At the recent BenefitsPRO Broker Expo, I presented “Asking theRight Questions” at the start of the innovation track. One of mythemes was to encourage people to ask questions of customers todiscover insights. Then, I encouraged asking the next question.Never settle for a “good” answer when a much larger opportunity — agreat answer — can be uncovered by asking the next question.

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The images in the presentation started with a photo of a redsports car on an open mountain road. I asked, “Do you enjoy theexperience of driving?” I'm sure most said “yes.” Then we shiftedto a photo of a highway in total gridlock, and then to a womantexting in a car. I asked, “Really? Wouldn't most people today, inmost driving situations, rather be able to text than to drive?” Thefact is, most of the time, the freedom of the road is akin to amoving prison. The freedom to text (legally) can entice us to allowUber to do the driving for us. Will this evolve into a tomorrowwith self-driving cars that encourage us to text, watch Netflix, orenjoy the scenery? It could happen.

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Before self-driving cars become an everyday option, there aredetails to work out. While many of these challenges are technical,centered on the cars themselves and the systems that drive them,others are broader in nature.

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As self-driving cars become more common — as many greatcompanies anticipate — imagine what happens to parking meters andparking lots. The insurance business is noexception. Statistics show that self-driving cars are lessvulnerable to accidents caused by human error (unless one of usruns into them, of course). Human judgement errors, such as drivingunder the influence, would be avoided. In addition, auto ownershipitself may be disrupted.

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People may no longer feel the imperative to own expensivemachines that take up valuable space while sitting idle in aparking space or garage. Think of thousands of auto repair shopsgoing out of business. Closer to home, there is reason to believethat auto insurance rates may be headed down. I imagine productpeople in auto insurance companies are thinking about the effectthis could have on their revenue, and are coming up with newrevenue-generating ideas.

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Asking the next question can result in difficultconclusions.

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There is a also message here relative to the benefits business.The forces of disruption are not always obvious. Forces of changesit alongside businesses, hidden in assumptions. Let's think of thequestions we should be asking. I'm sure there are some with bigimplications. There are changes in our customers themselves,changes emerging from regulation and social trends, changes in theeconomy, in how product manufacturers and distributors communicatewith customers, and even in the nature of the relationship betweenemployers and employees.

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We need to ask the right questions about ourbusiness, and then keep asking to understand how to best positionourselves for success.

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