Thinking About Technology

Alan Kay defined technology some years ago as that which wasn’t around when you were born. Of course, he said it much better than that but the point stands. When you arrive in the world and become cognizant of your surroundings – including the technology that your parents use, you use, your friends use – you just think of all that ‘magic’ as normal.

Of course, we can project ourselves at many miles per hour or talk to family and friends across the globe; or see our favorite projected sights whenever we want (whether on television or YouTube or embedded in our social networking media); or text a message and expect an answer back instantaneously. We breathe, don’t we?

Those technologies are just part and parcel of our environment. They inform a baseline experience.

That baseline experience gets enhanced when the existing technologies are used in new and varied ways. That baseline experience gets enhanced when new technologies alter how we go about our daily life whether at work, play, or shopping.

Specifically the baseline moves up a notch or two or more when the application of current and emerging technologies alters  our interactions with other people, with how we conduct or affairs and, as importantly, with other technologies.

No company is an island onto itself. But you could be excused if you thought so because many companies behave as if they were impenetrable and highly fortified castles in their own right. You feel that when you ask yourself “how come I can do (fill in the blank) with that company but not with this company?”

The new baseline redefines your experience. The new baseline defines a new floor of your expectations. Companies that don’t meet those (new) expectations are competing on precarious ground.

What technologies or applications of technologies have heightened your baseline experience?

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Published in: on October 21, 2009 at 4:33 pm  Comments (2)  
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Gourmet Magazine & Modern Bride … Gone!

I imagine most folks saw the news the other day that Conde Nast has decided to shut down four magazines including Gourmet and Modern Bride. My reaction to that news was whoa…. even though I’m not a gourmet and certainly not a modern bride. I have had the same reaction to my weekly ComputerWorld when it arrives. I have been subscribing to ComputerWorld for many decades and to see it shrivel down to its anorexic state is just … well just depressing. Yes, I do research and analysis of current and emerging technology’s impact on the insurance  industry. But to see the impact of the digital revolution on these traditional magazines is another matter.

I know, I know, you’re wondering about the ‘so what’ as it pertains to our insurance industry.

The ‘so what’ is fairly straight-forward. You and I both know hard-copy print is going the way of the dinosaurs except the magazines won’t be leaving society any future tar pits. So, here’s the thing: how many insurance company departments and field offices have left paper behind? How many agencies are now totally digital? How many claims adjusters are going away from paper?

How fast is the insurance industry moving towards totally – or even mostly – digital operations? Or are they waiting for Modern Bride to disappear? Hold on, it just did!

What about your insurance company or insurance agency? Are you off the paper-diet yet? Why not?

Published in: on October 6, 2009 at 4:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Prisoner of Our Own Experiences

Back in 1973, my wife and I went to see American Graffiti. You might remember it was about hamburger joints, car-hops, cruising … all the fun stuff that she and I had enjoyed as teenagers. Even though we were from different parts of the country (my wife is from the Midwest – Kansas City, Missouri and I’m from one of the Boston MetroWest suburbs) we thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie and connecting with it.

At that time, I was working at The Hartford and one of my close friends who worked with me came from New York City. He and his girlfriend went to see the movie with us. As we walked outside afterwards, he said that was a fun movie but how could anyone come up with all of that ‘fiction.’ My wife and I just stared at him dumbfounded: fiction we asked? That was real, that is how we grew up, nothing about the basic tenets of American Graffiti was fiction.

He laughed at us. He couldn’t believe how we so closely identified with the movie. We asked him where he took his dates on Saturday night: night court, he answered without missing a heart-beat. And again my wife and I were dumbfounded. Night court?! Who takes a date to night court?

We are all prisoners of our own experiences. Those experiences shape us, inform us and act as signposts as we move through life. We have to remember that our experiences are not universal. More importantly, we have to look outside our experiences if we are to improve ourselves and more on point to my blog, improve how insurance business is transacted.

Improvements are far more than streamlining operations or speeding up transactions. Improvements include using current and emerging technologies to develop products that prospective policyholders and producers expect, deliver those products and services using technologies that may not be part of our experiences, and strive (and probably struggle) to keep up with an ever-changing environment and marketplace.

Without getting out of our prisons of past experiences, we’ll never find that mysterious but beautiful blond in the Thunderbird.

Published in: on October 2, 2009 at 9:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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