The Right Stuff


We respect Edison for many of the right reasons. Most of us though do not know the back-story to his inventing the electric light. The driver behind his research was that he got angry with the local gas company for the way they treated him, so he shifted his laboratory’s research priorities to get even. Yep, the gas company was going to cut him off for late payment. Many electric utilities now honor his legacy with his name as a part of theirs. So, maybe it is also time to honor him more widely by following his lead.

Rather than just lament the way things are … do something. Don’t do it by consensus. Do it by letting individuals try ideas, make mistakes, and then learn from them.   But, do it quickly. Learn from what doesn’t work so you can apply it to what can work.

My latest read is a fabulous new book written by Amy Wilkinson on the six essential skills of extraordinary entrepreneurs called The Creator’s Code. If your company wants to adjust to the shifting landscape of regulatory realities, legislative issues, and customer attitudes, this is a must read.

The key is what Amy describes as the OODA loop. I will cover this in my next blog, but the key advice she offers about failing wisely is my point in this article. Edison had the right attitude about failure. Does your company embrace failure this way and encourage trying new ways of solving old problems using the latest discoveries from other industries? Does it reward people for stepping up, sharing their ideas, and trying new approaches better suited to our rapidly changing environment? As Edison points out, you don’t get to the one idea that works perfectly without taking some risks and failing along the way.


I really do not like lawyers

There are many professionsRats where one person can eke out a life in a small town. One physician … one car mechanic … one painter, etc. There is one, where that is impossible: one lawyer. The one lawyer would starve to death.

It seems to me that lawyers are trained to argue so they need someone to argue with. Perhaps that is part of the problem in our politics today. We have mostly lawyers as politicians. Maybe we should be voting pastors and rabbis into office. Maybe we should consider more psychologists and teachers. What we don’t need any more of are lawyers.

I am reminded of all this because of an article I read in the Wall Street Journal today where mice were being used to decide the benefits of a time-based diet where eating at certain times of the day was better than eating at others. One of the comments was a question about why humans weren’t used in the study … it certainly seems safe enough to try this on humans. After all, there were no restrictions on calories or even food type. It was only about when you ate during the day.

That reminded me of a similar question asked by some: why don’t they use lawyers for these medical experiments. The justification for using lawyers was based upon three arguments:

  1. There are far too many lawyers in the US,
  2. Researchers are far less likely to form an emotional bond with lawyers, and finally
  3. There are some things even a rat will not do.

Seems reasonable to me.

Big Data – Big Noise

bigdataIt seems like the topic of big data is all the buzz these days. Somehow, the hope is that if you put enough big data in a barrel, stir it all around with some secret statistical sauce, you get magical results. Yeah, right… Dream on!
I have been at this way too many years to put up with such nonsense. Face it. Big data by itself simply results in big noise. If you want to find the gold nuggets buried in that big data, you need noise reduction algorithms and analytics operating on the filtered data.
Right now, I am sitting in a room filled with people talking and with a lot of ambient noise while listening to some beautiful classical music on Pandora … but the reason I can do that is that I am listening to it on Bose noise-canceling headphones. I can tell there are people talking … but I can still hear the clear sounds of the music. The noise has been reduced so much that I can truly enjoy the music.
Therefore, if big data is on your agenda, invest in some good noise reduction technology. Otherwise, you won’t be able to differentiate Beethoven from Bon Jovi. And, you won’t enjoy it either.
We have been experimenting to see what can be extracted from simple utility billing data combined with weather information and run through our analysis engine. The results are staggering. Would you like to know which of your customers are likely to have demand response potential because they keep their homes in winter at a toasty 72°F and which ones hold a chilly 70°F in the summer? How about which have gas water heating, and which are using far more or far less energy than engineering estimates would predict? Those criteria would identify the best targets for energy efficiency programs, demand response offerings, or sales prospects.
We are currently researching the possibilities with one of our utility clients and will be sharing the results on an Apogee Institute Webinar on March 25th at 2PM Eastern. Technology is advancing at warp speed and what was impossible just a year ago is now at our fingertips. We can deliver prospects with laser beam focus as opposed to expensively broadcasting an offer to the masses.
The combination of the best noise reduction and analytics can take big data to a big financial payoff in your world. Join us on the Webinar by signing up on our website:  Seating is limited register today.