Fight The Status Quo, You Have Nothing to Lose
I presented at an event in D.C. in late September hosted by Dr. Cat Shrier (watercitizen.com) and the AWRA. I presented the concept that the combination of Facebook back-end technologies and consumer grade mobile devices have the potential to spark a mobile revolution in the water industry. I proposed that new industrial software inspired by Facebook coupled with consumer tech can increase the efficiencies of workers in water and wastewater treatment plants, which could enable utilities to find money internally to replace systems and aging pipes vs. continuing to increase rates.
One of the questions from the audience has been stuck in my head. The question had two parts:
- Part 1: “Is GE seeing widespread adoption of these systems?” to which I answered, “The pickup in the water industry has been slower than any other industry…”
- Part 2: “What is holding back wide proliferation of these technologies with water/wastewater utilities?” My answer, “The status quo…in fact the acceptance of the status quo in water/wastewater utilities is holding back a lot of innovation from many vendors, not just GE.”
My fellow presenters, Vince Caprio (@Nanovin), Cat Shrier (@WatCitSay) and Mark Shively (@WaterMark2014), supported the answer and Vince gave a great example of how many patents, rather the lack thereof, have been granted in the water sector. Let’s just say the number was astoundingly low and brings us back to the real barrier…that many water utilities simply accept the status quo. With this mindset, companies are not getting traction with new and innovative solutions in this industry.
Now, as you can probably tell, I’m not a fan of the status quo but my engineering background understands why industry has fallen into this “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset. If you’re an integrator, water utility, or a city council member reading this blog, consider putting things in place so you can try at least one new utility-based technology per year with limited risk. It doesn’t have to be a big budget, just enough to try new technology and measure its impact. Call them new technology experiments and maybe one or two of these will result in enough return on investment to warrant a larger project…worst case, you learn something.
I read a book a couple years ago that is a quick and easy read. It’s a story about how Ryan Blair (@RyanBlair) fought the status quo and won and how he continues to fight it and win. It’s titled “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain” (@NothingToLose), and it inspired me to sometimes detach from the status quo and put myself or my work team in a position where we have nothing to lose, especially when trying something new. I encourage you to read it – get inspired.
So go on, craft a project scope, perhaps around making the utilities’ water workforce “mobile” or trying out system modeling simulation. Figure out a way to set some funds aside to try those. Just don’t make it too big of a scope or too intrusive to your existing systems because you can’t lose those systems! I think we need to do this in the water industry to really move innovation forward for us all.
Challenge the status quo and go experiment. You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain.