DistribuTECH keynote encourages utilities to embrace the value proposition in discontinuity

Inversion vs. subversion, continuity vs. discontinuity, the old recipe vs. the new. Those seem to be the common tensions within business, as in life. But Luke Williams, a New York University marketing professor and co-founder of the NYU Innovation Labs, thinks of them more as connected than in opposition.

Businesses err when they don’t see value in breaking down their business model and trying to think of new ways in rebuilding it that might propel them forward for generations to come, Williams said during the Day Two keynote yesterday at DistribuTECH.

“Nothing is wrong with success but the flip side is complacency and arrogance,” he told the crowd in the New Orleans Theater of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Disruption is the buzzword in the smart grid sector that utilities and their vendors are certainly aware of and probably sick of hearing. The changes within the grid cannot be avoided, and companies are scrambling, or sprinting, to either react to or get on top of the disruption.

Utilities deal with regulators, customers, outside challenges and, on top of that, have to maintain a hugely expensive and crucial infrastructure. Williams acknowledged those pressures but also encouraged them to be philosophical about their future.

“The world of things, commodities, and the world of knowledge as two different things,” Williams noted. “One is about scarity, and the other is about abundance. Ideas are an inexhaustible resource.”

The marketing professor gave numerous examples and analogies to bolster that key point. One involved the idea of cooking in the kitchen. He asked the attendees to think of themselves as master chefs in the kitchen.

“All the ingredients can be rearranged to grow the value of your utility,” Williams said. “Uber didn’t invent new ingredients, but it evaluated the ingredients and came up with a better recipe.”

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