Steve Anderson - The Anderson Network

LinkedIn ‘Top 150 Influencer’ breaks down how insurance agents & brokers can thrive in the future

With a background in insurance and a love of technology, Steve Anderson has become one of the most trusted and respected guru’s in the insurance industry. Steve is a prolific writer and speaker, with a reputation for translating ‘geek speak’ into easily understandable concepts for insurance agents & brokers. Together Michael and Steve discuss Steve’s journey to becoming a valued thought leader in the insurance industry and how agents & brokers can do a better job of embracing technology to drive their businesses forward.

What are other agents & brokers doing to thrive? What are the biggest trends affecting the retail insurance agent & broker? What are the most important strategies and tactics you need to grow faster?  Find out here in the Connected Insurance Podcast, where Michael Jans discusses the biggest issues affecting the independent insurance agent and broker with the industries leading figures.

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[Transcript] Steve Anderson – The Anderson Network

Michael Jans: Hello, everybody. This is Michael Jans, Executive Chair of Agency Revolution where we automate your systems, engage your customers, and help you grow your agency or brokerage. I’m excited to be able to bring you into this conversation with Steve Anderson. Steve is well known throughout the industry and I suspect that most of our audience knows who he is. He’s written for virtually every insurance publication. He’s probably spoken to virtually every insurance organization. He is a well-respected guide and guru as it relates to how technology can transform agencies and brokerages.

Without further ado, I want to bring you into a conversation where Steve, fairly bluntly, shares with us some of the challenges and threats that we’re facing. Also, shares with us a very point and strategic approach to how we can overcome those challenges and how agents and brokers can dominate their marketplace. Again, without further ado, my friend, Steve Anderson. I’ll urge everybody, please listen carefully. Thank you.

Hello, everybody, this is Michael Jans. I’m delighted to have not just one of my good friends in the industry, but frankly, one of the industry’s best friends himself, Steve Anderson, joining us today. I’m excited about this conversation because I think we’re talking to not only one of the smart guys, but one of the guys who really, really cares. So, it’s a great combination. Without further ado, first of all, I want to say hello to Steve. Steve, how are you?

Steve Anderson: I’m well, Michael. Thanks for having me.

Michael: Yes, it’s my pleasure. Steve, I’m going to start out a little bit differently. First of all, I think people should know who you are. The rare of you who do not. I happen to have seen you say that you have spoken to over 50,000 agents, so [chuckles] there should be very few who don’t know Steve Anderson.

Steve: Well, that may be. I’ve been doing a long time like you, so those numbers bit by bit add up.

Michael: Well, see, oddly, I had a career prior to entering this industry 25 years ago, but I think you said that you’re a 35 year veteran of the insurance industry.

Steve: Well, yes. Actually, the way I like to phrase it now is, 35 plus. I actually got my first insurance license in 1978, so whatever those numbers are, I stopped actually counting. But it’s been a long time.

Michael: I want to zero in on this for a moment, Steve. There are a handful of people in this industry, you are one, who have very, very interesting jobs but nobody hired them for that job. It didn’t exist. You didn’t wait in line and sit in interviews to be Steve Anderson. You were Steve Anderson and you created a unique position in the industry. I’m curious, first of all, how that came about. There’s an art and a skill to creating a position that really matters, that people really pay attention to.

I’m curious how that came about. Then I’m going to ask you what you think– if you’re going to summarize what Steve Anderson stands for, I’m going to ask you to do that. Let’s take the first part; how did you become the guy you are in the industry right now? Nobody else could come in and do what you would do. People would say, “That’s Steve’s job.”


Steve: That’s an interesting question. I actually I don’t believe I have ever been asked it on that way before. My response would be, I’m very curious. How that has played itself out over the years is being in the industry. Worked for my father-in-law 13 years, part of what I did there was bring our first in-house agency management system. Enter that agency, was about 1982 or ’83 and at that time they were expensive and didn’t do much. But I got curious about how to maximize the investment that we made. Actually, we didn’t make, traveler’s insurance company paid for it, those were the good old days.

