Case Study

Energy Company Delivers Breakthrough Business Results & Innovations Through Company-Wide, Cross-Functional “Fractal Projects”

Situation: Despite its size, past roster of successes, and excellence in science and engineering, this large energy company found itself often beaten in the market by smaller, more nimble competitors. An internal group, appointed by the president of the firm, was assigned to innovate the way the company worked for the better. Their aim was to combine data and insights around science, financials, and stakeholder relationships in a faster, more reliable fashion. General concepts were taught, and a top-down roll-out of this team’s ideas occurred.

The Catch: After a year, the company admitted that the new way of working was not working. They called upon Third Angle to consult and analyze the situation, and explain why the conventional roll-out was not working. Additionally, the president of the company asked Third Angle to partner with the project team to innovate and infuse the new approach into the company so that it would gain traction quickly and deliver breakthrough results for high-stakes projects throughout the business.

Innovative Actions: 

Consulting: Third Angle took an in-depth look at the process in use and the current results. We then interviewed a variety of formal and informal leaders about this process, the perceived goals, and the overall culture of the company.  Next, using our NEWCO™ analysis tool and technique, we synthesized all data, perspectives, goals, and culture responses, and hit upon an insight that caused even the president to exclaim, “That’s it!”  

The insight led to the principle, “Let them teach each other.” This principle served as the foundation for all subsequent innovations. The plan was to develop a core set of tools and knowledge to teach the energy company’s project groups in real-time while applying them to their toughest problems. Then, having learned and applied the method taught and coached by Third Angle, the project teams would then teach it to others in their networks, and to other projects, as a natural piece of how they worked and led.

Key Note Talk: This particular client was a traditionally “top-down” company, which meant getting the buy-in from the EVP’s and VP’s on the executive team was critical to its overall success. When Third Angle presented our findings, we shared the insights gleaned about the culture of the company, specifically that the current culture would only accept new innovation by being a part of the innovation, and then teaching these new ideas to one another. We presented a roadmap forward to catalyze the adoption of process and cultural innovation. When we were finished, the leaders all agreed to the roadmap, and said that we really “knew them” at a level no outsider understood before.

Executive Field Trips and Hands-On Epiphany Events: The president of the company invited the team of VP’s and special project team leads to visit Third Angle, where we taught them about network knowledge. We also led events where they learned from subject matter experts (SME’s) about the science behind networks and complex systems. This provided a new perspective about how to look at their business and processes by combining science, business, and relationships early-on, in a networked fashion, rather than their traditional linear and siloed models. 

Project Partnerships for Breakthroughs and Follow-Throughs/Fractal Methodology for Viral Adoption of Innovation: Third Angle consulted on a variety of projects - often those facing the biggest roadblocks, with open-minded leaders that were eager to learn and innovate. Using Third Angle’s Way of Thriving Method™ we broke through these project’s “tough nut” issues (business, science, human and the integration of the three), helping each to gain speed, unleash talent, increase revenue for the company, build trust among team members and external stakeholders, and spread the word that this method works.  Third Angle revisited projects and leaders after the initial consulting period to coach them, and to make sure the application of the method and tools continued and spread.

We used a fractal model to provide similar basics across each project, yet customized them to the unique environmental conditions they faced. The fractal approach also accounted for the speed of learning and the viral spread of these methods to other projects. This is modeled after the way fractals in nature (e.g., fields of clover, seashores, forests) grow. The innovation was to scale this new way of working as “fractals” in order to attract interest, create a pull and cross-fertilize success, so that other project leaders asked for the interventions.

Growth & Value: Over the course of our work together, Third Angle helped to almost entirely reduce the initial resistance to process and cultural innovation, collaborating, networking, and combining knowledge. Several projects experienced breakthrough performance, resulting in multi-millions of dollars in value creation. For example, one project that had been stalled for a year due to a stand-off with the head of an international government discovered, through Third Angle’s guidance, a new innovative solution. They implemented it in two weeks, and saved 17 million dollars, with billions of upside potential as well as a new level of trust and working relationships with the country in question. Additionally, the energy company learned new methods for gaining adoption of innovation (especially where business, science/technology, and humans come together) that are still in use today.

Mini-Lessons Learned:  Innovation can be centered around two foundations: a physical or a conceptual hub, or rolled through a company by project (or function). The first approach emphasizes innovation, tools and learning in theory. The latter approach gives rise to faster application and adoption within the culture while upholding the uniqueness of the situation. A combined approach may be the most effective and enduring, as you walk away with a careful combination of all powerful factors.