Businesses are built on a foundation of assumptions.  If the assumptions work, the business has a chance of succeeding.  If, however, the assumptions get old and tired, like rotting wood in a foundation, the business starts to collapse, often much faster than we expect.One of the key assumptions behind the regulated utility monopoly is that everyone has the same right to electricity and no one should have preferential rights. That seems self-evident enough.   We’ve come to think of it as the “one size fits all” mandate.  In exchange for treating everyone equally, utilities are given a monopoly that guarantees them reasonable returns and protects them from competition.  The problem is that the value of our product, electricity, actually varies widely from consumer to consumer.  Have a dialysis machine in your home?  Electricity is a necessity.   Live in the mountains of Colorado without air conditioning?  It’s a so what.  Run a data center?  Four ‘9s’ reliability does not suffice.   As a result, one size fits all actually has come to mean that no size fits anyone.  We treat customers not as customers, but as ‘load points’; we engineer our products to take the flavors out, flatten away any differentiation, produce a bland product that is noticed only when it’s not there.

And it gets worse…the assumption that this is the only legitimate way to produce value for our customers ends up blinding us to the fact that our product is polymorphic. It has many shapes and meanings.  For the last decade or more we have been on the quest for the call waiting of the electric industry.  Call waiting came about because someone was able to view phone calls as human connections.   It wasn’t about low cost connectivity; it wasn’t about the reliability of my phone service.   Rather it was about my phone fulfilling my need to be aware of who was contacting me and why.

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