'What do you mean we need to be a software company?' asked Lukas Braunschweiler, CEO of Sonova, one of the world's leading manufacturers of high-tech hearing devices. I had just finished giving a talk to their senior leadership team at the gorgeous lakeside town of Stäfa, near Zurich. 'We already have lots of software engineers. Are you saying that we need more?' It was a fair question, and one I had spent much of the prior week thinking about, in a few unusual places. How many software engineers do you need to transform a company? Read the full article here.
I met Kjell Nordström a number of years ago in Oslo. He and his colleague Jonas Ridderstrale, had together written the international bestselling book, ‘Funky Business’, and were the undisputedly bald, brilliant rockstars of Swedish innovation. Fortunately, I was able to catch Kjell once more, while I was visiting Norway last week. Currently a Professor at the Institute of International Business (IIB) at the Stockholm School of Economics, Kjell is an expert on global markets, big ideas and creativity. We spoke about his latest book, ‘Urban Express’, co-authored with Per Schlingmann, which details why the future belongs to cities, women and new types of global organizations.
The old adage goes that life insurance is sold, not bought. The digital revolution has not only flipped that idea on its head, it now also challenges the way insurance products are designed and priced. The real action is yet to come. Insurance companies have always been data-driven, but in a new era of consumer genomics, that is no longer an easy path to tread.
Life insurance is a curious beast. The products are complex, the application and purchase process is time consuming and full of paperwork, and even once a policy is bought, it can live on a mainframe for 30 years with very little interaction between the insurer and the customer. Unfortunately for insurers, today's customers are conditioned to expect a very different level of service, even from them.
Think about it. If every aspect of your life, from shopping to entertainment, banking to travel, is seamlessly orchestrated and personalized for you based on your data and preferences, why would you bother with a complex product that relies on antiquated, paper-based forms and human agents twice your age?
No wonder that many consumers no longer really understand how life insurance works, or even how it should be prioritized among their other investments.
In fairness, transformation has not been easy for insurers. Government regulation, legacy technology platforms and decentralized, agent-based distribution channels have made controlling, let alone, changing the customer experience, a tricky proposition.
Haven Life is an interesting exception. They took a complex purchase process, which can take between 4-6 weeks, and made that happen entirely online in 20 minutes, without a medical exam. To achieve this, they worked with a traditional insurer, MassMutual, and designed the process from the ground up specifically for digital purchase and a direct distribution channel.
Haven Life is an impressive success story, but in some ways, the real story here is how traditional giants like MassMutual, saddled with legacy systems and regulatory oversight, can still find ways to innovate and experiment in their ecosystem.
A big part of creating a culture of experimentation, is openness to failure and adaption. One of MassMutual's most publicized projects was 'Society Of Grownups', an experience center designed in collaboration with IDEO, with the aim of providing a cool environment for Millennials to learn financial literacy. The storefront was eventually closed down, and plans to open ten more of them shelved, after leadership decided that digital channels were a more effective way to engage with that group.
Redesigning customer engagement channels is one challenge, but when it comes to data, probably the greatest disruption of all, won’t be just interfaces, but how the life insurance industry handles the rise of consumer genomics. Full genome sequencing has finally become affordable, falling from $10m ten years ago, to now $1000, and in the future, potentially as low as $100.
As a result, consumers face a troubling paradox. Do you provide your data to ensure more personal, relevant products, or do you now need to worry about providing too much information when, in the case of genetic predisposition to serious illness, it might open you up to the risk of discrimination and potentially being uninsurable?
Like many industries, 21st century life insurance companies need to reinvent themselves as algorithmic, data-driven platforms. Unlike most, however, they will need to do so, steadied by a strong moral compass, otherwise they may face entirely new kinds of unwelcome, regulatory disruption.
Daniel Kraft is a Stanford and Harvard trained physician-scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, and innovator. I met him some years ago at the Singularity University, where he was chair of the Medicine Track. Daniel is also the Executive Director of Exponential Medicine, a program that explores convergent, rapidly developing technologies and their potential in biomedicine and healthcare. On a recent visit to Silicon Valley, I caught up with him to talk about how traditional medicine is being disrupted by the digital age.
It’s as much about culture as it’s about code,' says futurist Mike Walsh
How must a mid-21st century credit union differ from the credit union of today?
No real blueprint exists, Mike Walsh told attendees of the CUNA Technology Council Conference and CUNA Operations, Sales & Services Council Conference during his keynote address Wednesday in Las Vegas.
What if the best way to steal something in the future is just to print it?
