You get a lot of time to think when you are sitting on a surfboard, especially when you are as bad at it as I am. And while it isn't obvious (and I'm not stretching analogies here - I really did think this!) I noticed some interesting parallels to surfing and what's happening in the insurance market and digitalisation (bear with me, it's not as tenuous a link as it sounds!).
When surfing, if you look beyond the wave right in front of you, you will see the waves come to shore in a pretty regular pattern. Surfers that know the area get used to these patterns and will learn where the best breaks are, and the place they are most likely to catch a decent wave.
Sounds simple enough, but the reality is much more chaotic than that. The waves are constantly shifting. The right spot 5 minutes ago may not be the best place now. The best surfers are constantly watching the waves, and adjusting their position as the environment shifts around them. While watching a competition this summer, you could see that the winners weren't just the ones who were necessarily the best on the wave. They were also the best at reading how the surf was shifting. They were the quickest at repositioning themselves to be in the right place, at the right time.
Insurance and surfing?
Now for the analogy! I spend a lot of time thinking about the insurance industry and how it needs to adjust to changes in technology, customer expectations and competitors (old and new). Apparently I now do that thinking on a surfboard as well. So while watching the best surfers, it got me thinking about what I've been talking to clients about for a long time now.
Like the waves, technology and business patterns are hard to second guess, and this isn't going to get any easier as technologies like artificial intelligence increase the pace and scale of potential business change. Having experience and knowledge helps to spot some of the patterns, but nothing is certain, things are constantly shifting - and not always in ways you'd expect. You can be a pro-surfer and be able to read the waves well, but even the best surfers get it wrong because waves, like technology, are in reality pretty chaotic.
Preparation and flexibility are key
The best surfers win because they are well prepared, while being ready and able to change. They also expect to constantly shift their position to adapt to the environment around them. The beginners are focused in one spot and not even aware that everything has just moved around them (me, basically), but the better surfers have already anticipated the shift and moved.
Even then, they don't always get it right, but they’re the best because they have practiced and have been willing to fall off as part of learning how to ride a wave. They were also ready to paddle back out, picking their next spot, watching what to do differently and getting ready for the next wave. They do this time and time again, constantly adjusting their approach.
The best insurance organisations are going to need to be more like the best surfers. They will need to be willing to move beyond legacy, which is going to be painful but necessary. We can't keep putting a digital veneer over legacy processes and systems, and expect to build an organisation that can adapt to the increasing pace of change.
How can you stay afloat?
Organisations are also going to need to fully embrace practicing and learning while not losing the plot when they fail. They need to be ready to paddle back out again, learning fast from the failure rather than retreating.
A lot of effort needs to be focused on getting fit for the future and build in the agility to shift and get ready for the next wave, whichever way that comes at you. I’ll be discussing my take on that over my new few blogs, as I think there are six key focus areas that organisations need to consider in getting fit for the future - beyond legacy is just one of them.
Learning is key
And talking of learning, I wanted to briefly mention this picture. It was produced using a text to image AI tool called ‘Stable Diffusion’.
My learning from using that tool (apart from even with help I’m no artist), is that while the tool is clever, those that have produced the best artwork (and frankly some of it is amazing) are those who have practiced most with it and learnt how to get the best out of the technology. You don’t become super human because of AI, but because you’ve worked with the technology to learn how to get the best out of it. More on that later.
This is the first in a series of blogs I will be publishing around what I see as the six main focus areas that the insurance industry will need to address as we move into the future of the industry. If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything in this blog in more detail, please get in touch with me or you can always visit our Insurance page.