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Keeping the 'human touch' in an era of insurance disruption ...
2018 has arrived, and from a business point of view these are interesting times, with a lot of new things to be discovered and new tendencies to be consolidated – or forgotten, who knows! The pace of innovation has increased tremendously in the last five years, and it’s likely that we’ll move even faster in the coming years – sounds gripping, doesn’t it?
But for all that I’m enormously fascinated by the era of change we’re living through, I still think there’s something very important that must not be forgotten in these new business scenarios: the human touch.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about being against the Insurtech companies, denying the importance of digitalization for global business or harking back to the ‘good old days’ (I’m not that old after all!). No, I’m just talking about the need to understand that, at the beginning (the entrepreneurs) and at the end (the customers) of every business model, there is always a human being. And, in my experience, I’m noticing that more and more we’re forgetting to talk and listen: to have those basic human interactions that can really improve our business.
So, as an insurance professional, I have three New Year’s Resolutions for 2018 that I’d like to share with you …
1. Active listening
Talking to every single person in your environment – professional and personal – can be really enriching. One of the main reasons for the failure of business projects has been the c-suite’s historic lack of a global view: closed in their meeting rooms, reading P&L reports or preparing explanations for their stakeholders.
Real business life happens elsewhere and it is only by talking to people involved in every part of the process that you can get the wider view you need. Talking to people close to the final user can be especially enriching, giving you perspectives that – in your nice office – you scarcely will encounter. Obviously, to do that you need to understand the different ways of seeing the business, ‘translating’ into your business language the insights you receive. But if you are ready to make this effort, the reward will, in my personal experience, be priceless.
2. Don’t take it for granted …
The temptation is huge: having spent roughly 20 years in this business, the last 5 years as Director managing huge budgets of start-ups or consolidated companies, having worked in 4 countries between Europe and Asia, speaking 4 languages more or less fluently, why should I believe in different ideas and points of view about a business I know in real detail? Every time I’ve had this thought, it has been the concrete proof of me being completely stuck in my professional and personal development.
Not taking things for granted is the best gift you can give your company and, above all else, yourself. The most innovative and disruptive ideas that have generated new business models arose from mistakes, craziness, weird or sometimes naïve approaches, totally unpopular visions… If you have an open mind you can strike gold in a cup of coffee, don’t waste this opportunity!
3. Don’t always think about your job ...
This doesn’t mean that you have to hate your job or that you have to feel guilty if you love it, far from it. It means that the brain has so many potential neuronal connections but we only use limited ones, the most used; if you want to develop the famous ‘lateral thinking’, your mind must be involved and occupied in a variety of different things, all the better if seemingly unrelated.
I’m a musician and love playing in a band and composing original soundtracks, and I’ve often been impressed with my mental agility when conducting business analyses after a period of composing or playing with the band. I don’t think the neurologists have found the real reason for this but it’s definitely true that the wider your field of activity, the wider your vision will be and the sharper your analysis. So please: play with your kids, go visit a museum, travel, read weird books, listen to new kinds of music, talk to strangers in the subway, go to the flea market and bargain with the vendors – your business and your resume will really appreciate it.
These are my three New Year’s Resolutions for businesses, all linked to the ‘human touch’ I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The present never has been so close to the future, and it is now more than any other time that these emotional capacities can help business people to go far within emerging business models. And sometimes to create new ones, why not?