Industry observations and opinion from the staff
The Insurance Executive’s
IF WE CAN ASSUME CREATIVITY LEADS TO INNOVATION, AND INNOVATION, APPLIED
appropriately, leads to revenue, there’s a lot riding on insurance execs having that skill set. Examples
from other industries prove the value of an innovative leader: consider Amazon’s Jeff Bezos or
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose serial innovations vaulted them and their companies skyward.
Yet, according to Brigham Young University, this skill set is not necessarily inherent in the exec-
utive suite. In fact, the most innovative CEOs spend 50% more time practicing five specific innova-
tion skills than do their less creative counterparts. This revelation surfaced when three prominent
business scholars released the results of a 6-year study that asked famous and non-famous execu-
tives how they came up with their best insights.
“Most executives view creativity and innovation as a ‘black box,’ or something other people are
good at, but they don’t know how to do it themselves,” said Jeffrey Dyer, lead author on the study
and a professor at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management, Provo, Utah. Dyer
and his co-authors, Hal Gregersen of INSEAD, New York, and Clayton Christensen of Harvard
Business School, Cambridge, Mass., surveyed more than 3,000 executives and 500 individuals who
had started innovative companies or invented new products.
“In almost every case, they could describe engaging in a behavior before having the idea,” said
Dyer. “Something they had watched, someone they had talked to, some sort of experiment they had
conducted, or some question they had asked, was the trigger for the idea.”
In analyzing the results, five “discovery skills” emerged:
1. Questioning: Innovative executives ask more questions than do their peers; questions that
challenge the status quo. “Asking why or why not, and what if, spurs creative thinking,” Dyer says.
2. Observing: Executives who can innovate apply an action-oriented attitude to observation.
They tend to observe potential customers, and how they experience a product or service. “They
tend to focus on learning what’s different than they expected,” adds Dyer.
3. Experimenting: Innovative executives seek training outside their expertise. They take apart a
product or process just to see how it works, and tend to develop discovery skills. “Using discovery
skills not only helps people in their present challenges,” notes Dyer, “it prepares them for equally
interesting (but qualitatively different) challenges later.”
4. Networking: Rather than network to gain access to resources or to market themselves, inno-
vative executives connect with others simply to find and test new ideas, points out Dyer.
5. Associating: Connecting seemingly unrelated questions and ideas is the skill that brings all the
others together, Dyer explains. In fact, associating is triggered by new knowledge that is acquired
through questioning, observing, experimenting and networking.
So if being innovative isn’t the result of a genetic endowment, but rather a skill set that can be
developed with training, perhaps practice makes perfect.
Connecting the Business & Technology Communities
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BOARD OF ADVISERS:
Eric Bulis, SVP and CIO, SBLI USA Mutual Life
Ursuline Foley, SVP and CIO, XLRe at XL Capital
Dick Mucci, Chairman and CEO of International, New York Life
Dennis Mehmen, CIO, VP, Business Information Services,
Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co.
Mike Murray, VP of Finance, OneBeacon Insurance Co.
Michael Romano, SVP, Risk & Administrative Services, Highmark Inc.
Anthony Sisti, Information Systems Director, Travelers
Jan Tomlinson, Past EVP and International Field Operations
Manager, The Chubb Corp.
INVESTMENT ADVISOR AND TECHNOLOGY GROUPS
EVP & Managing Director: Bruce Morris
CEO: Douglas J. Manoni
CFO: Richard Antoneck
VP, Sales & Customer Service: Steve Andreazza
SVP, Director of Operations & Technology: Celie Baussan
EVP & Chief Content Officer: David Longobardi
EVP, Marketing & Strategic Planning: Anne O’Brien
Senior Director, Human Resources: Ying Wong
MARCH 2010 • WWW.INSURANCENETWORKING.COM 3