When you hear the word “innovation,” what comes to mind?
Apple introducing a new iteration of the iPhone? NASA developing a new scientific application for navigating space? A high-tech city converting an underutilized skyscraper into a vertical garden?
Sometimes it’s not so obvious. What does innovation look like for companies in more traditional and highly regulated industries, such as finance and public utilities?
"We live in a time in age today where innovation drives what we do on a daily basis, whether it’s rolling out a unique portal or changing the way we inspect our water pipelines,” says Michael Luu, chief risk officer at California Water Service (Cal Water). “Innovation causes us to think about things differently because technology is all around us. So how do we bring that to the corporate world?”
Creating everyday impact
How can technology and innovation help keep our water supply safe and secure? Slalom is currently helping Cal Water—the largest regulated American water utility west of the Mississippi River and the third largest in the country—explore potential investments in the future of networking and augmented reality.
“We've been very successful as a top water utility in the United States, and we want to focus in on how we do things better for our customers, employees, and shareholders,” says Luu. “Innovation and partnering with somebody like Slalom could really take us to the next level at Cal Water.”
Slalom partnered with the Cal Water team to explore potential applications of augmented and virtual reality technologies for streamlining operations and training their workforce. Both technologies, when deployed to the field, would require significant network connectivity. The Slalom team performed a detailed analysis of available technologies, including assessing and testing its 5G connectivity services.
“Slalom Element Labs has helped us reach our goals,” says Tri Nguyen, IT project manager at Cal Water. “They're helping us build business cases around how we can use technology to help us improve our business processes and provide our customers with safe, clean drinking water.”
Broadridge—a global leader in the Fintech space—has a rich history of leveraging innovation to improve its clients’ businesses and stay ahead of industry disruption. The company provides widely used financial software solutions and wealth management services. Slalom Element is leaning in to design and launch an innovation lab that helps Broadridge incubate new product concepts in the financial digital assets space on the AWS cloud.
“We’re currently focused on experiments and ideas that could become foundational elements of the market in the future,” says Krugman. “If you think about what the future holds, it's the digitization of all assets that are important to us—not just financial.”
It’s an age-old challenge to get leaders who are running the business day-to-day to step away for a moment and question the fundamental ways the business works and identify opportunities to disrupt. That’s where a lab concept becomes really, really valuable.
Overcoming common barriers
Innovation is about human connection, and everything we do at Slalom starts with people. We want to know the “why” and the “how” in the words of our customers and their customers.
However, even with a path in place, there are inevitable roadblocks that many companies face when pursuing their innovation journey. Minimal resources, fear of failure, and a lack of organizational alignment often come into play, creating unintentional barriers.
“When you take an innovative approach, you start small and build from there,” says Krugman. “There’s rarely an appetite for failure or downtime in established business—particularly in regulated markets—so that’s where an innovation lab becomes really helpful. It allows you to experiment, incubate, build, and create.”
From the evolution of human and machine relationships to broader concepts like “virtuality,” we’re exploring how humanity and technology can build the future of how we work and learn. Beyond simply talking about innovation, we want to experience it hands-on while building meaningful partnerships that create lasting impact.
Realizing the future of innovation
At Slalom Element, we believe in the action behind the word “innovation”—not just the end result. As we embrace the growing responsibility to do good in the world and build better tomorrows for all, we’re focused on creating innovative solutions to the world’s biggest challenges in ways that are both sustainable and responsible.
"I think we live in a time and age today where innovation drives everything that we touch on a daily basis,” says Luu. “We want to be thinking about how things are going to change and how we can utilize that change to impact the lives of our employees and customers in a positive way.”
We built Slalom Element to inspire ourselves and our clients to not just talk about innovation but rather to experience it hands-on and build that creative energy into the DNA of their businesses.