Many of you have seen the Gartner Hype Cycle curve. When a hot technology appears, it gets hyped and hyped until one day enough people become impatient, and sentiment turns against the technology. It then heads into what Gartner calls the Trough of Disillusionment. Eventually, the technology finds its role – often a major one – in the market.
The idea has always struck me as rather obvious (I described the curve to reporter colleagues on the tech beat at the Wall Street Journal years before I ever saw the Gartner chart), but Gartner popularized the notion, which is why it’s known as the Gartner Hype Cycle rather than, say, the Carroll Hype Cycle. Gartner is to be commended, because technologies can be plotted on the curve, and, drawing on history, their futures can be predicted with some confidence.
On the Carroll…er, Gartner Hype Cycle, the idea of technology-driven innovation in insurance seems to be heading into the Trough of Disillusionment (great name) among incumbents. A Lemonade or Trov hasn’t taken over the world. Big Tech is coming to insurance but not really here yet for most insurers. Industry executives seem to have read everything they care to about AI, blockchain, etc., and are starting to describe plans for small-bore improvements rather than truly innovative ones. Not total disillusionment, but headed in that direction.
Which brings me to the warning signs for 2019.
The slide into the Trough of Disillusionment creates real opportunities because prices of insurtechs will start to settle back toward reality. In any case, technologies keep maturing, no matter how we feel about them, so the day of reckoning in the market creeps closer all the time, and the slide toward disillusionment is the last opportunity for companies to position themselves before a host of technologies and startups will shake the insurance market.
If I’m right, 2019 may well be the last chance for insurance industry incumbents to start taking advantage of the opportunities presented by insurtech, or lose out to nimbler competitors. In that spirit, my colleagues and I at ITL pulled some thoughts together for incumbents on:
10 Signs You’re Headed for Trouble in 2019
- You set up an innovation fund and think that means you’re innovative.
- Your innovations focus on cutting expenses, to the exclusion of all else, and – worse – you reward executives based on those cuts.
- You say your legacy IT systems are what is preventing you from innovating.
- You say your defensive culture is preventing you from innovating.
- You practice “innovation tourism,” going to Silicon Valley and assuming magic dust will wear off on you. (Related warning sign: You have a ping pong table and coffee bar and think they signify creativity.)
- You have 6,000 ideas but can’t figure out how to turn one into a product.
- You can’t name 20 insurtechs that operate in your strategic domain or adjacent ones.
- You aren’t starting to move your operations into the cloud.
- You don’t have significant diversity in your management team and board, in terms of gender, race, age and nationality.
- You can’t quantify and measure how you’re doing on your innovation journey and hope you’re improving.
Bonus warning sign: You make television commercials criticizing innovative companies.
In "The Sun Also Rises," a character is asked how he went bankrupt. "Two ways," he says, "gradually, then suddenly." We’re still in the "gradually" part of innovation driven by insurtech, but "suddenly" is coming. I suggest insurance industry incumbents view 2019 and warning signs like these as a last warning to get moving and avoid innovation bankruptcy.