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Change is more emotional than you would expect

Innovation and the exhortation for organisations to change will never go out of style.

If we did a word search of the Insider 50’s 2017 annual reports, we would see the word innovation repeated with a higher frequency than ever.

In 2018 the word spins around the market like ribbons on a Buddhist prayer wheel, faster and faster until it becomes an incoherent blur.

True to today’s times, the first day of this week was quite a showcase for innovation and change.

Lloyd’s unveiled the managers for its innovation lab, we broke a story about Beazley providing paper for gig economy InsurTech start-up Tapoly, and the Instech London group held a meeting showcasing product innovation.

But the innovation that was most exciting and terrifying for me was real change in my own business. The process of switching over to a new website had hit a crucial phase.

The talking was finally over and we were running two websites in parallel.

There is the old one on which you are probably reading this, and the new one, where, if our incantations to the gods of innovation are favourably received, you will read next week’s column.

It’s painful and time-consuming and it entails duplication of work.

They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, but moving editorial websites takes things into a whole new dimension.

Imagine having to move into a new house without moving out of your old one.

The new dwelling is full of leaks and has snags and hard edges everywhere. The old place may be too small, dated and tired but it is also comfy and well worn. You are emotionally attached to it. It is the place where you raised a family.

You need more space, and you know you’ll soon settle in and eventually you’ll feel liberated, but just before you switch there is a powerful sense of loss.

Change is more emotional than you would expect.

The Instech evening was a superb, life-affirming experience. It proved beyond doubt that innovation is not just about new technology.

There were people showcasing fairly traditional insurance solutions for some very 21st century problems.

Battery warranties for electric vehicles, lost carbon credits, the use of smart sensors in commercial property, trademark protection schemes and cover for small commercial oil spills were all on show.

All are perfectly doable under our legacy insurance structures.

And once you strip out the tech, even on-demand insurance for gig economy workers (think Deliveroo and Uber Eats moped riders) is also completely traditional. The only radical move is to embrace the concept of ditching annual policies and allowing cover to be switched on and off in real time.

Since the tech and admin behind this is sorted out by the InsurTech partner, all an incumbent really has to do is change its attitude and find a way of making it compliant.

But that is still a very painful and emotional change.

The Instech evening was opened by a change management consulting firm called Ninety that had sponsored the event.

I often switch off during such commercial plugs, but its representative said something that really grabbed my attention.

He asserted that achieving a culture of innovation at big incumbents is really, really hard, but it is still much, much easier than trying to scale up even the most innovative start-up.

That is as heartening as it is challenging to hear.

We are all on our separate journeys to innovation. It isn’t easy for any of us.

Our new website will involve frustration and some work on your part.

You will need a new password and you may feel sad and miss the old Insider for a while. But I promise it will be very rewarding and enlightening in the long run.

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