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Energy Innovators: Ringing in an Age of Enlightenment

Fortnightly Magazine - December 1999

opportunities in Green Mountain, which is essentially a sales-marketing company.

You came on board in February, the month after Green Mountain launched in Pennsylvania. What were your objectives?

My objectives were to help Green Mountain take all its entrepreneurial spirit and put in systems and processes that would allow it to grow rapidly to be a major force in retail marketing in the United States. ¼ It's a never-ending task, but I think we've done a great job of balancing and managing the creativity and innovation, while putting in place the kinds of processes that are required for what we aspire to be, which is a multi-billion-dollar corporation, operating eventually with public shareholders. ¼

One of the things I'm most proud of is the fact that we are rapidly adapting technology to maintain both our creativity and innovation. Just today we launched our next generation of our website, which, by the way, we think will be obsolete within three months and we're already preparing a new website for launch in another three months. We also launched our internal intranet for the company, because it will help us communicate faster and better, and eliminate the use of paper and allow us to maintain a flat organization.

The way we did that today, by the way, is we had every employee in the company spend the entire morning in a series of games that involved the use of the intranet, and gave out prizes. If they answered questions correctly, they had a chance to shoot basketball goals and hockey nets, but it was all towards learning about innovative use of the Internet and intranet.

You mentioned two things: a flat organization and using games to foster innovation.

I've had a long-term belief that the payoff in productivity from technology - one of them has got to be a flat organization empowered to do the best work they can. We hire very bright people and give them a lot of autonomy and responsibility, and we use technology as a way to communicate rapidly. ¼

Here's another thing we strongly believe in: We need to stick to our core competencies, which are marketing, sales and innovative use of information and technology, and then allow other people to be partners in the things that they do well - for example, billing, power supply, those sorts of things.

And the role of games and fun?

We're involved in a very serious business - supplying electricity, especially environmentally friendly electricity to combat a very serious problem - air pollution. The brand that we built, we know from research, has to be approachable, has to be competent, but it also has to have an element of fun. We also know that a fun, learning, growing environment is one that's important to attract people, so we build fun into what we do everyday. So when we have a major initiative, we always want to make sure we have a fun aspect.

We are a rigorously casual company. If you walk into our offices here in Burlington, Vt., you're just as likely