Professionalization leads us to an interesting dilemma. Actuarial culture and, for that matter, organizational culture got insurance companies to where they are today. If the culture were not moderately successful, then the company would not still exist. But this is where Prospect theory emerges from the shadows. It is human nature not to want to lose the culture that enabled your success. Many people nonetheless thirst for the gains earned by moving in a new direction. Risk aversion further reinforces the stickiness of culture, especially for risk-averse professions and industries. Drawing from author Tony Robbins, you cannot become who you want to be by staying who you currently are. Our professionalization, coupled with our risk aversion, creates a double whammy. Practices appropriate to prior eras have a propensity to be locked in place. Oh, but it gets worse!
By the nature of transformation and modernization, knowledge and know-how are embedded in the current people, processes and systems. The knowledge and know-how must be migrated from the prior technology to modern technology. Just like your computer’s hard drive gets fragmented, so too do firms’ expertise as people change focus, move jobs or leave companies. The long-dated nature of our promises can severely exacerbate the issue. Human knowledge and know-how are not very compressible, unlike biological seeds and eggs. In a time-consuming defragmenting exercise, information, knowledge and know-how must be painstakingly moved, relearned and adapted for the new system. This transformation requires new practices, further exacerbating the shock to the culture. Oh, but it gets even worse!
The transformation process requires existing teams to change, recombine or communicate in new ways. This means their cultures will potentially clash. Lack of trust and bureaucracy are the most significant frictions to collaboration among networks. The direct evidence of this is when project managers vent that teams x, y and z cannot seem to work together. It is because they do not have a reference system to know how to work together.
Author(s): Bryon Robidoux
Publication Date: September 2022
Publication Site: The Actuary