Michael: Those were the good old days, yes.

Steve: Yes, but really looking at and I got involved actually with the vendor in the user’s group. I spent days with programmers trying to help them understand the workflow in an agency. I got really in the weeds in a lot of ways with, “Okay. How can we make this really work for us?” Really, even from those early days in the 80s, looking at, “Okay. How can we make money with this? Either reducing expenses or increasing revenue.” Fast forward, left my father-in-law’s agency in 1990 and ended up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area doing consulting.

Met two gentlemen who owned an agency, came in and started selling insurance with them, but also kept that curiosity. For example, we began scanning all of our paper files, and the agency was fairly good size, 25 people or so, and primarily commercial insurance. We began scanning all of our paper files in 1994. The way I always say is, I don’t know if we were the first, but we certainly were among the first agencies who were taking that leap and figuring out again how to do it. What are the good fad, what’s the workflow, etc.

Michael: Was there resistance to doing that in the firm?

Steve: Actually, one of the reasons I came with that firm and partnered with them is the two primary owners, Bill Cadenhead and Jack Shreffler were visionary. I would say Bill Cadenhead primarily, he was on early Cord stuff. He really wanted to push the envelope and that just resonated with me. It was a great environment for me to come in and learn more about what it is that technology can do for an agency.

Michael: You came into an agency that had a culture of innovation and was willing to use tools of technology to facilitate or accelerate that innovation. Did they benefit from that exercise?

Steve: Massively.

Michael: Okay. [laughs]

Steve: What can I say? In terms of productivity, in terms of how we responded to client needs, all of those kinds of things. Again, this is the 90s. The internet was just coming along, so we were just starting to figure out what that might look like. In the mid-90s, I started writing a column in Rough Notes, talking about what we were doing. I actually was asked to teach for the National Alliance in the Ruble level, so CIC Rubles. Started talking about technology and what we were doing, and realized fairly quickly that that really was my passion.

I left the agency in ’99 and started on my own. Frankly, really I’m 17-18 years later doing the same thing; researching, exploring and writing, speaking, some consulting around what’s new and how agents can use it.

Michael: Okay. I know that you’re doing something that’s really exciting right now, I’m going to circle back to it in a bit. I know that you’re writing a book and that you’ve got a very strong thesis about things that need to happen in this industry. I’m going to get back to that. I want to get to the second part of my question which is, if you are going to summarize what is Steve Anderson now, what do you stand for? I don’t mean in that PC brandy-way, really, what is the message that you believe in and the message that you believe must be heard?

Steve: First part would be what I do, and it’s actually sometimes really hard to tell people, “Okay, what do you do?” You said earlier, “Steve Anderson, what does he do?” I really am a translator between the really geek people and the agency operations people. I would include some curious in there or curious in terms of how they work with agency, but that historically has been my focus, is helping agencies understand what all these new stuff is. I’ve been doing it literally for a long time.

I’ve been cleaning out my office and came across some old VCR tapes. We may have to explain that to some people but of–

Michael: They can google it. They can google it. [chuckle]

Steve: Yes. Anyway, but of a presentation that I did. I actually did a roadshow in 2000 and ended up– 2000-2001, ended up doing like 24 different presentations to a group of agents that represented, at that time, CNA Personal Insurance but later became branded as Encompass. The whole message there was, “Why agents need to be on the Internet.” I had a chance to review– I converted it to digital and had a chance to look through and review some of the material. It was fascinating that the message hasn’t changed all that much. The tools have, but the idea that consumers, at that point, are going to change, today consumers have changed.

