Will Facebook cost you more in insurance premiums?

We’ve all heard the warnings about sharing personal information and read the criticism of Facebook’s blatant disregard for personal privacy in the name of ad revenue. Now, it appears, that the use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter may hit us directly in the pocket book.

Insurance companies in the UK are making noise about increasing home insurance rates for those who use social media.

According to the operators of a UK price insurance comparison website, confused.com, users of social media sites could could face home insurance hikes as high as 10 percent.

In a recent article in Thompson’s World Insurance News, they cite recent burglaries in the US where the culprits used references to vacations and the use of location-based services on Facebook and Twitter to target homes for burglary.

The article also said that criminals are also using tools like Google Earth to plan burglaries from the comfort of their homes, or the local Starbucks.

I can see the logic from an actuary’s point of view, if I use these services I am more likely to share information that will lead to a burglary than someone who doesn’t. But with the proliferation of sites like Facebook and Twitter, it seems unlikely that insurance companies will be able to target those who use the services because … who doesn’t, or won’t in a couple of years? What it may mean is higher rates across the board, and more so in areas with greater internet penetration.

It seems to me that the real penalty should be on those who lack common sense; those who choose to share intimate details of their lives without paying attention to who can read them. But, because common sense is hard to measure in a questionnaire and insurance is based on pooling risk, it looks like we will all pay for the folly of the few (or the many?).


Pssst … my company is great, but don’t tell anyone

Please pardon my rant. I got an email the other day that made me really angry. It wasn’t the core content that did it, it was the disclaimer at the top.

Here’s what it said:

“Protect your investment in [Association X]. The information contained in [Association X] News is paid for by your membership dues. Please protect your investment by refraining from sharing this information with non members.”

Why did this little disclaimer, or warning, get me so hot under the collar? I think it was because I hate watching people make silly mistakes because they aren’t paying attention (my wife, by the way, will tell you this is because we hate most those negative traits in others that we have in ourselves, but that’s an entirely different blog post).

I lose sleep trying to figure out how to get people to think exactly that about my company, and to share the information with others and here is someone asking me not to do that.

A little background: The organization that issued the email in question is an industry association. The email was an installment of their regular email newsletter where they recap industry hot topics and tell members what the association is doing (justifying the membership fees). There is nothing very sensitive in the content and I have never seen anything particularly proprietary.

I cringe a little bit when I think of the opportunity being lost. The newsletter does have some good information. I find it a valuable source to catch up on issues I want to keep abreast of.  I think the content they share does a decent job of positioning them as experts in the industry.

What this quote says to me is that the organization feels that information in this email newsletter is so important, no one should get it for free. That it is more important to keep it a secret than to use it to grow revenue. Fine, some information should be paid for. Creators of original content should feel free to charge for it. But if your information is so valuable, why put it in the most shareable form of communication and admonish people for doing what comes naturally?

Years ago, while I was still in journalism school, I was the person who put together the (then printed) newsletter for a different association. I shudder to think that someone would think what I pulled together each month was the true value the organization had to offer. If they did, I was savagely under paid.

At a deeper level, I think this suggests there is a command and control type of information-as-power-philosophy within the organization. That bothers me even more because I deal with that attitude all the time and it just so ridiculously counter productive.  I’ll save that rant for another day, though.

How much should we share, though? There are new platforms every month to share information on. No limits to the thirst of those looking for information. How much should we give away? When does it become counter productive to growing our business? Please share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

Killing the good ideas to succeed

Have you ever had a really good idea, one that you knew was a winner, killed by your boss? Congratulations. You may have had one smart boss. She probably did the company a favour – and not because your idea was bad, it was really, really good. Seriously. In a blog post on the Harvard Business Review site on the subject, Julia Kirby paraphrased Apple’s Steve Jobs as saying, “killing bad ideas isn’t that hard … what is really hard – and a hallmark of great companies – is killing good ideas.”

It got me wondering why; why do so many good ideas go nowhere? After reading Ms.Kirby’s blog post, I realized it was because we weren’t killing enough of them.

When a company doesn’t kill some of those good ideas along with the bad ones, they end up taking on too much. Focus gets blurred, and execution fails.

The tricky part is how to do it. How do you choose which good ideas to kill?

Leave the ego at the door

The task of plucking the right ideas from a pool of many becomes particularly tricky when you are not only the one deciding which ideas get approved, but also a contributor of some of the competitors. We all have a natural bias to think our ideas are the great ones. We’ve done a great job of preselling ourselves. It is so important to be careful to remove the ego from the process and have a way of objectively evaluating each idea. Otherwise it becomes someone’s pet project list, and that drives people out the door.

Make it transparent

Transparency is key. Make sure everyone knows what you are trying to achieve (presumably, these are your core business objectives) and how you will determine the best ways to do it. That’s not to say that, as a leader, you can’t occasionally buck convention and go with intuition, but you better be able to explain how you made that leap, and if it fails, take responsibility.

It’s also key to help people understand that you do kill good ideas, and why you do it. Understanding that their idea wasn’t scuttled because it was bad can help cushion the blow in many cases.

I am going to try this out. I have high hopes it will help at home as well as work; maybe getting a few projects off the list will help me to get some others done, finally.

How about you? What good ideas can you kill today?