Our business today is faced with dozens of drivers ofchange—potential drivers of innovation. Handled properly, these drivers result inprogress. Handled poorly, they bring failure or even collapse. Theyare, for most of us, day-to-day distractions and points ofconfusion. They all add up to information overload. Consider thesefactors:

  • Technology: Big data; legacy systems; mobiletech; social media; exchanges, benefit administration andenrollment technology; wearable tech; biotech, longevity tech, anddiagnostic tech.

  • Regulation: Federal—including PPACA, Medicare,Social Security and HIPAA; and state—including tightening ofproduct approvals, extraterritorial mandates, marketing and salescompliance regulations.

  • Distribution: Broker consolidation;Zenefits; disruptive distribution via Amazon, Google,retail stores.

  • Generational and social diversity: Fourgenerations in the workplace.

  • Our customer relationships: Voluntary benefitsare “why do I need this?” products, not “I've got to have it”products like medical benefits.

How do we cope with all this information? Let's consider ideasfor handling all this data and using it to build a competitiveadvantage.

Innovation can be accomplished via trial and error—think ofEdison famously discovering thousands of ways to fail before he gota light bulb to work. Or innovation can come from a “eureka!”moment—think of Einstein riding his bicycle through the Alps doingthought experiments that resulted in considering light to be both aparticle and a wave and the theory of relativity. So there is noone correct way to get innovation started. You can burn outhundreds of filaments or ride your bike and dream. Be a tinker or athinker.

We constantly work to build a culture of innovation. Set highstandards for innovative thinking and foster it at every turn.Characteristics of a culture that encourages innovation include abasis in trust across the team, openness to ideas, empowerment ofevery team member, freedom to disagree or even to fail withoutreprisal, and an understanding of what innovation is—something thatimproves our relationship with customers and makes it moredurable.

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