Mount Pleasant Don Thurston

A Journey Can Be Annoying

A journey can be annoying enough, never arriving is particularly annoying “or” the chronic resistance to change syndrome.

FDC University at Mount Pleasant is now the home for The Center for Transformational Management. Funding has been made available from the Institute for Technology and Innovation.

The inaugural event is a weeklong series of presentations by eminent scholars from the social and physical sciences.

Following is the opening address by Dr. Helena Robanovich, holder of the Mildred Dresselhaus Chair in Astrophysics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Thank you all for joining me today in person and virtually. I am honoured to be here, and share in the process of moving innovations into the main stream”

Imagine the photographic journey…..there is now the universal capacity to take pictures anytime, view them, edit them, store them, transmit them receive them from anyone, anywhere.

Imagine the communications journey….there is now  the universal capability to talk, write, view, send  and receive information from anywhere in real time.

Imagine the transportation journey….there are now transportation methods available to travel, anytime to anywhere on the ground, on the water, under the water and in the air

Imagine the health care journey…..there is now health care abilities for diagnostic, preventative, intervention and curative purposes on tap.

Imagine the household journey……there are now households that incorporate efficient appliances, off sight management communication systems and structural components directed at convenience, and comfort.

While these journeys have different destinations, the process of “getting there” follows a well-worn path.

While  starting points differ they are remarkably similar…. originating from a test tube, an inventor, an entrepreneur, the extension of existing technology, the merging of technologies, a response to a new problem, and happenstance. Eureka moments are few and far between.

Gestation periods vary. For example the micro wave oven technology was in place well before the market asked for a fast cooking, convenient appliance.  On the other hand wireless communication received an almost instant response, particularly for all the ships at sea, following the Titanic disaster.

When a new product generates traction, entrenched providers go to work. A case in point….margarine surfaced when butter was in short supply. The dairy suppliers organized, firing all manner of ammunition they could muster. Objections of every nature surfaced….the truth carefully ignored. Governments were bludgeoned into opposition, decrying the demise of the dairy industry. The confrontations were ugly, enduring to this day in one fashion or another. Mechanical refrigeration development caused some creative fall back positions by conventional ice providers as they broadcast that synthetic ice was poisonous.

Industry groups are skilled at extending the life of their products when threatened by newcomers initiating delaying tactics while embarking on competitive ventures. Occasionally an outcry will surface, accusing the entrenched producers of deliberately withholding information about harmful effects of their products.

Subsidies enter the fray. A new invention may become a country’s matter of national necessity and therefore governments will provide incentives to encourage their commercialization. The incentives can take many forms including taxation, duty protection, grants, favourable loans location enticement and training.

Assistance of any nature will be greeted with derision by the entrenched providers.  However subsidies remain ubiquitous all around the world for many reasons and in every industry with agriculture clearly at the head of the class.

Subsidies are only one part of a broad range of government inspired policies. These address punitive, supportive and visionary objectives. Punitive measure are exemplified by the tobacco and asbestos industries. Leaded gasoline comes to mind as well.

Policy changes are a significant part of the political mosaic influencing a country’s economy. Parties in power will offer up all the benefits, the opposition, just the reverse. Governments rise and fall, sometimes more than once on the same issue.

Denial plays a role. They can be frivolous and self-serving.  Just the same entire careers can be corrupted by new and improved products.  Reputational threats are real.

Economic impact is universal to all journeys…..there are winners and losers. Employment is a primary example. New ventures require different skills. Existing workers are displaced by ones with fresh talents. Unemployment is the result. Training for new jobs is burdensome and difficult.

Aftermaths are seldom considered upon the commercialization of new processes and services. Economists call these aftermaths’ externalities…..more often than not they have negative consequences.  Disruption of existing systems have inflicted hardships.  Freon’s for refrigeration and acid rain from nickel production are among the many examples of unintended consequences. Worse they may have been known as possibilities but ignored.

Bankers possess ingrained talent to recognize investment opportunities. Innovations are easily identified by following the money.

