Day 3 of Davos offered a diverse program of discussions, including the potential effects of new technologies on the environment (“Future Shocks: Rogue Technology”), the backlash against big tech (“Big Tech, Big Impact”), Agile Governance in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and Stepping Up Climate Action. The latter conversation featured Thomas Buberl, CEO of AXA, who discussed the potential role of insurers in moving away from fossil fuels.

How to Win in an Era of Disruption

Accenture’s key contribution on this day was “How to Win in an Era of Disruption.”  The panel included Accenture’s Chief Strategy Officer Omar Abbosh; Paul Jacobs, Executive Chairman at Qualcomm; and Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack.

Moderator Kevin Delaney, Editor-in-Chief at Quartz, started by asking about the most significant disruptive developments of the past 20 years. Media, retail, energy, smartphone adoption, genomics, biotech and outsourcing, as well as the new behaviors resulting from these developments, were mentioned.

As to how business leaders could anticipate future disruptions, Jacobs contended that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Butterfield added that while most organizations focus on current projects, it is vitally important that they are already thinking about the future.

Because disruption  is inevitable, the participants agreed mistakes and fail-fast approaches are necessary. Given the historically risk-averse nature of our industry, insurers may find comfort in Abbosh’s qualification that as long as failure occurs “in the right way,” organizations can benefit from new business models that can result.

The panel also agreed that putting customers first is essential to protecting a business against competition from start-ups and incumbents alike. Jacobs warned against complacency and recommended that companies subject themselves to competition, build sustainable value, and innovate continually. He added that the success of technologies like the Internet of Things will hinge on partnerships.

As insurers grapple with disruption, competition and new technologies, they must also be mindful of the resulting culture shifts that are required within their organizations. The key to motivating teams, Abbosh suggested, is to realize that companies have an opportunity to let people make a difference. To stay relevant, Jacobs advised “articulating a series of visions,” and “creating societal benefit for the world.”

When asked to speculate on disruptive trends in the next 20 years, the panel mentioned artificial intelligence (AI), personalization of health care down to the molecular level, acceleration of the drug approval process, and ensuring that the basic needs of society—such as food, water and education—are met. Butterfield added that mundane, repetitive work will disappear due to AI technology. The group also expects big changes in marketing, IT, legal and finance—all of which will undoubtedly touch the insurance industry.

For more information on the impact of AI on the workforce of the future, read the Reworking the Revolution report.

You can also replay all Accenture broadcasts at WEF 2018.

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