Utility 2030

Dispelling Innovation Risks for Utility Companies

If utility companies are going to reach their objectives and goals over the next ten years and beyond, they need to embrace innovation. By definition, innovation is a new idea, method, or device –NOVELTY (Merriam-Webster).

When it comes to innovating at utility companies, there are two commonly held misconceptions:

  • Inadequate technologies are usually the reason that innovations fail; and
  • Innovation puts the table stakes of safety and reliability at risk.

Instead, innovations most often fail or become risky because people don’t have what they need. Examples include a lack of:

  • Essential skills;
  • Commitment to the project; and
  • Technology training.

And they don’t necessarily want to get up-to-speed. People are only human after all. That’s why many employees, especially those who have been with a company for several years, remain fully absorbed in the tried-and-tested way of doing things–it’s safe!

5 Strategies for Getting Support from Leaders & Teams

Energy Central and Utility 2030 Collaborative recently co-hosted the PowerSession, “Innovating in a Regulated Environment, Part 1”. It’s now available on-demand. Panelists included:

  • Alexander Tsetsenekos, Chief Insurance Officer, CyberFortress and Former Tesla Insurance Executive
  • Jody Allison, Vice President of Transformation, Algonquin Power & Utilities
  • Josh Gould,Director of Innovation, Duquesne Light
  • Robert Conrad, Brand Reputation Communications and C-Suite Publicity Consultant, RKC Consulting, and Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University

During the discussion, moderated by James Riley (Appos Advisors), panelists provided 5 implementable, best practices for overcoming people challenges:

  1. Create a safe space for innovation. A growing number of companies are hiring individuals, forming teams, or building whole departments to lead innovation projects. It’s wise to have people at the helm.
  2. Adopt an innovation methodology. If you’re in charge of systematically creating change at your organization, you need to develop workflows that allow you to repeatedly produce, organize, and nurture new ideas. The top four most common innovation processes are Six Sigma, Agile, Design Thinking, and the Global Innovation Management Methodology.
  3. Translate the value of the innovation and communicate it effectively. All innovation projects should help deliver stated company objectives and goals. Make sure your project aligns with what matters most to the company, and communicate your business case through this lens.
  4. Listen to the voice of your customers and employees. Avoid getting distracted by vanity projects or other initiatives that won’t deliver the biggest bang for your buck. This starts with listening to what your customers and employees really need and want.
  5. Approach innovation as a cross-departmental team sport. Go beyond listening to your direct employees, to establishing and working with stakeholders from all departments who will be impacted by the project. You need them to be on your side.
  6. Ensure organizational alignment and change management. Organizational alignment starts with treating it like a team sport, but it also requires a heavy dose of leader and team change management. Don’t underestimate this effort.

“Yes, innovation can seem scary, but it is not in conflict with the important table stakes of safety and reliability,” said Mr. Riley. “Aggressively innovating to meet increasing customer experience expectations does not impact the safe and reliable delivery of power.”

Access this PowerSession—on-demand—to hear implementable strategies for innovating in regulated environments, including getting your people right headspace to embrace change.  Then, register for Part 2, Playing Nice with Regulators. Scheduled for April 2 at 2:00 PM EST, it will provide insights into how to leverage regulators as key innovation resources.

Energy Central PowerSession

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Vanessa Edmonds

Vanessa Edmonds

Executive Director, Utility 2030 Collaborative