Based on research by Strategy&, the strategy consulting business at PwC, utilities still have work to do to advance their innovation strategies, with culture acting as a key enabler. In fact, in the Global Culture Survey conducted by Strategy&’s Katzenbach Center, 87 percent of energy and utilities professionals say their organization’s culture must evolve in the next five years to succeed. Additionally, 65 percent of respondents believe that culture is more important than strategy and operating model.
With mounting competitive pressures, utilities may be tempted to conflate “innovating” with “becoming like a Silicon Valley tech company” and embracing an enterprise-wide culture of fast failure and experimentation, even though not all tech company’s cultural traits are desirable or transferable to the utility industry (and vice versa). Utilities are often characterized by cultural traits that run counter to those found in most innovative companies, with a relentless focus on safety, reliability, and operational excellence. Many utilities pursue incremental improvements, are risk averse, and follow established processes.
If utilities cannot simply, immediately, and broadly “replace” the cultural traits in their organization, how can they retain their respective competitive advantage in the market? And how can they evolve while not losing sight of the culture that defines them today? Taking a look inwards instead of outwards for inspiration is key.
Several utilities have innovation agendas or an innovation organization. But the most important component of the innovation agenda is its purpose. Having a clear goal in mind that underpins the activities is important to focus ideas that get to implementation / outcomes. For example, one utility’s innovation agenda is driven by customer-centricity.
Shifting to a culture of innovation to reinforce strategic priorities and find new growth opportunities is a move some utilities are making. For example, innovating around improvements in operations or enhancing the customer experience are examples of alternative actions some utilities are taking. By reframing an “innovative culture” as a culture that enables customer-centricity or safer operations, the path forward to shift the culture becomes much clearer to the entire organization and is more easily embraced.
Ask yourself: What is the cultural aspiration around innovation for my organization? What do I hope to achieve from a culture that fosters innovation in order to win in the market?
Integrating innovation within the culture doesn’t mean utilities must have a “new revenue stream” or “fail fast;” but it does mean that defining, implementing, and sustaining a culture of innovation can be a powerful tool for utilities seeking to enhance their established core business. With a sustained focus and regular measurement of progress and performance, the impact of your cultural evolution movement can be long-lasting, self-reinforcing, and differentiating in the evolving power industry.
Learn more about how Strategy& and the PwC network can partner with you to prepare for innovation and the workforce of the future by driving cultural evolution and enabling organizational performance.