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Dec 05
I Carpenter

Once a year Big 'I' staff members from across the Midwest gather for round table meetings covering myriad topics about our associations. We collect ideas about what is working in other states, what our peers are seeing in the industry and what ideas failed both on and off the whiteboard. One of the topics this year was the rapid progression of technology and how it is affecting our industry. Several people in the room agreed that there is a good deal of fear amongst our associations and our membership about the adoption of new technology. Changing technology is affecting all aspects of our business from online rating tools to predictive modeling. We all agree that this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of advancements and changes coming our way and the pace is only going to increase in the future.

I am not a master of technology, I am a carpenter. I am not trying to be arrogant, but I believe that given enough time, money and the right tools, I can build almost anything. My father taught me woodworking at a very early age. We never really built high quality show pieces, but we built about everything we needed. My dad could build just about anything out of a pile of scrap wood that was hanging around the garage. That is something he passed along to me. Today I have my pile of scrap wood and can build just about anything we need when we need it. I will occasionally build a high quality piece of furniture, or something for our home that we can't buy. The truth is that most of the time it is just cheaper to buy it than build it, but that is another blog topic.

So, how does this tie back into technology? I look at technology the way a carpenter looks at his tools. When I start planning out a project I am not worried about whether or not I will be able to use the tool needed to complete my project. Occasionally I may not have the tool I need and in that case I have to factor the purchase of the tool into the cost of the project. Sometimes purchasing tools for a project, or the materials to build exactly what I want just doesn't make sense and I have to change the project. The reality is that while we have a nice home, I don't need a zebra wood spiral staircase with custom wrought Iron handrails. Good old oak will work just fine.

Adopting new technology is really no different. Where we all seem to get a little off track is when we start looking at what the technology can do first and then trying to figure out how we can use it. Advertisers, marketing reps and technology companies are mostly to blame for this backward view that many of us have. Their marketing approach is always "check out this cool piece of technology. You need it, it will make your agency better." Very few take the time to figure out whether or not their customer has a problem that their technology can solve. It baffles me why more companies don't approach technology the way we have always approached all other tools. Problem first then solution. Not solution, create problem and then solve.

So, back to the beginning. We shouldn't waste our time worrying about technology and how it is going to destroy our business. Instead, we should take time to look at our business and see how we can improve it, or build something new. The technology of today provides us with so many tools to improve efficiencies, gather data, analyze our performance and be more educated advisors for our customers. Viewing this technology as a tool instead of a threat will allow us to build a beautiful industry for many generations to come.

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