It is received wisdom that the past tends to repeat itself (with minimum deviations) in the future. Knowing what worked before is as important as knowing what works now. In this light, most industries’ operations manual re-echoes the culture within the industry. Same applies to Insurance. The manual records and guides the daily work routine for a particular task at hand. This had eventually accentuated the need for experience in the work environment. Experience has been a mantra, an excuse for rejection for recruits and catchall phrase for years. To illustrate the importance of ‘Experience’ let’s take a detour into a story I read recently about the Elephants in a book: Management of Insurance Operations by Bates and Atkins (2007).
‘Some years ago in one East African country it was decided that there were too many elephants. They were getting out of their reservations and damaging crops on nearby farms. The authorities reluctantly decided that a cull was necessary and so they held consultations with various experts to determine the most humane method of undertaking the task. It was agreed that they should kill all the old cow elephants that were past the age of breeding, as this would have the least effect on the viability of the herds. The strategy worked brilliantly for several years until there was a drought when all the herds began to die of thirst. Only at this point did the authorities realize it had been the old cows that remembered where water could be found in the driest summers. By killing these experienced animals they had destroyed the herd memory.’
The story above enables us to note the following as key points:
Intellectual capital should be preserved
Some information as may seem transient should be adequately preserved for posterity and future generations. For example companies should be able to document past vital information and be able to make meaning with them.
Industry Clique is important
One person cannot know it all. One qualified insurance practitioner cannot be the sole repository of all insurance knowledge. Some industry information is well known and understood by others either by virtue of their previous engagements or learning. It serves a good purpose to socialize with the insurance fraternity especially with the older folks.
Learn from mistakes
Unintentional errors do happen in the field of work. The only good remnant of such situations should be the valuable lessons they leave behind. We should be able to also learn from the mistakes of others.
We should not discount what experience has got to offer. It always pays to have someone with prior knowledge and has the ability to read the signs of the time.
Michael Adomako, ACII.
Chartered Insurance Practitioner