Energy drives all living things — that includes organizations. People and companies share a common life cycle: birth, growth, maturity, and decline. To survive, we must find a source of rebirth before the end of our decline phase. Companies that regenerate, like Amazon, survive, while others, like Blockbuster, hang on too long and eventually die. Even the most fatigued company can find new energy potential with these four sources of employee power: innovation, optimization, social and elemental.

Each employee has a natural predisposition towards either exploration (innovation) or optimization (efficiency). They also prefer to interact socially (with people) or elementally (with things or systems).  Employers need energy in the right place to maximize their current strategy, and employees want to be in roles where they deploy their natural preferences most powerfully. When strategy and strengths are aligned, talent retention improves, and potential is actualized.

Potential Type Preferences Strengths  How to Release Potential
Innovation Energy Exploration, change, movement ·       Creating new ideas and methods

·       Adapting easily to change


·       Early stages of the growth cycle (birth, growth)

·       Provide the opportunities for risk taking and change

Optimization Energy Efficiency, structure, scalability, refine, improve ·       Standardizing processes

·       Expanding and growing existing ideas

·       Identifying risks and protecting current brand

·       Later stages of the growth cycle (maturity, decline)

·       Provide a stable work environment where employees are rewarded for finding risks, efficiencies, and improvements

Social Energy Interacting with people ·       Developing relationships

·       Working in teams

·       Most productive when working with people

·       Provide opportunities for networking, socializing, teamwork, and conduct training in person

Elemental Energy Interacting with things, systems, or content ·       Working with the things or systems

·       Research and hands on work

·       Energized most when working with things, data, or systems

·       Provide opportunities to do training on-line, work remotely, develop or improve content, and test ideas



New tools like the AEM-Cube identify “heat maps” of where the power in organizations lies. Identifying preferences, and igniting their potential, leads to engaging employees most powerfully and increasing profitability. Companies like Apple, IBM, and Heineken are already using this tool to tap into new sources of energy. The heat map below represents data that may be gleaned from the AEM-Cube tool. This illustration is similar to that of a large U.S. engineering company.

Assume this company wanted to innovate with a new product that had not been introduced previously. Leaders struggled to understand why ideation programs were failing. Upon identifying where its employees’ energy potential exists, this organization realized that:

  • 80% of employees preferred optimization to innovation. They get into action by creating efficiencies, refining, stabilizing, and executing existing Still capable of innovating, their ideas come from experience and evidence. These employees would shine at Kaizen, Lean Six Sigma, or continuous improvement initiatives as well as scaling up and stabilizing existing ideas.
  • 71% of employees exhibited elemental energy, preferring to focus on the content side of the business. They naturally thrive in systems development or product improvement.

Understanding a company’s heatmap is the first step to identifying new power that is often underexploited or ignored. For example, employees with all types of energy potential are capable of innovating, but those who naturally prefer exploration will seek ideas that have not been tried before and need less structure to get into action. To successfully innovate, the engineering company represented by this heatmap would need a proven process with clearly defined expectations. Preferably, it would also involve product, technologies or systems development as the topics around which to focus ideation efforts.

In short, powering up with these four sources of energy, innovation, optimization, social and elemental, can breathe new life into fatigued companies of any size.


About the author:

Tabitha (Crawford) Scott, CEM, CDSM

CEO, Cole Scott Group

As former CEO of Military Assistance Company, and SVP Innovation & Sustainability at global companies Balfour Beatty Investments and Lend Lease Americas, Tabitha leverages years of successful experience with innovation program leadership, leader development, and powering organizational potential. She is also a published and credentialed Certified Energy Manager®, Certified Demand Side Manager®, and is responsible for implementation of the world’s largest rooftop solar community. While helping dozens of companies become more agile, Tabitha is an international advisor and speaker on energy, change management and innovation, with several published works.