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Failure is the First Step to Success

Rob McIsaac | June 09, 2014

The world where business meets technology is one that is full of examples of failed implementation.  Or perhaps, better stated, it’s full of good ideas that failed to gain traction until someone figured out the proper combination of people, process, and technology required in order to make a significant paradigm shift possible. 

Henry Ford was brilliant, but he did not invent mass production, standardization of parts, vertical integration of business elements or a whole series of other things. What he did was figure out a way to put all of those components together in a way that allowed for the mass production of a relatively low priced automobile.

He also was fortunate enough to come along at a time when other elements conspired to create a near Perfect Storm. Road quality was on the rise, other technologies were emerging which allowed for rising living standards to include the creation of additional disposable income that was available for relative luxuries like personal auto transportation. Ford's genius was putting all of the components that allow for high-volume production together with a good product that met the needs of a large consuming public.

He did this when other elements came along to accelerate acceptance and adoption. Success ultimately led to Ford owning nearly 70 percent of the U.S. automobile market, a stunning success metric.

Similarly, Steve Jobs and Apple took a wide range of interesting technical ideas and consolidated them into well-packaged, easy to use, and intriguing capabilities that appeared to have few viable competitors in specific markets.  They also were not afraid to experiment and learn from failures.  Rather than waking up one day with a brilliant notion of what an iPad would be, there was significant upfront work in understanding a range of technologies. 

There also was risk as represented by the Apple Newton, a first foray into tablet computing. While it was intriguing technology, it ultimately represented a fairly spectacular failure. This did not deter Apple from continuing to try and put together the right combinations of features, functionality, and usability.

The second coming of tablet computing certainly leveraged those earlier lessons. It also came along at a time when other elements, including pervasive Wi-Fi and touch-screen technology reached a perfect point of maturity. Success with iTunes and an educated consumer market helped to create a paradigm shift of almost unimaginable proportions, fundamentally changing how computing was done in a remarkably short period.

For insurers, there are several potential take-away messages. One is that once a technology shift such as mobile computing takes place, customer expectations regarding the ability to use that technology in new ways can shift quickly. As companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have moved to enable their businesses on mobile devices, consumers have come to expect that all things can be done in the same way. 

It is no great surprise that the leading age of technology adoption in financial services—banking—has moved aggressively to deploy mobile capabilities. In many bank CIO conversations today, a tipping point has been reached. The question has changed from “if mobile development is appropriate” to “whether mobile development should take place first, ahead of other technology solutions.” In some cases, a new question is emerging: Is development for devices other than mobile capabilities necessary at all?

This is an important paradigm shift for insurers to understand because these experiences are now setting the expectations for prospects, customers, and agents concurrently. The world has already changed.

(Rob McIsaac is a principal with Novarica)

 

 

 


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