They aren’t about to anymore, they have changed. There still are a lot of agencies, a lot of agency owners, that are very successful. I never want to be either stupid enough or to say that agents aren’t successful. But is that same success going to be translated to younger consumers? Either Gen X or the kids coming out of college today. What are the tools to really engage? My message has been for a long time that agents have great value. But how they deliver that value is changing, and certainly, technology in its rapid development, things are changing faster today than they ever have. Really, over the last 15 to 20 years, that’s still the message. It’s just– the time is accelerating now it feels like. I think the core message that I bring is that agents need to think about technology as a tool and only a tool that helps them engage better with the consumer-

Michael: Boy, do I love to hear that [laughs].

Steve: I define consumer very broadly. A business owner of the largest business is a consumer. They have their expectations being changed every day by things outside of our industry. So don’t hear consumer as personal only. I believe it’s as much business if not more so in many ways.

Michael: Absolutely. Steve, you said about three or four things that are making my mind go crazy with questions. I’m going to zero in on something you said a couple of minutes ago. You alluded to your experience, I think you said it was in the ’80s, and for a lot of agencies this clearly drifted into the ’90s. I’m curious if you see a parallel between something that was happening back then, to largely an earlier generation, and something that’s happening now.

If you go back then– I recall, this was back when I was the Executive Vice President of the Trade Association of the West Coast. One of the things that we did for a period of about two years, maybe three years, is we would invite all of the prominent agency management system vendors to come on stage at our convention and they do– it was a battle of the agency management systems. They’d get a few minutes on the screen and we had a facilitator that would ask them questions and then the audience would go crazy on them and ask them more questions.

It was a fascinating time because agents were being asked, agency leaders, managers, principals, owners, they were being asked to embrace a technology which was conceivably transformative, and it was a big decision. I remember a lot of them looking, they were coming to me, they were going to each other and asking, “Do you have one of these? Do you really think you need one of these?” It was a period where there was a big question that needed to be answered, there was a big technology that is conceivably transformative.

Now, fast forward now, my friend, and it seems that there are some parallels. A lot of agency leaders are saying, “Do we need to embrace these new technologies? We’ve been doing okay up until now.” Some, like the early adopters, going right into it. I think we’re– my sense is maybe we’re passing that stage and we’re seeing more people saying, “What are you doing for communication technologies, or other technologies, to help you engage more with your customer?” I’m curious what your historical view is. Do you think there are similarities between what was happening then and what’s happening now?

Steve: Yes, I do. Certainly, the whole agency management system platform discussion is a whole another area we could go into, if you want. I think there’s no question there are similarities there. I will say in actually 1990, long story, but travelers owned the management system platform that we were on in the agency that was the Travelers EBS system. Travelers just decided to shut it down, they wouldn’t sell it to the user group etc. The user group put together a seminar in 1990, a two-day show where they just had invited all the vendors out there. I don’t remember now how many, but there were probably 20 or 25 vendors there.

Today, I track about 40 vendors that I consider– or, I would say 40 vendor platforms, probably about 25 vendors, maybe 30 vendors, that I consider viable options, depending on size and mix of business, and those kinds of things. Well, I would say 2016 to the late 2015 saw the entrance of a couple more agency management system vendors platforms. There’s still this continued look at what’s that tool that the agency is using.

I do think one of the things that’s different today than it was certainly in the ’90s, and I would say even the 2000s, is that the technology to transfer or share data is easier today than it’s ever been. I think that’s one of the benefits of building on prior year technology knowledge, is that those things are easier. I would say my frustration with several of the large management system vendors is that they are woefully behind in adopting and using those kinds of technologies to allow agents to pick whatever platforms, not just policy management platform, but marketing and sales platform and those kinds of things.

You experience some of that with the work that you do with your platform. That’s a frustration on my part. Yes, there’s some parallels there and there are new ways to think today. I think if I would say the difference today, so that was similar, the message for many years has been, “Agents are going to be irrelevant and we’re going to all go online.” That hasn’t happened. Agents continue to be successful, they continue to sell, although I would point to personal lines, as an example, where that has not been the case.

