Transforming the Utility Pole

When was the last time you really took a hard look at a wood utility pole? There’s a good chance you never have, despite the fact that they’re everywhere. It’s estimated that there are over 150 million poles in use in the United States today— nearly one utility pole for every two people. Despite their prevalence amongst us, no one is thinking about things like: How long has that pole been there? How long will it stay there? Where did it come from, and where is it going?

Though the common wood utility pole may not be a topic of interest for many, may be forgotten or simply taken for granted, the job of the innovator is to think about the questions that others don’t ask, and hopefully develop solutions that answer them. Founded on the basis of innovation in the treatment of wood, this is just what Cox Industries has done in this specific industry.

In his new book, Transforming the Utility Pole: Using Innovation to Disrupt Commodity Markets and Fuel Sustainable Business, Barry Breede seeks to provide readers with a proven process of effective disruptive innovation that Cox had continually implemented that is not only applicable in the commodity/utility industry, but for all businesses looking to improve and innovate.

Transforming The Utility Pole - Book Cover Available at amazon
“In commodity industries, innovation can serve as a brand differentiator and a market disruptor,” says, Breede. “Companies in these markets don’t have to participate in the race to the bottom on prices; positioning yourself as having the most cutting-edge business model in your sector can attract and attach buyers to you even more effectively.”
Transforming The Utility Pole - Book Cover

Follow Breede as he explains in detail how to achieve the requirement for successful innovation, which include:

  1. Alignment among all stakeholders
  2. Integration of innovation into overall business strategy
  3. A structured innovation process
  4. An internal culture of innovation that celebrates small wins

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Not all disruptive innovations are made in Silicon Valley or from bytes and bits. This one comes from South Carolina’s wood waste and reveals hidden value just waiting for utility companies to capture. Thanks to Breede’s direct experience, Transforming the Utility Pole is an easy, compelling read. This book is an example of authentic, evergreen, entrepreneurship—creating value for others from an ignored resource—for both the common good and economic benefit. This is real innovation and real value.
Lanny Vincent
General Partner, Vincent & Associates, Ltd.
As the implementation and management of corporate sustainability initiatives become increasingly important to utilities, they are placing greater value on suppliers that can develop innovative products and services to help them manage their waste streams. This book provides an interesting look at how companies, even those operating in commodity businesses like poles, can differentiate themselves by providing innovative, unique, and cost-effective solutions for their customers.
Catherine Heigel
Past President, Duke Energy South Carolina