Let's be clear: Because technology creates sustainable competitive advantage, today's successful senior business leaders must demonstrate technology leadership. At Genworth Financial, our leaders use technology to drive continuous improvement and develop game-changing capabilities. Genworth leaders are always working to understand business processes and customers' needs better -- and address any opportunities or gaps encountered. They develop insights into how people interact with technology through observation, analytics and innovative experimentation. They know that technology development is a complex process and embrace their role championing technology execution. New technologies and the what-if possibilities they create are a part of every strategy discussion.
Ideas Without Focus Become Noise
We ground our technology discussions with a "market back" approach. New technology initiatives are generally developed in partnership with our customers, distributors or suppliers. This approach focuses technology on real problems and common opportunities. At the basic level, our collaborative approach generates continuous improvements that deliver solid financial returns and improved business process performance. Beyond incremental improvement, leading game-changing innovation requires additional leadership attributes and may require pushing a new concept toward customers that they have not requested. We sure aren't perfect and have our share of swings and misses -- but we use these to learn and improve
Successful Leaders Drive Game-Changing Technology
Leading a technology program that creates sustainable competitive advantage starts with fostering innovative thinking. Innovation's origins are rooted in structured innovation techniques and processes. The process begins with redefining the opportunity or problem and creating visions that stretch beyond conventional wisdom. For instance, Genworth strives to create transactions instead of processes and deploy technologies that automate tasks, not simply enable them. In many instances, the vision will challenge traditional paradigms. For example, by using technology effectively we can achieve the benefits of centralized scale while being distributed geographically. Thinking this way also helps us simplify in a complex industry.
While creating a vision, leaders spend time observing customers and always asking, "Why not?" They need to understand techniques such as customer deep dives, pain storming, cross-industry analogy and same-room design to tease out innovative ideas. During every interaction, leaders must demonstrate respect and empathy for the realities their customers face each day.
Next we shape our vision. This starts with setting process-performance goals that create meaningful differentiation in the market. Usually this means changing process performance by factors of five times or more and impacting characteristics such as cycle time, price, and ease of doing business -- characteristics that customers feel. This requires leaders who are comfortable with challenging the status quo; who will push innovation, but consider early how to achieve implementation; and who will convey passion and confidence. These leaders continually make midcourse corrections by asking themselves: "We are applying technology, ... but to what end?"
It all comes down to people. Leaders must develop diverse technology teams -- some formal, some virtual -- with differing backgrounds, skills and experiences to let the use of technology achieve its full potential. This is critical because technology resides within, and creates impacts across, business processes and can determine the feel of a company -- what many people label the customer experience. Having a blended team to take on new technology strategies can be instrumental in defining the breadth of the opportunity and ensure efforts are designed for effectiveness and, ultimately, execution.
Our industry has a unique opportunity to redefine our landscape with technology. Tomorrow's insurance companies are being built today by leaders who embrace technology, who understand how it creates innovative capabilities, and who have the skills and discipline to execute the change.