I believe agents gave that up. It wasn’t taken away from them, they just decided they couldn’t afford to work on it. I see that’s happening in small commercial also. But here’s what’s different. Potentially, and I’ll say it that way, not definitively, in 2016 global InsurTech investment total $3,343,000,000. Unprecedented in our insurance technology landscape, since I’ve been around, representing about a 190 firms.

So far, in 2017– so we’re just at the end of March, first quarter– so far, total investment– again, this is globally, not just US, it’s $388,405,000 with about 30 firms. Again, unprecedented in terms of the amount of venture capital and private equity money that’s coming into the insurance technology space. Most of those, I would say 95% of those, are not friendly to the independent agent. Meaning they see it as a displacement. There are a couple that are. I think that is a significant difference. It really comes– we could go into that in more detail if you want. I’m getting into my presentation mode, so I pause–

Michael: Okay [laughs].

Steve: – keep going



Michael: Well, I know you’ve thought deeply about these things.

Steve: Well, I do. These are some of the things I’m talking to agents about in my presentations. I just, again, last week had a group of about a 120 agents I was talking to about this and trying to explain, “Here’s why I think there might be a difference today than there has been for the last 15 or 20 years where, yes, you’re still here and you’re still successful and all of those kinds of things. But is this a change that agents need to really pay attention to?”

Michael: Steve, if we look forward even into the not distant future but to the relatively near-term future, we’re probably looking at a world where consumers have more choices about where they purchase insurance. Certainly, the emerging digital channel is going to grow with so much money going into it. My research shows that of all of the spaces that it’s going into, more is going into PNC distribution than any other place. So agents and brokers should wake up and listen to that.

The world will be different, consumers will have more choices, why should they choose the broker channel? What do you think are the unique attributes or inherent strengths of this channel that make it worth fighting for, that so many of us fight for?

Steve: Studies that I’ve read show, even today, really over and over again, that people do start research online and will get to a certain point in terms of gathering information but, ultimately, I believe most people– not all, because, for example, think back to 800-number Geico. People would call them up and complete it over the phone. Yet, I think many people still understand that this is a more complicated transaction than buying on Amazon. So, they still want to talk to somebody.

What I’ve seen with a lot of those distributions that are coming out– and I’ll take Metromile, about a year ago I heard the CEO speak. They have agents, they have a call center. The difference is it’s 24 hours and somebody can call up any time they want. We need to examine closely what they’re doing. Here’s where I would say that agents need to be embracing and figuring out how they can utilize digital channels to begin the conversation. I’m following in great detail now the machine learning chatbot digital interaction that’s more customized and personalized.

That doesn’t mean if you use that as an agent, you’re not directing people back into your office, talking to your staff and talking to an agent asking their detailed questions and understanding that people don’t need an agent for information. They can get it pretty easily. They do need an agent for advice. “What do I do with all this information?” And time is money. I think that’s a mindset that we need to keep in our forefront when we start looking at the technology platforms and all the new stuff.

I absolutely believe that independent agents will be using machine learning and chatbots as part of how they deliver a great customer experience. But I would say the mindset of most agents right now is, “Oh, I’m not going to worry about that.” That’s part of what needs– I go back to mindset, not that technology is to be feared, but technology is to be embraced and figured out how it can best be used.

One of the other things I’ve been talking a bit about, which seems to resonate certainly with certain agency owners, is the fact that their traditional IT department, one, needs to be renamed. It’s no longer IT because IT, in my mindset, signifies somebody who’s keeping your computer’s plugged in and running. IT needs to be your Technology Solutions Department. It needs to move from the expense side of the P&L to the profit side of the P&L. Your technology department should be providing solutions that are making you money. Again, that’s a big mindset shift for most in the industry right now.

Michael: Well, speaking of mindset shift, I’m curious what your response is to this. You and I both recently were at– have now returned from the annual NetVU conference. It was at that conference a mutual friend of ours, Bruce Winterburn, of Vertafore, said something like, “It’s time for agents to embrace the technologies they used to most fear.”

