There’s an old saying that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” In our modern world, we need to go both far and fast.

That was the idea behind our Energy Hackathon, held July 25 at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

The half-day event was designed to engage senior HR professionals in the energy industry for a half-day “sprint” of networking, identifying challenges, and creating focused, implementable solutions that would propel their organization forward.

We found that the leaders from the different organizations had similar challenges. Yet there was also a sense of optimism that the sector could seize the opportunities related to renewable energy, technology, diversity, and globalization. “The biggest shift we need,” one leader in the room said, “is a shift in mindset.”

How do we break the paradigm of business as usual? The conversation flowed to BP’s experience with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and how people within the organization had rallied together to transform processes and systems. The crisis had voided the status quo. So how do you do that without a crisis? The group answered that the talent we need for tomorrow will have curiosity, communication skills, flexibility to play multiple roles, and the readiness to lead. 

The HR leaders stated that it’s essential to rethink our definition of talent. The group challenged the belief that talent is about a few superheroes. The need is to leverage the potential of a diverse workforce. There is no shortage of talent, one of the participants said — there is only deficit thinking.

For instance, the call to conserve energy runs counter to the demand for more energy; what if we focused on how to create abundant renewable energy? So too, what if the focus was be about unleashing new possibility rather than trying to extract more out of same old resources and systems? How could we see talent as a renewable resource that extends far beyond a few leaders? 

The mantle of leadership needs to shift to finding leaders in all functions. We spoke in particular about women who don’t often have the same opportunities as men and about how sponsorship can play a critical role. More broadly, the potential to connect all people with opportunity was seen as key to an organization’s ability to transform and renew itself. Great change, we agreed, was not predicated on great leaps but small steps aligned with bold vision. Vision and purpose — when harnessed and channeled — have true transformational power.  

One of the most important takeaways from the Energy Hackathon is the agreement that a vibrant, positive culture generates great energy and unleashes the potential of people, technology, and resources. We surmised that a critical role of HR is to foster that culture — much like renewable energy — that regenerates and renews itself in the face of challenges.

We ended the session much as we had begun: on a note of hope. The pace of change may be increasing, but there is great untapped potential in people, a resource that is vast and renewable.  

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