Bloodhounds vs Golden Retrievers

istock_000012615560_smallI love dogs.  While I have owned mostly mutts, I have many friends who have golden retrievers. They make great family pets. They are gentle and friendly and just love to play.  It seems they will play fetch until they drop from exhaustion … and they are unbelievably good at it. Some of my friends go to a lake in the dead of winter and the dogs will jump into freezing water to get the ball and do this over and over again all day long.


I don’t know anyone who has a bloodhound as a pet.  When we think of the Bloodhound, the images that come to mind range from the baying “man trailers” in films such as Cool Hand Luke to a lazy hound sunning himself on the front porch of a home in a sleepy Southern town.  The man trailer is the more accurate image, but it also presents a somewhat false picture of the breed. The Bloodhound is indeed single-minded on the trail, but what many people don’t realize is that once he’s found his quarry, he might lick the person to death.

The Bloodhound belongs to a group of dogs that hunt together by scent, known as Sagaces, from the Latin, which is the same root as the word “sagacistock_000047969056_smallious,” referring to the qualities of keen discernment and sound judgment. Those words are certainly descriptive of the Bloodhound’s powers of scent.  These dogs were originally used in medieval Europe to trail boar and deer.  Modern-day Bloodhounds have found careers as man trailers for police departments and search and rescue organizations. They are so skillful that their “testimony” is considered admissible in a court of law.

So, Joel, what does that have to do with the energy industry?  Well.  Simply put.  The industry likes people who are golden retrievers.  Kind, gentle, friendly, and tireless.  What we need right now are somewhat less “attractive” looking people who will tirelessly follow the scent of the customer engagement opportunity.  We need keen discernment and sound judgment.  We also need them to follow the trail of customer engagement closely before it goes cold.

I am fearful that that trail is growing very cold indeed.  Plus others seem to have picked up the scent and they are not friends of the energy utilities.  Someone is going to get to the customer.  I hope it is you.

The Quick Fix Bias

Seems we are more interested in a quick fix to any problem rather than trying to truly understand and act on the underlying reasons the problem exists in the first place. Overweight? Here is the miracle drug that claims you don’t have to change any of your bad habits! Can’t perform this or that? There’s a pill for that … but beware, and call the doctor if the results last for more than four hours.

We no longer ask the tough questions. As
soon as someone promises the quick fix, we seem prone to jump on it. Surgical strikes in Iraq will deter ISIS. Sanctions on Putin will stop his aggression. Ban the incandescent lamp and it will cure American energy policy. Promote solar and wind and we will never have to build another power plant. The list goes on.

My wife and I were talking this morning about the crisis with ISIS and the reasons this group is succeeding. It is a scary story. For a better understanding of the reasons why, check out this wonderful documentary.

This all reminds me of my early days as an engineer working on nuclear submarines under the leadership of Admiral Rickover. He was never interested in quick fixes. He insisted on getting to the root cause for each and every difficulty because he knew future funding of the nuclear navy depended upon the confidence of the American people in nuclear power. He had crystal clear focus and tolerated nothing that could threaten that mission.

While I didn’t always agree with the Admiral, I admired that everyone working under his command knew precisely where he stood and the reasons why. Rickover had the long view and the results were and are a nuclear navy that is the envy of the world. And, as the navy nuclear plant operators left the navy they became the staff of the American nuclear land-based power plant fleet. That is one of the key reasons our nuclear fleet runs so well. Thank you Admiral Rickover.

Leadership of this style seems to have fallen out of favor. We now believe consensus is the high road of leadership. Rickover didn’t believe in consensus. In fact, he despised it. Maybe we should as well.

The long view vs. the quick fix, that seems to be a central element of so many of our current problem.

How Long Has That Engine Trouble Light Been On?

checkenginePerhaps you are guilty of this, or have noticed this in others. Rather than attend to indications of engine trouble, people will put tape over the light or place a picture of their loved ones in front of it so they don’t have to look at it any longer.

Why is it they won’t bring the car in for servicing? Is it just because they are financially strapped, or is that they are fearful something really terrible might be wrong and it is better not to know it? I remember getting into one of my daughter’s cars and noticed that the low engine oil light was on. I asked how long that was showing and she said about two years … oh my … not good.

I think we have a lot of “energy business trouble lights” showing these days, yet no one seems interested in fixing them. Ours seldom show through to key officers in our companies because they tend to shoot the messenger you know. Yet, they are glowing brighter and brighter these days.

Here are my favorites for the moment:

Energy efficiency is more than a resource, it is a relationship we have with our customers. You can’t simply say you want more or less of a resource without damaging relationships. We must separate out the goals and objectives we have from the opportunity to be at trusted energy advisor to our customers.

