Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Innovator's Hell: Frontline's "Heat" Burns Fossil Energy Co's

Harvard Business School prof Clayton Christensen's seminal 1997 book: The Innovator's Dilemma demonstrated how large successful companies, ever mindful of being responsive to their best customers' needs, can sometimes be taken down by disruptive technologies that re-order the dynamics of the certain market segments. And shows that this happens right in front of the large co's eyes because they simply cannot make themselves retire business models that have worked so well for so many years.  

Enter PBS's Frontline special aired last night: "Heat," and its visually stunning treatment of environmental carnage wreaked by the world's largest coal, oil and automotive companies, including AEP, ExxonMobile and GM, with obedient US politicians in their pockets. One thing is clear: there's no innovation happening in these companies that doesn't involve improving yields from their core lines of business. When asked about renewable energy tech or other innovations to help reduce CO2 emissions or improve energy efficiency, robotic VPs of PR utter canned greenwashed statements that communicate only disdain for having to respond to these questions at all.

It's safe to say that the game-changing tech breakthroughs that are going to markedly improve the energy posture of the DOD are not going to come from these lumbering dinosaurs, but rather from innovators and nimble new co's working towards entirely different goals with entirely different assumptions. Because of its size and culture of innovation, DOD has a big say in whether this happens sooner or later ... or too late.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

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