Fab theft refers to the use of digital scanning and 3D printing to replicate copyrighted designs or patented objects — and it is happening already. On the infamous platform, ‘The Pirate Bay’, there is now an entire new section known as ‘physibles’. Nevertheless, despite the moral panic about 3D printing, the real risk of fab theft is not 3D printed guns or TSA keys, but the sustainability of copyright in a world where everything is available on demand.
Consumer 3D printing technology is rapidly evolving to the point where it’s no longer just a curiosity for hobbyists. Better quality scanners combined with higher resolution printers and more durable feedstock, are for the first time making both the commercialization and the criminalization of 3D printed objects viable.
A few weeks ago researchers at the University of Buffalo found a way to hack a 3D printer by measuring ‘leaked’ energy and acoustic waves that emanate from printers. They managed to program a smartphone’s built-in sensors to measure electromagnetic energy and acoustic waves, and in so doing, guess the location of the print nozzle when in action.
The easy availability of fab theft tools means that we are on the brink of an impending clash between copyright and the future.
For brands, there is fuzzy distinction between fan engagement and fab theft. In February 2013, HBO sent a cease-and-desist letter to Fernando Sosa asking him to stop selling his 3D printed iPhone dock that he based on the Iron Throne from TV series, Game of Thrones. Even though Sosa had designed the 3D model himself, HBO claimed it owned the rights to all images that appeared on the show.
The toy manufacturer Hasbro adopted a rather different strategy. Noticing the unexpected growth in a subculture of consumers modifying My Little Pony toys, they announced a partnership with the 3D printing platform Shapeways to provide licenses for consumers wanting to create their own fan art.
The fab thieves of the future, however, are less likely to be teenage hackers and fanboys than commercial 3D printers with the scale and quality to rapidly copy and re-distribute designer and high value items.
Today the obvious point of attack are new product prototypes printed internally in R&D labs. Tomorrow, when goods themselves are ‘streamed’ to consumers for printing at home, brands will need to find a way of securing the digital files while in transit. Authentise for example, have launched 3D Design Stream, an API for 3D marketplaces that, like Netflix or Spotify, streams designs directly to buyers’ printers for a single use.
It does make you wonder, though. How will streaming rather than selling physical products change the business of manufacturing?
If You Aren’t Using Your Data, It’s Just Taking Up Space | Mike Walsh
The government collects a lot of data.
Tax records, financial transactions, census information, demographic intelligence and a myriad of other data sets on millions of American citizens make the federal government the largest data collector on the planet.
Yet that data does little more than take up space in agencies if it’s not being analyzed to change leadership decision-making or to improve the experience of users and customers. That’s according to Mike Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, a consultancy and research firm.
The big question is: “How will the rise of the Internet of Things and growth of data change the way we approach decision-making and leadership?” Walsh said, speaking at the Management of Change conference May 18. “In the era where we not only have data but also have it in real time, how will we change our applications, how will that data empower leaders in organizations to make better decisions?”
The use of real-time data to rapidly alter decision-making is poised to help agencies reinvent themselves, Walsh said. That’s already happening in arenas like emergency response, where a single tweet can spring the Federal Emergency Management Agency into action as it responds to disasters.
At the federal level, though, those examples are more the exception than the rule. Still, Walsh cited several examples across other levels of government that highlight the success of real-time data solving real-world problems.
San Francisco, for example, posts the food-inspection scores of restaurants on Yelp to give customers -- in this case, tax-paying citizens -- additional information when reviewing where to wine and dine. One of the criticisms of Yelp is that restaurants can use a variety of tactics to bolster their review scores. The city of San Francisco, though, realized it’s impossible to fudge a health score.
The city of Arlington, Massachusetts, produces an immersive “visual budget” to its citizens that allows it to “communicate more effectively with stakeholders, users and citizens.” Tax-paying citizens use the budget to catch a glimpse of where their tax dollars are being spent at any given time.
Louisville, Kentucky, collects GPS data to determine where local pollution triggers asthma attacks. This can act both as a warning for those susceptible to asthma to stay away from certain areas but also can help city officials determine a measured response to mitigating pollution spots.
Still, it might be difficult for the federal government to take a clue from local innovators, Walsh said. Culture can be resistant to change, and the larger an organization is, the more likely it is to experience the effects of a negative culture, he said.
Walsh issued an important decree to an audience comprised mostly of federal employees and federally-focused industry personnel.
“Data is only valuable if you can redesign the way government works or redesign the actions of decision-makers,” Walsh said. “If we as leaders don’t use data effectively in what we do, in improving our user experience and our own decision-making powers, we’ll be in trouble.”