Water’s agents of transformation: Engineering leaders of the future

Disruptive technologies don’t conquer their markets until they redefine their marketplace.  When that happens, mastery of that new paradigm redefines industry leadership in a matter of years. For example, in the early 1900s when steam power became capable of powering a ship across the ocean, every single transoceanic sailing-ship company went out of business.  The old guards of shipping stood by big sailing ships, and they sank with them.

Carollo future of engineering

Innovation guru Clay Christensen sketches out a compelling model for conquering markets, like water, that are most resistant to change. Online education, PCs and steam power redefined their industries by targeting the customers that dominant technologies left behind. The initial customers for steamships were inland waterways that had little wind for sailing ships. Similarly, its has been small and mid-sized water operations that have been the first adopters of game-changing water tech. Drill pad water services are beginning to appear as dominant customers.

Like the shipping companies that dominated ocean commerce, the largest water equipment manufacturers have ignored game-changing water tech. Today the largest water equipment and services companies have only a few high profile “innovation” projects that blend game-changing approaches with the conventional.

Only a few services firms are implementing new paradigms for water management. Natural Systems Utilities is one promising example. Bigger firms, such as Carollo Engineers and CH2M Hill are dedicating specialists to work with the most promising disruptive water solutions.  Christensen’s model predicts that the water companies that are the first to master the new paradigms around disruptive water tech will win big. Driven by these new technologies, they will provide powerful gains for their users. Big water users will determine their success by using less water, by saving energy and reducing waste.

Look for fast growth, high profit water services groups to emerge in oil & gas, in food, in chemicals. Investments in these companies, and partnerships with them, will make for big opportunities.

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