Innovation Cycle

Making Change a Priority and a Skill

We developed this innovation cycle to explain the challenges seen inside utilities and other organizations as they grapple with significant change and transformation. In fact, as the external environment becomes more and more dynamic, increasingly dominated by changing technologies in the emerging digital economy, everyone – individuals and organizations – must come to grips with a method of accommodating rapid and episodic disruption.

This website addresses two key themes: 1) Climate Change is a cataclysmic threat to global societal and humanity; and 2) Personal Energy is the emergent, individual and collective response to that threat.

Climate Change represents unavoidable, catastrophic change. It is negative change if we do not respond in a timely way and sufficiently to address the threat. Hopefully, it will be positive change as we succeed in rapidly replacing fossil fuels with a clean alternative and adopting a more sustainable lifestyle. This cycle applies to Climate Change because the urge to Denial is strong, the path to Mastery is difficult to discern, and Innovation is at the heart of any solution.

Personal Energy will be iterative as improved technologies, new business models, and widespread consumer adoption improve our toolset for addressing change and disruption. Based in Innovation, Personal Energy will require multiple passes through this cycle, and with each pass, it is hoped, familiarity with the pattern and developing skills will make the process more seamless, even automatic.




1. Epiphany. The beginning step of the 12-step Innovation Cycle is a realization (i.e., an epiphany) – at first subconscious, then increasingly apparent – that the sound heard in the distance is actually a warning siren for change, and it is blaring louder and louder. Myriad warning signs start to form a pattern, which says that change is on the horizon, but …

Grief Cycle (Steps 2-5)

As more and more are able to move rapidly from Epiphany to Acceptance and acknowledge the need for change, others get stuck in the Five Stages of Grief, identified and made famous by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Originally developed to explain the behavior of patients facing a terminal diagnosis, this model has been borrowed and expanded to explain coping with grief in many guises. In this case, we borrow it to explain the grief of accepting the unacceptable. Persistent change can wear on a person, as can a prediction of calamity. Both apply here. Because we are all bound to go through these five stages again and again, we call it the Grief Cycle.


Mastery Cycle (Steps 6-11)

The Mastery Cycle describes the steps one takes on gaining maturity and growing into a new paradigm. The Grief Cycle concludes with Acceptance. But acceptance of a new paradigm is only the beginning. With the old paradigm gone, the individual faces a vacuum, one that cannot easily or immediately be filled. To build a new paradigm and fill the vacuum, natural steps must be followed, with some progressing more rapidly through them than others.

Note: The five steps of the Mastery Cycle are described in more detail in the Customer Maturity Model in this Toolbox section.



12. Unease. Imagine having gone from mastery to innovation, only to learn that the environment has changed. The conditions and rules that supported your mastery are disappearing. An unease creeps in, manifesting itself as a threat to your security and well-being. The unease is the first signal that the cycle is completing itself and soon it will be time to repeat the process, all over again.

The Bottom Line on the Innovation Cycle

While it may seem a waste to go around and around this cycle, a key point to remember is that it is not a zero sum game. Each turn around the cycle imparts new skills and wisdom to the individual, organization, or society. With each turn, the patterns become stronger, the stages more recognizable, and indeed, the growing skills at Innovation become more apparent and eventually, move from consciousness to habit.

Those who get “good” at change recognize the patterns, anticipate the work ahead, and rapidly move through the Grief Cycle, even skipping it altogether in their zeal to get to the Mastery Cycle and the Orientation Stage, where the fun begins.

Those who get good at this become natural community leaders, helping others along. Their common enemy becomes the Grief Stages, which slow everyone down and inhibit successful adaptation to change.