The South African insurance industry has often been described as one of the most innovative and progressive industries in the world.

A vital part of this is the fact that insurers are continuously going back to the drawing board and coming up with products that will excite their clients.  In light of this, insurers are going to great lengths to find out more about their clients and what their consumption habits are.

In the past, this was often a long and drawn out process. However, technology has simplified this. I recently read an article on which points out the benefits that the refinement of Big Data can offer insurers.

Powerful value

The article points out that Big Data refers to the capture and analysis of large bodies of data generated by powerful new technologies. Its analyses provide us with key business insights so that we can better determine patterns, predict future outcomes and make more responsible decisions for our businesses.

In many organizations, the use of Big Data started in the HR sphere because companies needed to better understand employee recruitment, performance and mobility. Now, though, business owners are clamouring for Big Data implementations in every part of business operations and are seeking new ways to embed analytics into everything we do.

The article adds that, within the next 10 years, the following examples will be mainstream uses of Big Data in the business world:

  • Reducing unconscious bias during the hiring process by calling out problematic job posting language;
  • Predicting the likelihood of employee success by capturing certain traits on video;
  • Delegating assignments based on individual productivity data gleaned from wearables;
  • Optimizing employee schedules based on existing patterns of task allocation;
  • Refining training approaches based on individual learning preferences;
  • Predicting vulnerability to fraud among certain customer populations;
  • Understanding customer buying habits in response to previously unpredictable external conditions (such as natural disasters);
  • Using past customer behavior to flag and address growing service problems;
  • Identifying a pending reputation crisis through patterns of negative online chatter; and
  • Calibrating organization-wide operations for the most effective use of automation.

Food for thought

The article points out that maybe you’ve thought Big Data analytics was reserved for larger companies with big budgets, but this is no longer the case. Every business owner can develop a data strategy to better understand customer preferences and how to increase your existing and future business.

By examining your data in real-time, you can instantly change course if necessary to gain a market edge.  And you can do so by employing tools like Google Analytics, Salesforce, or even Hadoop, an open-source project offering a platform to store and manage Big Data.

Hadoop has robust storage for multi-structured data like Web server logs, email and social network data, and its framework for processing data, MapReduce, allows users to play with data and move it around quickly. To begin taking advantage of Big Data’s potential, consider multiple aspects.

Assign an analytics leader

The article points out that, depending on the size of your company, you might put data analytics in the hands of a dedicated, multidisciplinary group that includes organizational leaders and representatives from all functional departments.

But if you are smaller, it may make more sense to hire a data manager or speak with a consultant for assistance with your initial Big Data strategy and implementation.

Design a unique approach

The article adds that companies should encourage the integration and use of structured and unstructured data from internal and external sources. To provide value, you must be able to translate information into insights and solutions.

Although you must have the right technology in place to do this, don’t underestimate the importance of human team members. Without their judgment and intuition, all the data in the world have no value.

The article points out that if you don’t have a lot of experience with Big Data analytics yet, consider starting small, perhaps with one data stream at a time. For example, you might initially look at the main products being purchased in a particular geographic area.

You can then use this information to develop targeted marketing offers to specific segments of your customer population.

Maintain data quality and security

The article adds that even the smallest organizations must consider data quality at all levels, put in place privacy and anonymity policies, and carefully implement practices to protect employee data from theft and abuse.

Many larger companies now have governance teams to ensure all people-related data are coordinated as the company reorganizes, acquires others and implements new systems. Regardless of your size, be sure to stay legal.

The article points out that, for instance, share a data privacy policy with your customers similar to the FTC’s Fair Information Practice Principles, and unless you have an extremely compelling reason for doing so, don’t sell your customers’ data to third parties.

Above all else, don’t look at Big Data as an intimidating chore. Realize its promise for your business, and have fun experimenting with its applications.

Finding the balance between engagement and culture

Trying to find purpose within a company can be difficult at times. The staff compliment within South African companies can often be made up of a melting pot of different cultures and personalities who mat not necessarily be aligned with the culture of a company.

However, it is important to establish this. A report by Forbes recently pointed out that US companies lose, on average, $605 billion a year because of a lack of engagement between company leadership and its employees.

A lot of the conversation about engagement has to do with the communication structures that exist within an organisation.

Serenity Gibbons, a Contributor for, interviewed Isa Watson, the founder and CEO of Envested, a workplace engagement platform, to find out more about this subject. We thought we would share a few of the interviews insights with you.

