At a business breakfast recently, two clients and I had a roundtable discussion sharing our thoughts about the latest and greatest ideas and experiences in insurance industry technologies, organizational constructs, sourcing options and other topics. There were about 100 years of experience between the three of us. All of us had worked in at least a few organizations; yours truly has worked in more than a few.

At first, the conversation centered on a few recent successes with call centers and what is being done to improve service, speed, outcomes and expenses. We drifted next into shared services and the issue of getting the internal organization to take the first step of trusting their colleagues to deliver. Throughout, there was plenty of discussion around smart-sourcing; using labor arbitrage in the right places to optimize the cost of labor when and where it makes sense. And of course, layered through the breakfast meeting was the topic of technologies, including stock-standard workflow engines, administration systems, business analytics, electronic payments, voice recognition and aerial imagery, just to name a few.

Toward the end of the discussion, we finished our coffee and started to summarize what we all heard and agreed to:

There are many great ideas out there, but few are really new. Often they are an older idea re-tried, re-packaged or re-branded.

There are many great technologies being developed and sold today, but some are just not ready for primetime.

The differences between organizations and their success-rates are the speed, quality and thoroughness of the ideas and technology implementation moreso than the ideas or technologies themselves.

The next time you have a few minutes before the day starts or between meetings, consider this: Does my organization need another new idea that we haven’t thought of, or just better execution of something we already know or have planned?

Steve Discher is an EVP at the Robert E. Nolan Co. a management consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry.

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