In this industry, I hear a lot about evolution and change. Whether it’s heard at industry conferences, read in pieces submitted to this magazine or simply through staff meetings here at the office, there is a sense that all involved in the great business of insurance are ready for a transformation. But to me, there’s a lot of talk and little action.
 
I may be wrong, however.
 
At the recent LIMRA Annual Conference in Boston, I got the chance to hear Bill Taylor, founding editor of Fast Company, deliver a keynote address. Taylor spoke about Umpqua Bank, a Portland, Oregon-based personal and commercial bank chain that has thoroughly transformed the role of a bank within the communities it serves. For example, as Taylor noted, Umpqua serves coffee at several of its Seattle-area locations and invites people — customers or not — to enjoy the café-like feel of these branches. In other areas, the bank stays open after hours to serve as a community gathering place for book clubs and yoga classes, among other groups.
 
So why bother?
 
“They do it because they want to change the conversation with their customers about what a bank can mean in this day and age,” said Taylor. “And change the conversation with their community about what a bank can mean to a community.” 
 
Another example of transformation is DaVita, a Denver-based health care company that provides dialysis treatments and support services for patients living with chronic kidney failure. The company was nearing Chapter 11 status in 1999 when current CEO Kent Thiry took over. The organization now ranks No. 230 on the Fortune 500 list, making the company’s impressive improvement a staple case study at Stanford Business School.
 
How did Thiry do it? With a focus on company culture.
 
“This is probably the most impressive financial turnaround in the world of health care,” said Taylor. “What’s really important about the DaVita story is they turned around the business by turning around the culture. This is the most culture-driven business turnaround I’ve ever seen. They think of themselves as a community first and a company second.”
 
What Taylor (and many other conference keynote speakers out there) are trying to tell us is that adopting a bit of an experimental mindset, putting community first and taking on risk, however small it may be, could prove beneficial. All industries are in a state of change right now. But the ones that embrace that change — or better, start the process themselves — will come out on top.
 
As Taylor said, try rocking the boat a little bit