I had a chance to chat with him about that afterwards and he said, “Well, think about it. We feared, first of all, a long time ago we feared computers and then obviously we embrace those. And, of course, we feared the Internet and we feared these communication technologies that allow our competitors to come in and talk to our clients and cultivate relationships with our clients,” he was saying, “it’s time.”

I’m curious, you said something that made me think of the term, “Urgency.” On a scale of one to 10, Steve, given the influx of venture capital, the disruptive character, the InsurTech community and movement, how urgently do you think today’s broker needs to act in regards to embracing modern technologies?

Steve: Well, I think urgency needs to be there. I guess the first question is for agency owners and brokers. I guess I’m thinking more of the smaller agency which certainly are getting– hit is the word I have in my head, I’m thinking, from multiple sides in terms of resources, but they’re also closest to their clients.

But what is the mindset is the mindset, “I’m 59 years old, I’m going to retire in five years and I’m not going to worry about this, so I’m going to punt the ball down the road to whoever takes over the agency that I sell to because I probably don’t have a perpetuation plan in place, so I’m just going to sell to somebody. Now I’m not going to worry about it.” That’s the mindset.

The other mindset is, “I want my agency to continue and I have been working for five years, or 10 years, or four years, or whatever it is, on figuring out how I can perpetuate my agency. If I do really want to do that, then the urgency is even more in terms of understanding consumers.” I keep coming back to that because the technology, again, is only a tool, and a tool to help you engage with, talk to, interact with consumers in a way that they want that interaction.

Certainly, the easy one is text messaging, but what’s coming next? I mean literally, right now, I’m writing the next issue of my weekly newsletter Tech Tips on using video as a virtual handshake. Instead of sending an email, a producer makes an appointment with a potential prospect and, typically, I’ll send an email saying, “Thanks for talking with me. Just to confirm our meeting details, next Tuesday at 10:00 AM in your office. Here are a few things that might be helpful to have together for us to discuss whether working on your insurance program, it makes sense for both of us this year.”

Think about doing that in a video email. Short, one-minute, if that. And start out the video with, “I know sometimes it’s great to put a face with a name, so I wanted to send you this video email confirming the details of our meeting next week and just to let you know that I really am interested in talking with you.” Well, again, how about that engagement? Well, I can tell you that the vast majority of producers that they’re going to go, “I don’t want to do video.” Well, again, why not? How are you going to engage if you’re not actually able to see people? It’s a great tool for personal lines and small commercial where you can’t afford to go out and see them.

Just a tiny little example, but it’s all these little things that– and again, I’ll go back to a comment you made earlier, “If you are building a culture of,” and I won’t even say innovation, that sounds way too difficult, but, “a culture of experimentation,” meaning, “Okay, let’s try video. Let’s try one or two producers, or one or two CSRs in our office, and let’s see what the reaction might be. Let’s experiment and test on a small scale and then bring it to a big scale if it looks like it’s actually having some positive results.” Well, that experimenting mindset is something that our industry doesn’t do. I think that’s a real problem.

Michael: It’s a good segue to what I’m going to ask you next. I’m going to quote you. I’m going to throw three Steve Anderson’s Andersonisms at you and I’ll be curious what your response is to these. If you don’t recognize these words, they are your words. The first one is–

Steve: Not that I’m a little nervous now, but go ahead.


Michael: The first one is, “The more successful a company becomes, the more risk-averse they become.” The second one is, “The biggest risk is not taking one,” and the third Andersonism is, “Take more chances, take risk, fail. You must increase risk.” It seems to be a theme that you’re communicating to the industry right now. Steve, do you want to respond to those quotes of yours?

Steve: Yes, they certainly are my quotes and I do believe them. It’s really been a number of years now as I’ve really looked at technology and how fast it’s developed. When I ask ages that I’m in front of, “Do you feel like technology is changing faster than ever has?” Everybody agrees. I don’t get any push back on that particular thought. I think what’s happening is technology is a time accelerant. Meaning, while time can’t go faster, it actually does. Think about, I can tell you now our perspective of time or perception of time absolutely does change.

