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4 keys to leading through change

Average is not an option, author and founding editor of Fast Company Bill Taylor told health insurers gathered at the America’s Health Insurance Plans Ops/Tech Forum in Phoenix last month. “The only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special,” he said, building his case that insurers must rethink everything they do from the inside out. And many insurers are doing just that amid the fast-shifting, challenging health care landscape. The health insurance industry is facing unprecedented change as health plans move to a consumer-centric way of selling health insurance while grappling with the rising cost of care and an ever sicker population. Meanwhile, digital tools offer new ways of tackling problems and new entrants in health care are disrupting traditional ways of doing business. These are “tough, fast-moving times,” Taylor said. Some bits of wisdom for navigating the storm: Redefine success: “Success today, the true metric of performance, isn’t to try to be the best at what lots of other people are doing. It’s to be the only one who does what you do,” Taylor said. “What is your emotional and psychological contract with your customers?” Think outside your experience: “You have to see things that companies in your field haven’t yet seen. That’s what leaders do,” Taylor said. That might mean bringing in talent from outside your industry, or even simply listening to some other perspectives, to ensure your decades of experience do not cloud the possibility for innovation. Whichever approach, it’s essential to look at what your organization does with fresh eyes. “You can’t let what you know limit what you can imagine,” Taylor said. Be compelling: Think there’s not much room in a highly regulated industry to be compelling? Think again, Taylor urges, citing the example of Oregon-based Umpqua Bank, a rapidly growing organization that does all of the ordinary things banks do, but also serves coffee to customers, opens branches as after-hours community spaces, encourages volunteerism and more. “There is still so much room for outrageously great service,” Taylor said. Truly connect: “What is more personal, intimate, psychological than your health?” Taylor asked, urging health plans to step back and redefine consumers as humans. Look at your organization’s touchpoints from their point of view. Does your company truly connect? “What customers are really hungry for today are symbols you send that reaffirm your shared humanity,” Taylor said.