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The Responsibility to Fail

Robert Regis Hyle | June 12, 2014

How often in life have you asked yourself, “Where did I go wrong?” It’s an important question for those who like to get things right, but none of us can say with certainty that all our decisions are correct, particularly when looking into a future full of unknowns.

At conferences such as the one put on by IASA this month, success is usually what people like to discuss, but I found a couple of examples of people saying failure is not a goal to strive for, but it is not something to be feared, either. Those afraid to fail are unlikely achieve the success they desperately hope to achieve.

At the CIO Roundtable, Bill Hartnett, an industry consultant after a long career as Microsoft’s top insurance guy, told the audience, “Failure is an option.” Usually we hear motivational speakers claim that failure is not an option, and that may well be true when it comes to life and death decisions, but insurance is not life and death, unless you are talking about life insurance and death benefits.

Insurers have to be willing to try things that may not work because if they only try to do things they know will work, they can never reach the next level of success that comes from innovation and transformation.

In an interview I conducted with Andy Scurto, president of software solution provider ISCS, he claimed he doesn’t want anyone working for him who is afraid to fail. Scurto believes great success comes only after you stumble a bit along the way.

Letting go of that fear of failure is difficult for insurance carriers, which is just one reason most are no longer in the business of building their own software solutions. Insurers have ceded research and development to software solution providers because the carriers know that expensive failures are not tolerated in their board rooms anymore, particularly if a catastrophe crisis comes along.

Insurers are risk averse. They preach that point to their customers and they believe it themselves. It makes more sense for them to pay for a product with the understanding that it has been tested and been successfully deployed than to spend years—and millions of dollars—doing the same work themselves.

But not all packaged technology solutions work 100 percent of the time, either. So despite their best efforts to go for the sure thing, carriers have to accept the fact that some failure is a part of the process—as long as it’s not the entire process. It’s one reason why software projects have become incremental rather than big bang.

So good luck to everyone in the process of implementing a software solution. We always wish for success, but sometimes getting tripped up along the way can lead to better results down the line. Just don’t fall down the stairs when you trip. A slight misstep might be enough.

 

 

 

 

 


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