Well organized public relation campaigns proliferate as promoters and protagonists go head to head on the positives and negatives of any innovation. Most often there is great deal of money at stake so ample funding is available.

Media reporting is frequently partisan, particularly in regions where the destination has major impact either negative or positive.

All in all the change journey is tortuous, extended and expensive. The menus are always the same but the destinations differ. The chronic resistance to change syndrome surfaces.

Two prominent industries are headed towards new destinations….energy supply and protein supply.

Imagine the energy industry. Historically the service’s destination has been diversification, reliability and innovative. Presently substantive revisions are facing the industry.  Now the destination must include reducing aftermaths that are carbon related. While the destination is changed, the journey remains much the same.

Energy starting points extend over seven centuries not counting localized commonplace fires.  Whale oil harvesting was an early commercial application for heat and light. Peat occupied an important part of the heat generation equation. Wood in copious quantities fired generators for the steam engine, followed by coal. Soon the convergence of refined crude oil and the internal combustion engine triggered an energy system still in place to this day. Natural gas, while originally an unwelcome bye product has gained a significant part of the energy mosaic.  Electricity sparked new energy sources from steam, water and nuclear. Solar, wind and biofuels are gaining traction. Hydrogen is making inroads; fusion and fission energy sources have potential with uncertain time lines.

Right on cue entrenched providers, mainly conventional fossil fuel producers are selecting new avenues of attack including telling the story of the benefits of their industry, denying any harmful outcomes of producing and utilizing fossil fuels and implementing any number of political influences.

New energy sources are emerging partly to capitalize on the detrimental effects of combusting fossil fuels. Enter solar, wind and increased biofuel use. The private sector, including established fossil fuel participants is extensively involved.

Government incentives such as subsidies, loans, favourable taxation and grants are appearing right on schedule. These measures are encountering negative responses from industry participants of every nature Political battles are escalating over policy changes.

Denial enters the fray. There is the usual accumulation of deniers motivated by resisting change for any reason; there is political motivated denial resulting from regional dependence on traditional and specific energy sources; there is reputational denial based on a life time of contribution to an industry which is losing some of its luster; there is denial generated by encountering job losses. Apart from denial based on flimsy reasons none of these are trivial. The potential of improved outcomes is seldom enough to negate the consequences of creativity. The elimination of jobs to be replaced by new ones is never sufficient to overcome career loses.

As to conspiracy promoters, traditional providers advance as many ideas as possible including advocates for new energy sources by contributors with questionable credentials. Equally, change sponsored promoters tell the tale that long term fossil producers conspire to keep damning evidence from public exposure.

Economic consequences reflect changes to energy sources, generation, distribution and consumption. The automobile transportation system is undergoing the first major change since the Model T rolled off the assembly line. A perfect example of an evolutionary or perhaps revolutionary energy systems change.

The consequences of environmental disruption resulting from the pronounced call on the atmosphere to absorb carbon dioxide is now in evidence. Fossil fuels are the culprit….the debate continues but for all practical purposes the issue has left the station.

The investment climate is a bell weather for innovation. In this case the search for noninvasive energy sources now keeps the investment bankers very well compensated. Corporations are required, perhaps persuaded, to publicly declare their potential liability to environmental infliction resulting from person made activities.

Traditional energy providers are adding and incorporating less invasive energy sources. Some are reorganizing their portfolios to distance themselves from businesses which are becoming more and more problematic as to financing and potential liabilities.

New providers are surfacing, new technology is proliferating and research facilities active around the world

Media participating in energy transitions include news, opinions, social and economic policy organizations, political views, advertising, scientific publications and social media outlets. The points of view depend on the sponsors. Continuous bombardment indicate the magnitude of the issues.

Reaching the revised energy destination is a formidable assignment. The rewards are now emerging, however slowly, nothing is for sure, and outcomes will tell the tale. Aftermaths are a vital part of the journey.

Thanks for reading!

I would love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a line in LinkedIn or contact me directly.

While you are here why not try one of my other articles.

Technology Folklore


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Mount Pleasant Don Thurston
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