Member Spotlight: Michael Gudas, Liberty Mutual

By Lilly Milman |  May 11, 2021

Michael Gudas is the Director of Innovation Strategy & Operations for Liberty Mutual’s Global Risk Solutions Division. In this role, he leads the vision, strategy, and practices of the insurance company’s global commercial and specialty insurance and reinsurance operations.

Headquartered in Boston, Mass., Liberty Mutual is the third largest property and casualty insurer in the US. We spoke with Michael as part of our IL Member Spotlight series, which profiles our members.

Michael Gudas, Director of Innovation Strategy & Operations for Liberty Mutual’s Global Risk Solutions Division

Is there a success or recent achievement you’d want to spotlight?

Our innovation team leads our corporate venture investment and partnership with Jupiter Intelligence, a climate change modeling firm at the cutting edge of helping the corporate sector understand the risk from climate change exposure. There’s a lot of potential in this technology and many different insurance use cases, but the area of climate risk assessment is still an evolving area. It’s exciting to help shape the direction in this important new field.

What’s a book, podcast, or other resource you would recommend to peers?

Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows. 

What’s a piece of advice or learning you want to share with other corporate innovators?

Do your best to set boundaries between work and life. Maintain your physical and mental health as well as balance. Most individuals in corporate innovation functions tend to be highly motivated and engaged in their work, but I know that for me, this has led to a rolling wave of feeling burned out and frustrated. Working in corporate innovation is the first role I’ve really had to take stock of when to say no and prioritize my own well-being.

Are there any software tools that you find especially helpful in your innovation-related work?

To the contrary, as a smaller innovation team, we have had limited success implementing larger software solutions. There is a false sense that these solutions are off-the-shelf, but that has not been the case for us. We’ve downscaled our software and tools focus until we’ve got the resource to properly support [the use of tools].

Do you use outside consultants regularly? If so, for what sorts of projects? 

We have used various consultants over time, at first to jump-start our innovation team’s efforts and now to think more deeply about advancing our innovation strategy, processes, and capabilities. As we’ve matured as an innovation team, we’ve moved from broad-based innovation consultants to firms that have niche specialization either in our industry’s context (which helps in that these consultants work with many of our competitors and so bring a bit more value to the table in terms of lessons-learned in similar contexts) or with specific skills that we’re looking to enhance (internal and external marketing of innovation).

For us, one of the big factors is the willingness to build a relationship and for consultants to have a strong sense of self — what they are good at and what they aren’t. Too often I find consultants will build a proposal for anything; however, a consultant that is able to refer us to the right resource earns longer-term trust as a partner. That builds trust and makes the relationship much more valuable.