Rocky Mountain Institute as a Model

by Louis on May 29, 2012

I have been a Rocky Mountain Institute/Amory Lovins fan for a long time. Amory does not shrink from speaking his mind, saying things that are unpopular, controversial and smart. RMI has an incredibly successful track record of providing practical solutions to government, military, industry. Ideas and initiatives going back more than 20 years are now current standards.

I recently read the 30 year anniversary newsletter, Solutions Journal, cover to cover, twice.  In my second reading I highlighted key points. What makes them key? Their applicability to the next generation of senior housing and care. It is no secret. RMI is a model for the Aging in Place Institute.

At this RMI anniversary we see that this organization’s wisdom is significant in the rebounding auto and truck industry, innovation in electrical generation and distribution, advances and profits in construction and renovation and a new era in manufacturing. In short, Amory has had a profound impact on our energy use, our lifestyles and our economy.  We also see patience as a necessity. As I said, he has been at this a LONG time. Not unexpectedly there is a whole to the ideas over the years:

“….we connect and convene leaders across sectoral and disciplinary boundaries to spread innovation and speed adoption across industry and civil society.” (p.4)

“….solutions, not problems; practice, not theory; transformation, not incrementalism. In short practical transformation.” (p.5)

“Rather than waiting for policy and politics to thaw, we can catalyze business-led change from within. Sympathetic collaboration can reveal practical paths to manage risk, increase profit, and create competitive advantage.” (p.5)

“It’s happening today because there is enormous economic incentive to do it.” (p.8)

“We realized the kernel of the problem is no longer today’s technology, economics, or lack of information – it is the lack of institutional collaboration and innovation to open the door to apply those technologies.” (p.12)

“It’s important for people to know there’s a huge, important role in market transformation for an organization that is willing to stake out outrageous goals and beat them until they happen.” (p.16)

“We looked at the whole system and turned waste into profit.” (p.19)

“…the concept of integrated design – that is factoring inputs, outputs, constraints and revenue opportunities into the dialogue, using a cross functional team.” (p.19)

These are important lessons. I encourage you to read the whole report. Here is a hint about how I read it. In many cases I drop the specific industry word, energy generation, gas prices, etc. in my reading and see advice for the Aging in Place Institute. Following are just a few examples.

“ an IT-enabled, customer-centric electricity system that is efficient, renewable and distributed can enable a transition away from fossil fuels (institutional senior care)…” (p. 10)

…deepened its engagement with utility partners, who saw value in pursuing an alternative to their current system- focusing on how to create win-wins with broader societal goals and with their customers.” (p.12)

The net for our purposes? Collaborating across boundaries from a whole systems perspective is the necessary secret sauce to bring efficiency and vitality to the next generation of senior housing and care. The alternative? The disaster coming from rising medical costs, too few payers and caregivers and the increasing population of older citizens can rival our energy and sustainability problems. The best time to plan and implement significant change would have been a while ago. It may not be too late if we look for good models like the Rocky Mountain Institute to move innovation forward, and act FAST! We may not have time for the patience Amory Lovins has demonstrated.


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