Old Dogs must learn new tricks!

Last week I made a presentation in regards the topic on making underwriting-sense of the industry’s motor insurance portfolio… in which I mentioned this commonly used phrase, “It is difficult to teach old dogs new tricks!” with a view to answer various objections from members of the marketing & underwriting fraternity and the agency channels. The usual objection to changes and the adoption of new methodology in getting a more efficient results would be argument depicting members of the agency channels threatening to shift support…..

Changes in way of doing things are imminent.... otherwise we are just part of the food bills!

Most of us usually object to new and untested methods or processes in doing things, especially if these were being proposed by some new fire-brand youngsters – citing, there is no reason for the industry to fix it when the method is tried and tested, and even if the method doesn’t eventually worked out, there is really no real need to change how things should be done. Have our industry old dogs devoid of ideas or were we constrained by time….. we rather leave it to someone… to get the job done?”

But… can we lay back and wait for somebody to do something for our industry? Without reasonable increases in pricing, our motor insurance segment could be going down. And can you really believe with the GLC getting into an act of taking over our TPIBD section would help us solve the problem? If the government can take over this, this can also happen to our Health-Medical Insurance as well…. Do we actually need some GLCs to teach us how to run an insurance outfit, with us in tow as shareholders of unlimited liability?


Not to deviate from this “OLD DOGS and NEW TRICKS….” talk, perhaps Roshan Thiran’s viewpoints (StarBizWeek) in his SCIENCE OF BUILDING LEADERS writeup was good illustration for this blog posting. Let’s summarise his simple story of old dogs and new tricks…..


Sharpen your axe
There was this very skillful Kayan woodcutter (…Lawas in Sarawak produces many good Kayan woodcutters) who asked for a job with a timber merchant. He got the job with a good salary and decent working conditions. So he was determined to do his best for the boss. The boss gave him an axe, and on his first day, the woodcutter managed to cut down 15 trees. His boss was pleased with what the Kayan woodcutter has done.

Highly motivated by his boss’s acknowledgment, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but could only fell 13 trees. The third day, he tried even harder but he cut down fewer trees. “I must be losing my strength, ” the Kayan woodcutter thought. He apologised to the boss, claiming he could not understand why.

“When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked. “Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been too busy cutting down trees,” said the woodcutter.

But he took the boss advise and sharpened his axe… immediately he was back to 15 trees a day. Since then, he begins the day by sharpening his axe.

I supposed, most of us are always too busy doing and trying to achieve, that we never take time or patience to update our skills, knowledge and beliefs about our industry, or to take time to think and reflect… Much like the woodcutter, trying harder will not yield results, and if this goes on in our industry, the following events would happen:


  1. The members of the agency channel would be phrased out… especially with the direct rebating coupled with the direct-internet purchase moving into full gear
  2. Our industry can never be creative and innovative to face the challenges of globalisation… and stifling the innovativeness of the new generation workers…
  3. Our industry as well as the established members of our distribution channels would not be able to make head or tail out of the enlarging eCommerce markets
  4. The marketing fraternity would still be in the state of make-believe, that, there the Malaysian Motor Insurance still works on the laws of large numbers….
  5. Retirement at age 55 stays put and indefinitely…..

Hanging on... or overly focus on being efficient!

Unless we sharpen our axe daily by observing the changing world and changing ourselves accordingly, we would also risk being irrelevant!


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4 comments for “Old Dogs must learn new tricks!

  1. Anonymous
    November 20, 2016 at 06:03

    Well said! Happened to stumble upon this old write-up, looks like the industry did move along as you had predicted. It good to look back to the yester-years, there are lots of things to learn about. No wonder they say, history provides the foundation for building a better tomorrow.

  2. Anonymous
    May 17, 2010 at 09:00

    True to the fact our industry is very much lacking in innovation, creativity and looks like not able to reinvention itself. Perhaps or was it too much of Bank Negara’s control over how insurance companies should operate that leads the industry into such a predicament?

  3. May 17, 2010 at 00:03

    [New Post] Old Dogs must learn new tricks! – via @twitoaster http://www.malaysiainsurance.info/?p=338

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