Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A truly modern, intelligent grid will involve revolutionary, not evolutionary change. This can only happens through innovation, usually through disruptive enabling technologies. And that means dramatically new business models.
I think we'll know that a modern, intelligent grid has arrived when electric utilities, whether incumbents or new market entrants, start appearing on these lists:
and when the leading electric utility visionaries and innovators are attending and presenting at these sorts of events:
It's simply not enough to be one of the most innovative utilities companies in the electric utility industry because that is a pretty low bar. The fact is that some of the companies that are in the lists and events above will be or already are entering the smart grid, smart home, smart city space. They are doing this indirectly by developing disruptive enabling technologies and businesses. A growing number are doing it by competing directly with incumbent electric utilities. They are totally comfortable with disruptive innovation. In fact, they like to cause it. And they have no vested interest in the legacy grid infrastructure, business models or incumbent utilities.
I think it ironic that the electric utility industry that is so slow to change forgets that it began with disruptive enabling technology, led by a man who was aggravated with the existing incumbent, unresponsive lighting utilities that he did business with . . . Thomas Edison versus the gas lighting industry . . . and who proceeded to work to put them out of business with the most exciting new technology in the history of the world. This not only can but will happen again in every industry, including the electric utility industry.
Where are you looking for the future? What conferences are you attending? What companies and visionaries do you follow? Who are you partnering with? As Joel Barker asserted in his book, Future Edge, "An organization always gets hit by the future in the temple, never in the middle of the eyes." Why? Because they are looking the wrong way, usually trying to preserve the business paradigms that they are comfortable with. Yet, as Peter Drucker stated, the majority of the innovation in an industry comes from outside the industry's boundaries. Gary Hamel said it another way, "If a company is interested in finding the future, most of what it needs to learn is to learn from outside the industrial sector."
I am reminded of a joke I once heard: How many electric utility executives does it take to change a light bulb? A lot . . . only one to change the bulb but the rest of them to bemoan how great the old one was. The electric utilities who will survive, prosper and make the world better will be looking for new ways to make light! 

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