ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

SOLE - The Self Organized Learning Environment

A new way to teach and learn insurance, systems and procedures in an insurance agency

What if Agency Consulting Group, Inc. found a system that will allowed agents to educate their employees in every aspect regarding insurance coverage plus illustrating the use of your systems and procedures to administer and process any transaction without any formal training or memorization. Would you be interested?

In 1999 in Delhi, India, Dr. Sugata Mitra started the “Hole In The Wall” experiments with children. If you are not familiar with this experiment, Dr. Mitra put a computer between NIIT premises and the adjoining slum in Kalkaji. His findings were that children left alone with a computer who never had exposure to automation, the Internet or any formal computer training, learned how to use the computer matching or beating those children taught in a standard or more formal setting. A 12 year old girl, Paloma Bueno, who lived in a Mexican slum beat everyone in the Mexico Maths (standardized testing) through the implementation of this unusual method of learning. The principal used by Dr. Mitra is that learning is a natural tendency as long as the opportunity and mechanisms exist that permits one to learn.

More important yet is the radical concept that standardized teaching that relies on internalizing knowledge is no longer necessary. Standardized teaching relies on internalizing knowledge and testing (always under stressful conditions) whether the student can remember the material taught. But why do we have to learn and remember millions of facts beyond the Reading, Writing and Arithmetic that our predecessors learned. Every year the knowledge base available to us expands tremendously. As long as we “learn” how to access the information that is out there in the “cloud” what need for memorization?

As late as our parents’ generation, there was no receptacle of knowledge outside of books and the knowledge base resident in our heads. Everyone needed standardized learning in order to communicate knowledge across the entire globe in similar fashion, even though there was often a language barrier. Math was the same in Australia as it was in Argentina and Norway. We were always shackled by learning reading and writing in our native language – unintelligible to most of the rest of the world.

But today we need to remember (and change) dozens of passwords just to get into our computers. But there’s an App for that! And the millions of apps now present and growing at alarming rates is an example of SOLE in practice. Whatever we need to do from identifying the coverage and exclusions in a Commercial Property form to figuring out how to do an endorsement on your AMS360 system and to how to manage, change and use your passwords securely can be found somewhere in the world and applied as needed.

If we “need” that topic, we can look for it and apply it to our situation. If we need that topic often enough repetition will teach us how to use it as frequently as needed without further reference. If we only need it once a year, we can find it again when the need arises. Doesn’t this make more sense than going to class for three days to learn a process that you won’t use often enough to retain the knowledge?

The world is open to us and “googling” “Self Organized Learning Environment” or “Hole In The Wall” will yield you everything that Dr. Mitra has done. All you needed was someone alerting you to this development and the education is at your fingertips.

It now becomes super-critical for your agency to have set procedures that can be accessed whenever needed (i.e. new employees) for training purposes. It also becomes critical for a manager to audit transactions in order to identify how well the employee has adopted or understands the procedures that form the standard for operations in your agency. And as long as the procedures are available and the employee has a need for processing that transaction (whether a quoting, sales, NB, Renewal, claim, etc. form of transaction) you have exited the formal training standard with tests and memorization and entered the SOLE generation in which knowing how to access that which is needed trumps the knowledge base, itself.

Of course, most adults will rebel against such an utterly new philosophy. Traditional knowledge-based education in our industry is a multi-million dollar business with acronyms and designations abounding to “prove” how much of a guru or expert you are. But most of those designees don’t remember 5% of what they were taught. They were able to retain the knowledge as long as needed to pass the test. But the smart ones kept the textbooks and the websites that are available 24/7 to refresh their knowledge if they ever need it again. If we suggest that they skip the education process altogether and just familiarize the principals and show them where they can access that information – there would be blood in the streets! If it was good enough for my grandfather and good enough for me then it’s good enough for the young upstarts coming into the business, right?

But our grandfathers only needed to know the 165 lines of the fire policy. Our fathers needed to know the combined policies in personal and commercial lines. But our new agents need to be familiar with about 10,000 programs in the industry for clients who would be best served if we placed them in an existing program. They need to know many more companies who change daily. And many of them already know tons more than their predecessors about how to access ISO forms, proposal formats and the use of social networking to communicate with our clients. How much of a ‘stretch’ is it, really, to accept that the 3-R’s has become obsolete in favor of knowing how to use modern technology to reach every facet of human knowledge?

Call us at 800-779-2430 and we’ll come to you to analyze your agency and change your systems, procedures, audit process and knowledge retrieval methods to attune to the present and the next 100 years instead of teaching hieroglyphics and ancient Latin to people who can access even that knowledge at the touch of their fingers.