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Innovation in insurance

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Innovation was a common theme among many of the sessions at the 2014 LIMRA Life Insurane Conference this week in Chicago. One such session was presided over by John Coyle, senior vice president, culture of innovation, at Maddock Douglas; Si Xie, director, Equitable Life of Canada; and Jason Alleyne, consulting actuary. 

So how can an insurance company create a culture of innovation?

According to Coyle, there has to be a culture shift. You can’t necessarily tell people to change their culture or change their beliefs and values, but you can ask it of employees and cocreate the culture with them.

“The old paradigm of traditional systems — importance of IQ, six sigma, hierarchy, division of labor — are being replaced by creativity and risk-taking, peak performance, collaboration, and complex adaptive systems,” Coyle said.

For an innovative corporate culture, Coyle believes a company must have:

  • Leadership
  • Infrastructure
  • Creativity
  • Risk-taking
  • Engagement
  • Customer focus
Does yours?
For Jason Alleyne, he believes that many great lessons about innovation can be gleaned from modern business books, such as:
  • Nudge
  • Blink
  • Outliers
  • The Black Swan
  • Change by Design
  • The Power of Why
  • The Tipping Point
  • What the Dog Saw
  • David and Goliath
  • Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Alleyne urged everyone to be more like Billy Beane, the subject of the book-turned-movie, “Moneyball.”


  • Inject a new set of eyes, from a totally unrelated discipline, into your most ciritcial value creation function
  • Be courageous and insanely disciplined
  • Continuously search for even more structured data
  • Be protective of your data


  • Ignore 100 years of conventional thinking
  • Challenge your assumptions, especially “insurance must be sold” or “insurance is complex”
  • Obtain even better results with less resources
  • Win, win, win

Alleyne is begging us to “flirt with disruption.” Do you think it’s possible in an industry entrenched in such traditional ways?

For Xie, her simple definition of innovation is something that should be read over and over, and perhaps printed out and affixed to our mirrors or office walls. 

Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available tomarkets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and, as consequence, new that “breaks into” the market or society. One usually associates to new phenomena that are important in some way. A definition of the term, in line with these aspects, would be the following: “An innovation is something original, new, and important — in whatever field—that breaks in to (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society”


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