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For Utility Team Leaders in Innovation - when you have multiple innovative ideas, what process or methodology do you (or your team) use to determine which idea to pursue, present to the C-suite, etc.?

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  • Jan 18, 2021

This question was posed during a recent Energy Central Powersession: Innovating in a Regulated Environment Part One.

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This is a fantastic question, thank you for asking!

Your question alluded to process and methodology, but I'd argue the first word to start with is "strategy". 


Effective innovation teams have a clear innovation strategy that's tied to the company strategy.  For instance, at Duquesne Light we have a performance framework that emphasizes five areas - safety, excellent customer service, affordability, reliability, and sustainability.  Our innovation strategy is to contribute to each performance "pillar" in measurable ways. 

Before considering the process, the first screen therefore is to consider whether and how the idea in question contributes to the company/innovation strategy.  For us, if we can't envision significant impact against more than one of our performance framework pillars, then we discard the idea and/or execute it at a business unit level.

Takeaways: Establish an innovation strategy that complements the overall strategy, consider each idea in light of that strategy, and use that for a "first screen" down-selection


One very overlooked - but extremely important - component of innovating effectively is governance.  Governance is essentially about decision making rights: Who gets to decide, on what criteria, and when?  The key is to establish governance as early as possible.

Good governance bodies are generally "one stop shops" making decisions in one place as quickly as possible.  However, to do that effectively it needs to be cross-functional (so all relevant company orgs are represented), the decision making criteria need to be clear up front, people need to act in the company's best interest and not just their organization, and critically you need to have executive buy-in, support, and participation in this governance body.

Example: At Duquesne Light, we've established the "Innovation Council".  Think of this as a quasi shark tank composed of every major department.  We went to our CEO to have him nominate the members and we made it clear that this is the group that decides on which innovation projects to pursue.  We meet roughly bi-weekly to hear "pitches" of new innovation ideas.  Decisions are made on those innovation ideas in no more than 48 hours from the pitch.

Takeaways: Governance is everything!  Establish clear organizational decision making rights with executive support.  Make sure all major groups at the utility are represented in that governance body.  Then set the expectation that those bodies - and those bodies alone - decide so you can move quicker than the rest of the org (frankly)

Again, this was a great question and hope this answer helps...good luck moving the industry forward!


MICHAEL HAEFLICH on Mar 22, 2021

I think the Innovation Council described by Josh at Duquesne sounds like a great idea!  Tech initiatives are certainly hard to prioritize and the 48 hour decision process with all stakeholders is really impressive!  I would add that the ability to quantify value prop and assess the demand on company resources are essential factors in the vetting process.  Quick wins are very important to keeping the process focused and demonstrating success.  At iRestore, we offer a suite of PROVEN smartphone apps with over 5,000 users for utility work in the field with very powerful dashboard portals that are simple-to-use and integrate with large systems that can be up and running in a few weeks!  

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