John Parente's office is a mess—but a productive one—of newspapers and books. As the chief innovation officer at Lexington Insurance Co., Parente needs this pile of print to help him discover where new and future risks lie for which his company can devise cutting-edge coverages.

Parente is head of a team at Lexington charged with identifying emerging perils that might present unique business opportunities. Research is done by listening to underwriters, claims professionals, clients and those outside the industry—as well as lots of reading—to learn about what's going on in a world constantly in fast-forward.

"When we find something, we hold a brainstorming session" to determine if a profitable coverage niche can be carved out to address the exposure, he says.

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