Renewable energy sources are just that … energy … they are not capacity. If we are going to have more and more renewables, we will still need the same amount of capacity resources to keep the lights on when these resources are not available. Given that our capacity resources will be used fewer and fewer hours a year, the cost for that capacity will rise per kWh. So, renewables raise costs and are not substitutes for capacity. Build new gas plants for capacity if you want, but build you must because old coal plants make lousy standby power plants.
Least-cost and integrated resource planning have to evolve with all of this. We need a new regulatory framework to accommodate this and we must reinvent our traditional thinking around cost effectiveness to reflect today’s world.
The trouble lights are glowing brightly. It is only a matter of time before the engine fails. That is not prudent. That is irresponsible.

The PC Police – Today’s Intellectual Gestapo

pcpoliceI think everyone knows I am talking about the latest incarnation of a two-letter abbreviation: It stands for political correctness. It has become so widespread that it defeats dialogue because we are so concerned that we might offend the other person, we go out of our way to hide what we are saying. I guess it shouldn’t be much of a surprise given how minority groups now dominate the airwaves. It seems that mainstream opinion has now been totally blunted, because, after all, we mainstream folks are all bigots for what we believe.

Maybe Gore Vidal says it best:

“As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.”

― Gore Vidal

Minority views get special treatment. Everyone should go to college you know … or did you? I thought college was only achieved by those who worked harder and deserved to go because it was an essential level of education for them to do what they intended to do. Medicine and Law required even more college training and, even if you wanted to be one, you probably couldn’t because it was so difficult.

There was a multi-part series on TV this last weekend on the Nazi Gospels that documented how this relatively small party of zealous individuals took over public opinion in Germany and spun their delusional beliefs into a national fervor. It was chilling and a warning to us all when desperate people who otherwise have little hope are presented with a seemingly attractive idea. Of course, it didn’t encourage critical comment or even critical thinking since it included a totalitarian enforcement of the ideologies using the Gestapo.

Seems like we are seeing widespread adoption of these methods and our news cycle seems to encourage others to gather up like-minded believers and grab their spotlight in the media. I don’t think I need to enumerate the number of “radical” groups around the globe and the consequences.
I want to focus on the energy dialogue here in the United States. I think we are victims of the PC Police here as well. I wrote a blog on energy bullying about six months ago. You can see it here if you would like. I want to focus on the bigger idea of PC itself. I think this may be a disease in our society. We can’t talk about anything anymore because, in some way, we might be denigrating others.

There are no rights and wrongs … there are simply differences of opinion or points of view. There are no good or bad ideas either. What? Is that how we built this country? Freedom to believe what you want and to express your opinion is fine, but there are still good and bad ideas. But, just as soon as you talk about the rest of the story in any area, you are deemed a bigot or worse.

Let’s just admit that Gore Vidal is right. It is a disguise. The Emperor is nude and not pretty. Our courts have become PC police and our news cycle is really not news at all … it is a propaganda cycle. We don’t trust government at all … that is, except those who are dependent upon it.

Creepy vs. Caring

blackcatSusan’s keynote address at the recent EMACS conference capped off the two previous keynotes from Duke Power and Hyatt Hotels with examples of how to improve customer satisfaction, net promoter score, and of course increasingly engage customers in a productive relationship. Susan focused on Amazon and Kroger as she demonstrated their proven methods of appealing to and influencing customers about what they buy.

Her funny story about buying a book for close friend who was experiencing a nasty divorce and then having some of her staff viewing her screen as Amazon suggested other books about infidelity is funny on one level since everyone knows we are happily married, but shows the “creepy” side of this new and widespread digital tracking of our interests. She also talked about it being a bit creepy that Kroger sent her coupons for things she buys there all the time … and they know her buying preferences because we also participate in the Kroger Rewards program where we get discounts on many things plus cash back on our gasoline purchases.

This got me thinking. We have certainly heard customers express fears about “big brother” with smart meters. It is a bit creepy that our bill analysis can detect when you have been on vacation or when you have had added visitors staying in your home. How comfortable are we about our digital footprints we are leaving everywhere? Perhaps we have not done a good job of explaining the benefit of all this digital tracking to help customers understand and manage their lives?

As the proliferation of helpful electronics continues (iFit, the new Apple watch, etc.) we may see a backlash if we don’t clearly keep the benefits to the consumer in focus. Yes, there will always be nefarious individuals who can use this same information for devious and negative purposes. But, our lives are being made better, so onward we go.

Perhaps the key question here is who is the custodian of all this information? Perhaps we should be a bit more careful about letting others who might sell or use this information get between the utility and the customer. Google has made it clear that they have no loyalty to the utilities. Apple seems to be saying they will let nothing bad happen with all the data they are getting.

Do we have the same confidence in companies like Amazon? Read the book on Bezos called The Everything Store and judge for yourself. It is pretty scary. It is very creepy.