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Interview with Sabiene Heindl: Executive Director at The Energy Charter

Posted 10 months ago

Impact Innovation’s series of interviews exploring the habits, traits, inspirations and ambitions of leading innovation professionals.


This month we spoke to Sabiene Heindl, Executive Director at The Energy Charter. Sabiene’s career has spanned numerous industries including law, music, telecommunications and now energy – with innovation her constant focus. Sabiene shares her three tips for stimulating creative thinking, describes the important role yoga and meditation play in her everyday life, and explains why it’s important to talk about failure.

What’s your background and how did you find your way to your current role?
I’m a former lawyer who is passionate about innovation and collaboration. I ran an Australian music industry association at a time of great digital disruption, then moved to the telecommunications industry with the set-up of nbn co. I’m now in the energy sector helping to navigate customer-centricity and cultural change across 18 energy businesses.

What does your morning usually look like?
It’s a walk to the beach, yoga, and green tea in the morning, while also encouraging our two boys towards the school bus before starting my “day job” bright and early.

How important is innovation in your role?
It’s central to everything we do. To bring the five Energy Charter principles to life, signatories co-design #BetterTogether initiatives through an innovation framework of ‘ideate, incubate and accelerate’, to build capacity for collaboration across the energy sector. The #BetterTogether initiatives create meaningful change to deliver better outcomes for customers. They allow our 18 signatories, customer representatives and other energy industry stakeholders to showcase the good work they are doing for customers and collaborate to continually improve what they can offer.

Do you have any techniques or tricks for stimulating creative thinking?
I have three tips to encourage creative thinking in groups:
1. Connect people at a human level – intrinsic motivation is critical.
2. Design a clear innovation framework – people do better when they know what to expect and can be creative within a safe space.
3. Leverage human-centred design and facilitation.

What is your approach when a project gets stuck or delayed?
Go back to the start and align around our agreed purpose. Why are we here? What are we trying to do to benefit our customers and our communities? How can we do better? Allow people the time to review and reflect, gather momentum, and then move forward with united spirit and intent.

What program or software would you be lost without at work?
Online video platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have been essential for collaboration during COVID-19. We’re also exploring innovation platforms such as BrightIdea.

What book, resource or app has recently changed your life?
Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change by David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney. Forget getting stuck in the problem definition – this is change management focused on “green shoots”!

Thoughts on failure?
Fail fast and most importantly, have the courage to be open and transparent about those failures. By doing so, we open ourselves to being vulnerable to others. Not only will we learn from our mistakes, but others are also more likely to share what they’ve learnt from theirs. That’s a win: win.

What is your biggest challenge currently?
My biggest challenge is how to support Energy Charter “champions” to deliver on collaborative #BetterTogether initiatives when they are often doing so as a passion project, in addition to their day jobs. Capacity and resourcing are constant pain points.

What behaviour or habit has most improved your life?
My daily yoga and meditation practice help me stay calm amidst the pressures of corporate culture. Being centred enables me to connect authentically with people. Ultimately, life is all about human to human interactions.

How do you stay up to date on industry trends and news?
Mainly via LinkedIn and daily media monitoring. I also value reaching out to contacts to see what’s happening in their world.

What do you love the most about working in innovation?
I love the passion and creativity people bring to innovation. It’s genuinely fun to blue sky BIG and BOLD ideas and then have the architecture in place to see them delivered as collaborative outcomes.

If you’d like to connect with Sabiene, you can find her on LinkedIn

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