linkedin, lots of client engagements, Innovation

What was your take-away from the conference? Good for you? What about some of these concepts? If you weren’t there, feel free to ask questions. Perhaps the reader crowd can bring clarity. Please Comment below. Thanks in advance.

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