Why embracing uncertainty can lead to game-changing innovation

Posted 30 October 2017

Innovation
From technological advancements to regulation review and climate change, water utilities have no shortage of looming uncertainties. It means embracing change through innovation and creativity will be key to staying relevant in future.

Presenting at the upcoming Australian Water Association QWater Conference, Change2020 Director Kerryn Fewster said embracing uncertainty will be crucial to thriving as a water business ahead of disruption.  

“Every sector is experiencing change in one way or another. Learning to embrace ambiguity is not a choice – it’s actually an imperative if you wish to remain relevant moving forward,” Fewster said. 
 
“If you are able to consider the uncertainty and be creative about how you respond to it, you have a better chance of retaining your position within a marketplace or finding additional opportunities. Looking at things through a different lens is critical to embracing ambiguity.”

Change2020 consults with a range of different companies and sectors to help businesses increase tolerance to ambiguity and respond in ways that promote adaptation and growth. 

“We look at ambiguity tolerance and how to respond, rather than react, to ambiguous situations. When faced with uncertainty, the tendency is to react, which often entails falling back into old practices – to get more information, to be more structured, to be more controlling,” Fewster said.
 
“But the world we live in doesn't really enable that approach anymore.”
 
Fewster said that approaching uncertainty with an open mind will be integral to utilities’ ability to stay relevant, effective and productive when faced with oncoming challenges. 
 
“Water provision is slightly different in that there is a monopoly in each region or area, but what happens in different states affects all others. What Sydney Water is doing, Seqwater needs to be aware of, and the same with SA Water,” Fewster said. 
 
“Because water is such a core and vital element to every member of the community, it's about understanding the fact that communities are changing. 
 
“When you are looking forward to provisions and solutions, keeping abreast of where the changes are and how they can be optimised is critical in terms of keeping an open mind.”
 
And despite the inflexible nature of regulation and geography, Fewster said no sector is disruption proof, and embracing uncertainty now will help water utilities adapt when change hits. 
 
“It’s not like customers can choose their water retailer in the same way that they can choose their other retailers, but this only makes it easier to sit back and get comfortable,” she said. 
 
“Customers rely on utilities to provide clean, safe water, and this is what they have come to expect. What we don’t know is how the nature of the industry will change. Given that water is such a critical resource, there will be alternative ways of provision coming in to compete.
 
“Something will disrupt the water industry, and the best thing is to be able to be responsive, rather than reactive. If we can respond to the disruptive opportunity and embrace that change, we’ll be in a much better position to thrive.”
 
To hear more about embracing ambiguity in the water sector, register for the QWater'17 Conference, held from 3-4 November. Be quick - registrations close today!

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