Let’s face it – 2020 is a year that many of us can’t wait to forget.
But what we forget is that through all of the disruptions, Americans adapted, and quickly. In many cases, we worked together to save our fellow citizens. We cheered on our healthcare workers. Researchers immediately started working on a vaccine. We took pay cuts to reduce the likelihood of our fellow employees from being laid off. We donned our masks when we shopped. We stood up for George Floyd. We donated food and supplies to our nearest food banks. We ordered out dinner to help keep our neighborhood restaurants alive. We became teacher’s assistants when our kids were forced to distance learn. Millions of us voted by mail. And we Zoomed. Boy, did we Zoom.
And yes, while COVID-19 brought dramatic sudden change to our lives and to the life of our nation and our world, it taught us a lesson: When the rubber hit road, we could all be innovative. Even in small ways.
That’s the key takeaway in a new episode of the Ulteig Energy & Infrastructure Podcast, hosted by Aaron Lauinger, Market Director at Ulteig.
For Episode 6 of the podcast, Lauinger is joined by Crissy Fanganello, Director of Smart Mobility Office at Panasonic North America, and Eric Stern, Director of Ulteig’s Advanced Technology Center of Excellence (ATCOE), who explore a wide range of questions about innovation, in particular, what COVID-19 has taught us, so far, about innovation.
Key highlights from the podcast discussion included:
- Hopeful Futures. Despite the numerous health, economic, environmental and cultural issues facing our country, Fanganello and Stern remain not only hopeful about the future but optimistic.
- Sense of Urgency. Both Fanganello and Stern expressed a sense of urgency in harnessing this period of change to leapfrog to new innovations and development. For example, when traffic congestion cleared up almost immediately because many people were forced to work from home, pollution cleared up and carbon levels dropped dramatically. If clean, blue skies is a desirable future, what can we learn from our present-day experience to obtain that future faster.
- Change is Hard. The biggest hinderance to change is mindset. “It’s hard to change. It’s hard to do,” said Fanganello. “There’s this tension between what’s worked in the past and possible new solutions.” Stern cited the example TurboTax – “It didn’t replace all of the accountants as everyone feared. Instead, it frees up accountants to do higher value work.”
- Innovation is Different than Generating Ideas. It’s important to establish a culture of innovation within our organizations, noted Stern. Innovation is different from generating ideas. A culture of innovation is a culture of experimentation where people know it’s okay to keep trying to find a win, even if it means many fails in the process.
- Small Wins Lead to Bigger Wins. A culture of innovation values small wins, which over time, can lead to big solutions. The company that develops a new technology to boil an egg better may one day combine that technology with other technologies to grow more nutritious food more efficiently.
- Trust is the Foundation of an Innovation Culture. Trust is the key to building a culture of innovation, commented Fanganello, especially when we’re asking people to collaborate to find solutions to big problems.
- Intention is Critical. Intention is critical to establishing a culture of innovation. Innovation doesn’t just happen on its own. “It’s important to invite diverse voices into the process,” Fanganello said. A healthy tension is paramount to allowing innovation to take root throughout an organization.”
- It Takes Courage. Innovation takes leadership and courage. Innovation requires bold thinking. But it also means being vulnerable and human, stresses Fanganello. “The challenges we face are big. Are they insurmountable, no. The fear that we have in not being able to accomplish something, helps fuel the courage to do it anyway.
- Just Get Started. Comparing a giant problem to crossing the Grand Canyon, Stern noted: “We don’t have to know the answer about how to cross the Grand Canyon, but we need to know that we can just start. The bottom line is that if you don’t want to cross the Grand Canyon, someone else does and they’ll find a way to do it.”
The Ulteig Energy & Infrastructure Podcast spans Ulteig’s Lifeline Sectors® of Power, Renewables, Transportation, and Water. It offers thought-provoking and engaging conversations with key industry stakeholders on technology, innovation, policy and funding.