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DRIVING INNOVATION BY PRECEDENT (AND PRACTICE) Read below to see how Chubb Insurance and Vanderbilt’s Executive Education paired up to tackle industry changes and help their employees innovate, the Music City way. Background

According to an extensive PwC 2014 survey involving CEOs in a variety of fields, insurance executives expect that changes in customer behavior, distribution channels and the competitive landscape will be more disruptive to their business than leaders in any other major industry. Their reasons for concern are easy to understand. Millennials, who represent the next generation of insurers’ clients, are less loyal than their parents and grandparents, much harder to engage through traditional sales channels, and different in their expectations for products and services. At the same time, changing demographics among their own workforce are also creating new challenges for insurers. “In the next two years, 25 percent of our employees are eligible to retire,” says Kathleen Overlin, Agency Education Manager at Chubb Insurance. As aging employees leave—in the insurance field, the average age of the workforce is over 55—their experience and institutional knowledge leave, too, creating a void that is difficult to fill. Attracting millennials to work in the industry has proven to be a challenge. “Everything is changing,” says Overlin, whose job involves working closely with agents and brokers. “And it’s changing at a more rapid pace than I can ever remember.”


Chubb, like other companies in the insurance industry, recognized the need for innovation. But how to go about it? How to go beyond imposing solutions from the top down to create a culture of change within the organization? And how could Chubb help spread new approaches to the agents, brokers and partners who sell its products—and whose efforts would be critical to the success of the company’s responses to change?


Chubb engaged Vanderbilt to deliver a customized version of the Executive Education’s new Music City Innovation program for a group of the company’s employees and partners. The (2-day) program uses, as its starting point, the original story of the Grand Ole Opry, which was created not to sell country music but rather to sell insurance—a revolutionary idea that piggybacked on a disruptive new technology, radio. Continued on back.

The Client Partner With more than 10,000 employees and offices in 25 countries, Chubb Insurance is a Fortune 500 company and the eighth largest property and casualty insurer in the United States. While all industries continually change, “Our industry is changing at a more rapid pace than I can ever remember,” notes Kathleen Overlin, Agency Education Manager. Like their insurance peers, Chubb Corp. faces a coming retirement-related demographic shift in their workforce, while also courting a uniquely challenging new generation of clients, the Millenials.

The Professor Vanderbilt Professor David Owens led the interactive classroom portions on strategic innovation throughout the (two-day) course. Professor Owens serves on the faculty at the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management in the area of management, specializing in innovation and new product development. He is known as a dynamic speaker and is the recipient of numerous teaching awards. He provides consulting services for a wide range of clients around the world, and his work has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, London Guardian, and on NPR.

Contact David Goodridge | Director |

The Music City Innovation program is one of Vanderbilt’s newest customizable offerings for organizations. It not only equips individuals to become better strategic innovators within organizations, but it also relies on new approaches to learning. Along with interactive classroom sessions on strategic innovation led by Vanderbilt professor David Owens — one of the nation’s recognized experts on the subject — the program includes content on how innovation changed the history of both country music and Nashville. Noted music journalist and producer Craig Havighurst leads the sessions on Music City, some of which are held in iconic locations, such as the Ryman Auditorium, where that history was made. In piloting the new program with Chubb, the Vanderbilt team worked with a class that consisted of Chubb employees as well as agents and brokers from the company’s Southeast region. The first day focused on helping participants experience examples of innovative thinking (from the intersection in Nashville of their own industry with country music and radio); understand their constraints and create a culture of change. Participants also completed individual assessments to help them identify and understand their own personal barriers to innovation. In the evening, participants worked collaboratively with local songwriters to create and perform songs incorporating the concepts they had discussed that day.

During the program’s second day, amid sessions on strategy and data analytics, multidisciplinary teams identified priority areas, within both Chubb and its affiliated agencies, for applying tools they gained during the program.

Results n By

design, Music City Innovation does not present specific solutions for clients to implement. Rather, the program aims to provide participants with a framework of knowledge and problem-solving skills that enables them to develop new approaches to particular challenges they face—and foster a culture of innovation within the organization.

n In

the week after the program’s delivery, participants from Chubb and affiliated insurance agencies and brokerages affirmed that they would benefit both right away and in the long term.

n “I

have a system I can begin using immediately,” wrote one. Added another: “I left with a number of techniques to utilize with managers and other staff.”

n “The

program helped me make a clear list of ideas regarding how we deliver for our customers,” said Nancy Gardner, Personal Lines Manager for Chubb. Gardner noted that in tandem with a local insurance agency’s representative, they applied the Music City Innovation framework to consider strategies they could apply within the local agency. “Our partner walked away with a whole list of ideas from the innovation workshop that they plan to implement,” Gardner said. “And these ideas address immediate needs. They can’t afford to wait five to ten years.”

n Chubb

is making plans to bring the Music City Innovation model to its personnel and its agent and broker partners from other regions. “I would like to apply this process to bring in pairs from across the country. The day after we went through the program for this initial group, two marketing managers called me and wanted to know when we could do this for their Eastern region.”

Interested in developing a custom-designed program for your organization like Chubb did (Music City Innovation or other)? Contact us at:

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What Participants Said

“It was thought-provoking, seeing the things I see every day but through a different lens and asking myself whether I need to do things differently.” — Program Participant

“What made this course more fascinating was the way the history of WSM was woven in — having a radio station integrated into the life insurance business. In 1929, they thought radio was the greatest thing since sliced bread. A major takeaway was that there are still innovative ways we can work through the challenges we’re facing. The program opened up the group to think about doing things in new ways. It’s about creating a transformative culture of innovation.” — Program Participant

Chubb: Custom Program Case Study  
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