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Why Is “Digital” A Noun?

As seen on LifeHealthPro

It's important to think about your own true core competencies and then match them to unmet needs and emerging trends, writes Maria Ferrante-Schepis. (Photo: Thinkstock)

It’s important to think about your own true core competencies and then match them to unmet needs and emerging trends, writes Maria Ferrante-Schepis. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Call me old fashioned, but I believe we have forgotten that technology is not a “what,” it’s a “how.” Technology is very intoxicating, because it comes complete with millennial attraction, new vernacular, hip looking office space and sometimes a lot of money. However, keep in mind that the cool new app, acronym or buzz phrase is only as valuable as your vision without it.

Innovation has so rapidly become the most urgent skill set to develop that many new innovation leaders are skipping over the basics and are thrust straight into the “tech” side of their industry. They are left thirsting for and examining every new technology and looking for a place to apply it. In fintech and insuretech, particularly, this list is long as many startups jump on the bandwagon of opportunity. For the untrained eye, this can result in a lot of time and money spent on the wrong things.

Let’s get back to the how versus the what. “What” means the offering and experience you want to deliver. “How” enables that experience. When you are crystal clear about the what, it is much easier to find the technologies you need, and, more importantly, deploy them effectively.

Becoming crystal clear on the “what” takes careful examination of the current offering, consumer feedback and also examination of the trends that shape the future. These are insights, and they can be quantified so that you know which ones are the most important to focus on.

In insurance, for example, some might be focused on price comparison as the consumer need. While this was a strong need years ago, the market is now flooded with comparison sites. This is the reason why even the great and mighty Google couldn’t scale their first attempt.

Less obvious — but emerging — in our industry are the ways to make insurance more transparent. This can include everything from the decision process to approve an insurance application, all the way to rate-making and even company profitability. Insurance startup Lemonade has interesting approaches to satisfy this need, and the area of transparency is rich with opportunity. After all, it is the flip side of trust, and we know that the insurance industry is not trusted.

However, just because others are going in a specific direction does not mean it’s right for your company. It’s important to spend time thinking about your own true core competencies and then match them to unmet needs and emerging trends.

Innovation has so rapidly become the most urgent skill set to develop that many new innovation leaders are skipping over the basics and are thrust straight into the "tech" side of their industry. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Innovation has so rapidly become the most urgent skill set to develop that many new innovation leaders are skipping over the basics and are thrust straight into the “tech” side of their industry. (Photo: Thinkstock)

After six years working in innovation, it has become evident that more companies need to spend time choosing the strongest insights that are a match for their power. Then they should hunt for startups and partners based on those insights. While on the surface this may appear to narrow the field of choice, it actually widens it because it will help to uncover the non-obvious companies that don’t list themselves as serving a particular industry, and are more clearly just about the “how” that you are looking for.

So back to digital as a “how.” Yes, digital experience, digital interface, digital platform, digital communication, but no, not just plain digital. If you need to kick that habit, imagine yourself as an experience designer in Fred Flintstone’s town of Bedrock. What would you do? You would find the right dinosaurs that could work very hard behind the scenes to create the “what,” which is the seamless experience that the customer expects.

I recall several of these from watching that show as a kid. Some small dinosaurs fit nicely under Wilma’s sink, eating scraps like a garbage disposal. Others were large, and used their mouths to haul rocks like a crane. Some flew with chairs tied to their backs to get people from place to place.

The experience designers in Bedrock were really good, but they wouldn’t characterize themselves as specialists in “dinosaur.” They would just focus on the ultimate experience using the tools at their disposal. We just need to replace those dinosaurs with the modern digital technology, or whatever is next after that, keeping in mind what the consumer demands now, and more importantly, what they will be demanding in the future.

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