How do you facilitate communication in your company?

We’re diverse in age, race, gender, and religion. In fact, we’re a 50 percent female tech company, which is a pretty big achievement, especially with fewer than 20 employees. From a culture perspective and background, the people on our team don’t communicate the same way. That means we don’t have the same communication values or rules as others and can’t make assumptions.

Everyone’s perspective is welcomed. That means for those who aren’t naturally assertive, we need to make sure we ask that person, “Hey, what are your thoughts?” There’s not one single person who’s afraid to share an opinion that’s different from the majority. Promoting inclusion in a way that both recognizes how people are different and makes sure they feel included in the conversation cultivates a culture where perspectives are shared more freely, and people feel more comfortable disagreeing. They’re more comfortable with giving and receiving real-time feedback.

As we grow, I think we’ll see more of the same. Many companies get to 50, 100, or 1,000 people and suddenly realize their teams look homogenous. They then try to focus on diversity from a numbers perspective, but we’ve focused on inclusion early on. That doesn’t mean we’ve compromised on quality — our team is more educated than comparable start-ups’ rosters. But, rather than grow the company and try to stuff diversity in on the back end, we’ve been inclusive from day one.

What’s your current view of diversity in the workplace, and how has it evolved?

Right now, the conversation around diversity is mismanaged. Companies focus too much on diversity as something they need to achieve — which is part of the reason why there’s been a lot more talk about diversity than actual progress. Many companies think if they simply invest in having a presence at diversity conferences, in helping to achieve diversity, they’ll make strides — but they won’t.

I’ve been at companies where people are looking for quotas of diverse hires or candidates, and the one thing I will say is that underrepresented people are attracted to inclusive environments. So, instead of focusing too much on the term “diversity,” what people need is to divert their attention to inclusion — and to more training on the management side to build an inclusive environment. At organizations, I always knew which managers were supportive of high-performing black talent — and so were others; that’s not something you keep to yourself. We naturally went to those who would champion us.

A vital cog in the wheel

A vital cog in this wheel of success is that there needs to be strong leadership.

While this seems easily achievable, it is not. A good leader not only inspires their staff, but also knows when they are at fault and puts measures in place to resolve this.

While making mistakes is human nature, there are some mistakes which are avoidable:

Let go of “shoulds”

“Should” is one of the most dangerous words in our inner dialogue. Stop trying to live up to others’ expectations or advice. What do you truly want? What fires you up? Reprogram those thoughts. Free yourself from trying to look good, get it all right or performing for others. Settle into your own expression of self and learn and grow from what life is offering.

Take responsibility

You create your world through the choices you make. Take full responsibility for your world and commit to creating from it. You can sit back and let life happen, or you can start making real choices for yourself. When you put yourself in the driver’s seat, those circumstances outside your control have far less power over you.

Get to know yourself

What are your core values? What drives you and gives you a sense of purpose? Do the work to truly get to know your core self and unique strengths, then try to bring more of that forward, every day. Find ways to align it all with the work that you do. If your work is not aligned with your values, take a deeper look to find work that is. Ask yourself, “What is my most useful contribution in this moment?” Align with that.

Accept all of yourself

Once you know yourself, accept yourself — all of yourself, your shadow and your light. Stop trying to change who you are. Instead, work to strengthen who you are and to continually take yourself to the next level. When you aren’t at home with you, it’s difficult to make grounded decisions that truly work for you. Work to be more present with yourself, just as you are.

Embrace challenges

You can spend a lifetime fighting every little roadblock, or you can conquer them by embracing them for what they are: opportunities to grow. Every challenge is an opportunity to learn something new, either about your field or about yourself. Find the lesson and you will always succeed.

Let go of limiting beliefs that no longer serve you

When you imagine your ideal life or career, what intrusive thoughts get in the way? Let go of those! They zap your energy to keep you “safe” in your comfort zone. Stop letting them author your life story. Claim your own authorship. When you do your inner work and “clean up the basement” you bring wholeness to your world. Every moment is an opportunity to write or rewrite your story in a way that is nourishing and life affirming.

The truth is, everyone is a natural leader. But you cannot lead naturally if you aren’t leading yourself first. Turn your focus inward. Get to know yourself so that you can get control of yourself, your path and your choices. Leadership… will follow.