I've just come from an elab workshop hosted by @RockyMtnInst [The Rocky Mountain Institute] that brought together many stakeholder representatives of incumbent electric utility companies including customers, regulators, NGOs and those who would disrupt or change the electric utility of the future. I was there to participate in a serious game, The Newtonian Shift, co-developed by Dutch electricity utility, @Eneco and serious game developer, @Fresh_Forces which is the English translation of Frisseblikken. The game simulates accelerated business cycles (1000 times normal pace) and throws in all manner of business calamity and mega-force externalities that the whole system must address. Participants take the opportunity to assume roles different from their day jobs to understand different perspectives as to how they might co-create new possibilities for the electricity landscape.
Let the game begin!
I assumed the role of a leader of an incumbent electric utility company and during game play was immediately challenged by monster demands that utilities navigate daily; generation or purchase of power, delivering power to users and meeting customer needs in a very heavily regulated environment. After year one of game play all I could report was that we could meet customer demand, but just barely. Year two of the game I wanted the company to innovate but freak fires and explosions, higher demands from regulators, and customers requiring more clean energy meant we nearly went out of business. We did not serve the company nor the customers.
For year three game play, intervention in the form of multi-stakeholder objectives and agreements as well as the all important government stimulus that facilitated a "#Big Pivot" and resulted in reshaping the utility as a wholesale generator who could then invest in renewables and divest from hydrocarbons. We divested the company of power transmission and customer demand by partnering with a new energy start up company who wanted to get out of the power generation business. Not all members of my team were comfortable with this plan. How could we just sell revenue-generating assets, even if the revenues were under serious threat due to deregulation? Wasn’t it better to hold on to them and do something else? In the end being able to focus on a single business made us extremely profitable immediately. Alas, it was only a game.
My observations from the game:
- Companies try to maintain a "business as usual" stance at all costs
- In times of great business threats, I witnessed the playing out of activities best described as, "If I can do "X" better, I can get us through this rough patch”
- As entropy increases, "business as usual" is no longer sustainable
- New business models do not magically present themselves, you must be on the lookout
- Opportunity presents itself in surprising forms
Although this was only a game, many of the participants got to feel like the clients they serve or the electric utility they hate or the people trying to innovate and disrupt. Walking in "other people's shoes" can provide great insight and food for thought. For me, game play was over, but for those living the reality of the game, two days of eliciting and evoking new learning and takeaways was facilitated by @reospartners and @RockyMtnInst. I hope that they use their time well.
Does any of this feel familiar? If so, are you and your leadership team open to availing yourselves to an “out of the box” experience? If so, please reach out to email@example.com. They may be able to help you “play” your way past your current constraints into a new possible future.