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Utilities CEO demands optimistic and faster approach to innovation

Picture by Matt Goreiconbusinessmedia Northumbrian water 'Learning to fly'
Picture by Matt Gore iconbusinessmedia Northumbrian Water  Group CEO discusses ‘Learning to fly’

“We need to be optimistic and trust ourselves,” Northumbrian Water CEO Heidi Mottram told the organisation at its fifth annual innovation conference. Over 350 partners from across the leadership team gathered for two-days of horizon scanning. “The pace of change brings massive opportunities and everyone in this room can do something exciting,” Mottram said.

“It is only 40 years since the first computer and there has been an exponential rate of change. Change is the only constant, whether it driven by technology, the climate or the world becoming much more global.

“We were in the infancy of the anaerobic digestion at the first innovation conference, now we are one of the largest in the UK and the most efficient in terms of sludge treatment” Mottram said.

“We need to change our culture and we need to go even faster and quicker to remove barriers to change,” Mottram said of the journey the Northumbrian Water business, its staff and customers must take. “Because things are moving people can replicate and catch up. There was a time when you could hold onto an innovation for longer.”

Referring to team members in customer contact, gas supply and laboratories that have played a key role in business transformation Mottram said: “they have taken themselves and us through a massive learning curve. We have given them opportunities.”

“Customers are becoming much more confident with web services,” Mottram said of the changing methods of communication between customers and Northumbrian Water. “It has been in our gift, in the past, to decide if we are doing a good job,” Mottram said, adding that growing external pressures will impact the organisation whether from social media or increased market competition. “It is an exciting future, there are new possibilities and we can embrace technology and be at the forefront,” Mottram said.

The Northumbrian Water CEO said technology was changing the lives of employees and customers alike. Mottram described how Northumbrian Water worked in partnership with an elderly resident with early stage Alzheimer’s disease by fitting motion sensor taps to protect the resident from accidentally leaving taps on and seeing their bills spiral out of control. Workers benefited from increased safety from wearable devices.

“I understand the sentiment of wanting a pause, but I am really sorry we can’t. The key to change is to take people with you so that they want to play a part. We do need to get used to the fact that we will be always be doing change. But we will always be doing change for a good reason.”

About Mark Chillingworth 168 Articles
Mark Chillingworth has over 20 years of journalism and editing experience across all media platforms including online, live events, print magazines and television.
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