What that does now, and it really goes back to everything that we’ve talked about, is first, the biggest risk– I would say any business faces today and certainly the insurance business. The biggest risk is not taking enough risk. I’ve spent my career helping people reduce risk, get an insurance policy. Everybody in our industry, that’s what we focus on. Because of that, we see all the worst things that can happen every day. That mindset is a detriment, I think, now. As we’re talking about your comment about urgency, well, I think that urgency absolutely is there and our mindset is, “But if I take a risk I might fail.”

The answer to that is, “Absolutely, correct.” But here’s where the VC, Venture Capital, and private equity mindset as I’ve learned and researched, I think like you have in terms of the money that’s coming in, one of the things they know is that 80%-90% of the firms they invest in are going to fail. They just don’t know which one. What they’re looking for is the real successful one.

Michael: The crazy unicorns that might transform.

Steve: Yes, the crazy unicorn, the billion dollar value. I mean it’s Snapchat with 13 employees and a billion dollar valuation and are you crazy?

Michael: Throw in a few singles and doubles and everybody’s going to be fine on that end.

Steve: Yes, exactly. That mindset is, “We’re going to give a little bit,” in their mind, “a little bit of money to a whole bunch of firms because we don’t know which one is ultimately going to be successful or ultimately going to pivot to the right model, right whatever.” Think about an agency doing that. Wouldn’t happen. “What Do you mean I’m going to fail? What do you mean I’m going to lose this money? What do you mean that’s not going to work? What do you mean?” So, that becomes a real problem.

The other comment quote is, the biggest risk a company faces is becoming successful. I said it a little bit different than you did but it’s the same idea. That’s where I can point to BlackBerry, Kodak, Blockbuster, all kinds of big firms. What happened is what got them to be successful, Kodak is a certainly a great example, is the film business, and they invented the digital camera. But what happened? Well, their board of directors, when presented with this for more funding for research and development in the late ’70s and ’80s they said, “That’s just a child’s toy, it won’t take pictures.”

Michael: They said it was cute, “But don’t show it to anybody.”

Steve: Again, the result obviously was that film was decimated. Certainly, when the cameras on smartphones started coming out, because what they didn’t realize is they were not in the chemical and paper business, they were in the memory business. That’s the Snapchat versus Kodak comparison. They understood people wanted to take pictures. They didn’t really care, at that point, about the quality of the picture and so consumers changed.

BlackBerry, I could do a same similar scenario with in terms of their mindset. They were successful, they had the business, mobile e-mail market, cornered. What they never anticipated was when consumers would start driving business, because it was the IT department who made the decision and not the consumer. Well, consumers started taking that over and they never could conceive that the cellular providers, AT&T and Cingular and all the ones around, would invest billions of dollars to increase their capacity on their networks to allow you actually to browse through a cellular signal.

CEOs quoted in several different ways or different times that, “You can’t put a browser on a phone.” That was their mindset. Because what made them successful couldn’t carry them to continue. Anyway, yes, that I think is– and it’s around innovation, it’s around disruption, which is a term I really don’t like, but even around experimenting, and this idea that you test.

Another quick story, I’ve been researching old technology and been gotten fascinated with the development of the electric grid in the United States. In the late 1800s, 1887-1890 something, late 1800s, there was what is now called a current war, C-U-R-R-E-N-T. It was the war on, “Was the US going to be wired for AC or DC? Alternating current or direct current?” Actually, there were four people involved in that war; certainly, Thomas Edison, Westinghouse. Edison had direct current. Westinghouse with Tesla, who actually invented the alternating current or how it was able to come out.

Then there was an attorney for Westinghouse, long interesting story we don’t have time for that right now, but the particular piece is what I learned more about Edison. He was brilliant. He had lots of ideas. I think his most brilliant idea, or move or development, was he created an idea factory. He wasn’t this lone person sitting in his lab in Menlo Park New Jersey, he had 30 to 35 full-time people who were experimenting.

