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Innovation vs. Tradition



Have you ever noticed how often an idea appears out of nowhere and then starts showing up repeatedly? Then again, maybe the idea has always been there. But something triggers a recognition, and suddenly, it seems to be everywhere, almost demanding your attention. That’s exactly what motivated me to write this blog. 

Wendy recently wrote a blog inspired by the book Atomic Habits. The specific idea she shared from the author was that the most successful people allow themselves to be bored with repetition. The book explains that the repetition of fundamental activities drives success.

Then, the morning of this writing, I was scrolling through LinkedIn and came across a post that commented:

I wish we would stop referring to everything as ‘innovation.’ I meet so many people longing for it when their problems are rooted deeply in a lack of ‘tradition.’ 

Traditions have saved my life more than any technology I have ever used. Returning to behaviors and rituals allows me to find myself when I have long forgotten.” 

Call them the fundamentals, basics, or traditions, but it is hard to deny that some foundational activities and behaviors drive success when followed consistently. The unfortunate reality is that, too often, we fight against boredom and abandon these behaviors for no sound reason. Other times, it is the lure of jumping on the “innovation bandwagon” when FOMO gets the better of us.

Not to be insulting, but before I go too far down this path, I want to clarify what I mean when I say “innovation.” This word has become so overused and clichéd that it has lost much of its meaning. I will use the most basic definition: innovation is “a new method, advanced and original.”  

This definition begs the question: is something innovative if it is a return to a traditional system? Was it an innovative move when Coca-Cola abandoned New Coke and returned to the original recipe? I’ll come back to this idea in a bit. 

When innovation backfires – Part 1 

Some trends in our industry are positioned as innovative, value-based plan designs, for example. These plans are promoted to employers as just that, “innovative.” And, in countless ways, they are. But it’s shockingly sad how difficult it can be for employers to embrace these “new and innovative” ideas. 

Returning to the New Coke comment, is something innovative simply because it may go against the recent trend? As another example, think about the farm-to-table movement. It was touted as an innovative trend for healthier eating. Sure, it was a welcomed change to processed, pre-packaged diets that have become too common. But was it really innovative or simply a return to a traditional, healthier way of eating? 

This can also be said about many recent trends in health insurance, specifically, those embedded in value-based insurance design. Is having a direct primary care relationship with your doctor innovative, or is it a welcomed return to traditional care?  

The innovative versus traditional argument aside, perhaps advisors embracing this trend should embrace promoting the traditional aspects for other reasons.  

I've heard countless stories of advisors taking out these creative plan designs to employers and showing them ridiculous cost savings, only to be rejected. This is mostly speculation on my part, but I think employers presented with innovative plan designs they don't understand with savings that seem too good to be true become suspicious of a plan wrapped in an “innovative” (interpreted as new and untested) label. 

If advisors positioned these plan designs as a return to a simpler time of healthcare/insurance, they may find it easier to get buy-in. 

When innovation backfires – Part 2 

Okay, maybe this isn’t an example of innovation backfiring. This is an example of us abandoning proven activities and behaviors due to boredom or a lack of discipline. 

From prospecting to selling to professional development, most salespeople have found and successfully used proven sales strategies and tactics. The problem is they don’t stick with most of them long enough to create foundational habits. 

At the beginning of our online sales training courses (the MORE System), we explain that we may not introduce anything entirely new; there is very little innovation about the system we’ve built. We acknowledge that most of what we teach is based on things our clients have seen, heard, and likely used in the past. What is perhaps innovative is the explanation and organization we have provided, along with the customization of the ideas to the benefits industry. 

The MORE System is simply an effective organization of proven, traditional sales activities. But guess what? Those who embrace and implement our system sell more business, period. 

For most producers, reaching their sales potential is rarely about discovering some "innovative" idea or approach. For most, sales potential is reached when they start repeating tried and true activities. If we’d focus on the excitement of predictable results rather than obsess over the boredom of repetition, we’d all be much more successful. 

Some criticism is warranted 

Sometimes, a traditional approach runs its course. "We've always done it that way” should never be a reason not to make changes. At the same time, we should never make change only for the sake of change. Sure, question how it’s always been done, but only make a change if there is a better way. Usually, it won't be a wholesale change but more of an adjustment.  

We’re here to help 

If you find the promise of consistent sales success built around a systematic process designed for benefits professionals by benefits professionals to be more exciting than bouncing from one new strategy to another, visit our website at or connect with me on LinkedIn. 

Not only have we built the training program you need for predictable growth, but we’ve also built all the resources, conversations, and analysis tools necessary to establish habits that will drive growth throughout your career. 


Content originally published on Q4intelligence

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