How to become an industry innovator overnight

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by Rebecca Greenan, Managing Director at Hawkiiii

I remember when my son was first learning to skate, shuffling along the ice as beginners do during public skating. He looked up at me and said, ‘look, mom, I am better than those kids, I haven’t fallen yet!’ I chuckled and replied, ‘Oh, sweetie, you are not going fast or hard enough to fall!’ We both had a good laugh about it, but I believe that was the moment he realized you need to take risks if you really want to improve at something.

I meet with energy leaders regularly, and a common theme resonates in our conversations. They recognize that their company innovation engine may need an overhaul. Is it a result of risk aversion or a pattern of executives delegating company innovation to those without decision-making authority?

What I know for sure, is that the slow pace of digital technology adoption is not because of a lack of great ideas. Nor is it due to a lack of eager start-ups in the thriving Calgary start-up community. 

Create value through innovation

With the abundance of solution-based start-ups, there is no better time to ditch the status quo and focus on new opportunities to create value. The world around us is being redefined and reshaped at a furious speed. To those immersed in the start-up community, the opportunities to innovate in the industry seem endless. The problem lies in the CEO dilemma of implementing innovation successfully. 

For years, energy companies have been keen on doing things on their own. In the past, this mindset was rewarded and became common practice throughout the company. However, leaders must evolve beyond the legacy business models they inherited, rewrite conventions, and understand the risk of not pushing boundaries.

Innovate from the outside in

Pushing for change to modernize processes and increase innovation can be daunting. With company-wide austerity measures in place due to current market conditions, I would challenge the idea of innovating from the inside out.

Technological advancement has not always been a central focus in the energy industry. This is especially true in more traditional organizations who stand to benefit the most from the efficiencies and value creation that technology grants the user. Connecting with the start-up network exposes organizations and leadership to outside ideas and solutions. This allows the established company to assess problems in a new way and reflect on how they can balance the operational side of the business with a strategic investment. This exposure will help established companies explore partnerships that can add to or supplement internal capabilities. 

Stakeholders are starting to insist that company leadership, including boards, keep up with technology trends that impact the business. Partnering with start-ups can allow established companies to advance their innovation program at a much quicker pace while educating the workforce through implementation. 

Calgary’s entrepreneurial spirit is driving new technologies

Energy companies in downtown Calgary moved to survival mode after prices dropped. While this was happening, thousands of highly trained energy workers started to identify the pinch points in the industry and create solutions. The Calgary start-up community is bursting with technologies that will enable users to accomplish tasks more efficiently, cost-effectively, and conveniently by providing value-added solutions. These entrepreneurs have been forming companies, joining incubators, raising funds, and piloting their technologies to get them ready for market.

There is an exciting opportunity in today’s industry for established companies to look to start-ups for strategic partnerships, versus the outdated vendor model. By defining what they want to address and identifying and understanding the solutions available in the market, companies can work towards strategic partnerships that result in immense value creation. 

Strategic partnerships are the key to future success

Throughout the years, employees have identified problems and envisioned their solutions, only to have tasks associated with the ordinary course of business take priority. By partnering with a start-up with a ready-built solution, ideas can be nurtured and resourced, and companies can routinely explore joint innovation.

As leaders think about building tomorrow’s legacy systems, there is value in finding the right partners in the start-up ecosystem. These partnerships can help established companies become innovators overnight and allow entrepreneurs to continue to bring solutions to the market.