When you hear the quote of Edison that says, “I have 10,000 ways that I know don’t work. I haven’t failed, but I know 10,000 ways,” that’s why; because he experimented bit by bit by bit. Again, you’ve got me on my soapbox here, Michael, but I see that maybe more so than the technology, is our mindset and how we approach some of the changes that are going on rapidly within the industry, certainly.

Michael: If I’m seeing this right, Steve, you are calling for the industry to develop an experimental mindset. To some extent, I sometimes see that as contradictory to the common admiration we have for best practices which generally tells us, “This is how others achieved success two or three years ago.” Generally, reports on the successes, but very rarely, reports on the failures. It’s a very different way of looking at business. I suppose now, when the times are changing so fast, experimentation is not optional.

Steve: I would agree. Let me say this one comment; I call it the risk dilemma. The reason is that you need to increase the amount of risk you take, yet if you take too much risk you’re in the same position. That’s the dilemma. The dilemma is, where is the right spot? Where is the sweet spot? Where is the fulcrum point for the teeter-totter? And it’s continually moving.

It’s always a question you need to ask as an organization, and maybe as a department or a particular product line, because it’s not going to be the same. That dilemma is certainly real, because I am not suggesting you take stupid risks. Right now, we are taking no risk, and I think that’s as dangerous.

Michael: Steve, you’ve shared with me that you are now working on a book. You want to tell us very quickly what your thesis is?

Steve: Well, the working title, I’ll say that because the publisher hasn’t actually agreed yet on the final title, but my working title is The Risk Dilemma. How the changing nature of risk will make or break your business. Really, it’s this thesis that we really have to look at risk in a much different light. I will say– obviously I come from the insurance industry, there’s, I believe, lots of impact there, but I’m writing this as a general business book because I believe most of businesses, if not all, face the same dilemma. Increase to the amount of risk, and at the same time, not take stupid risk.

How do you do that? How do you build that culture of experimentation? What’s the mindset that you have to do? What are the particular processes that you can put in place? For example, one of the things that I’m talking about is the question to an agency or any business, what is your employee bonus program for successful failures? Because one of my thesis is, every business, if I asked, “Is innovation important to you?” They would likely say yes. Yet, their employees understand that yes, they want innovation, but you better be right because if you fail, you get punished.

The whole idea behind successful failure actually comes from the Apollo 13 moon shot. Now, if you remember, lifted off in April of 1970. A couple of days into the mission, Oxygen tank exploded, blew out the side of the Service Module. The mission, at that point, was a failure. What was successful was the three astronauts stepping off the helicopter after they splashed down and everything that everybody needed to do. James Lovell, commander, wrote the book and then Ron Howard made the movie, Apollo 13, which really talked about that.

That’s actually the first example that I can find of the term successful failure being used. It’s what that mission became known as certainly in NASA.

Michael: Well, Steve, if you are open this, as you come to the publication of your book, perhaps we can circle back on this again and dive into that question of finding the appropriate balance, and it’s probably different for everybody, that balance between risk and security. I think we would both agree in summing this up, that right now, taking risk or avoiding risk is contrary to security in a fast changing world. If you stay the same in a fast changing world, that’s where you’re taking one stupid risk. Agreed?

Steve: Correct.

Michael: Okay. Steve, if people want to reach out to you, find out more about you, follow you, connect with you, how would you like them to do that?

Steve: Well, the best way is to go to my website, which is For those in the certain parts of the country, it’s S-O-N, not S-E-N, Lots of different things you can do there in terms of connecting with me or getting information, getting on a couple of my newsletter list etc.

Michael: Steve, as always, it was great to talk to you. It’s exciting to hear about some of the things that you’re both thinking about and writing about. As you know, I’m a big fan and recommend that our own followers and our own audience pay attention to Steve Anderson. Thanks so much for sharing your time.

Steve: Thank you, Michael. I appreciate that.

Michael: Good bye.

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