In the best of times, AAPG’s Director of Innovation and Emerging Science/Technology Susan Nash has to weigh the costs and benefits of “the next big thing” out there for the industry, separating the helpful from the hyperbolic, to see which new advancements will have the greatest impact on how the industry moves forward. But undertaking all that in the middle of a pandemic is a whole new ballgame, for it makes an industry – especially one like the oil and gas industry – to take stock of exactly what the possibilities and ramifications will be when the future landscape has been so transfigured by recent events that it is almost unrecognizable from anything that preceded it.
This very dynamic was something Nash started to think about before the full extent of COVID-19 could be felt in the spring of 2020. She wondered about how to put together a forum for industry leaders to discuss, at the time, the industry’s current predicament and the murky horizon.
As it turned out, it was going to be a yearlong event.
“Last year, beginning in April, as dramatic changes were occurring in the oil industry due to the pandemic, we launched a 20-part webinar series: ‘Pivoting 2020: New Revenue and Diversification Strategies,’” she said.
Nash said its short-term goal was to introduce AAPG members and other industry professionals to new technologies and funding sources, as well as emerging new businesses.
But that was just the beginning.
“A longer-term goal,” Nash said, “was to help people develop their skills and knowledge base so that they could generate new revenues, find jobs, diversify their services, and more,” she said.
And since the new reality, the new normal was still unfolding, Nash decided that even the messaging had to reflect a new way of conducting such a program. As such, each webinar in the 20-part series featured four speakers, each with information that could be about a new product, a new service, a way to obtain funding, a new business direction or a new way of promoting or commercializing products.
Even during the height of the pandemic, the webinars were well-attended, averaging around 120 registrants – virtually, of course – per session.
“We also received testimonials from people who participated (who) were able to launch new businesses and find new jobs,” Nash said.
The program was closely tied with the Members in Transition programs from AAPG, meaning, the search for speakers who could provide information and suggestions for industry professionals moving to new fields and challenges.
Beyond the Pandemic
But that was then.
Nash concluded in 2021, while industry leaders were still clearly concerned about living and working under the pall of the pandemic, she thought it was time to look beyond the upheaval, so she launched a new series, entitled, “AAPG Pivoting 2021: Thriving with Change.”
Specifically, this year, there are 11 sessions scheduled (Nash hopes to have 20) and said the events will search for and focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Instead of focusing on the pandemic, we’re looking at the way that our world has changed and where the changes are opening doors and creating new pathways to new businesses, technologies and re-envisioned services,” said Nash.
She said the goal is to translate the concept of “change” to something actionable that can be used in real-world situations and businesses.
“For example, what are the new realities for businesses in the areas of environment, sustainability and governance? How does this translate into action and investment?” she explained.
The nuts and bolts of the 2021 series have been modified, as well, to foster more connection between attendees and presenters.
“Instead of 15-minute blocks,” Nash said, “we’re now going to a panel discussion among experts, which is followed by a presentation of a technology. What this means is that each panelist during the 2021 series will now have five minutes to talk about their insights on the night’s topic, and then the floor will be open to questions from the audience,” she said.
Interaction and Collaboration
The interaction so far is encouraging. It is one of the reasons she likes to think of this year’s series as more of a “meeting,” rather than a webinar format. One of the drawbacks to last year’s webinar format, she concluded, is that only the panelists were visible, and not the attendees.
That has been changed.
“The new series lends itself to a greater sense of camaraderie and productivity, for those attending cannot only see each other and send each other messages in the chat, but they can send questions for the panelist or the person presenting the technology,” she said.
She said by making the sessions so open, not only will networking and knowledge sharing will be enhanced, but the conversations that begin at the virtual meetings will be able to continue long after they’re over.
“We make things available through a platform called Xrathus,” she said, which includes a collaboration center appropriately called “Challenge,” “where people can work together to propose solutions (or a workflow) for a hypothetical problem.”
There is also something called the “Innovation Hut,” where innovators can post links to information and videos about their new products and services.
Nash said the AAPG “Pivoting 2021: Thriving with Change” series is a necessary shot in the arm for an industry in need of one.
Specifically, upcoming “Pivoting 2021” programs include:
- ESG and CleanTech, March 3
- Sensors, robotics, smart operations, March 17
- Risk and Recovery in 2021, March 31
- Energy Industry Supply Chains,
- Learning from Other Industries,
- Opportunities with Earth Imaging Technologies, 2021, May 12
- Imaging technologies, 2021, May 26
- The New Way to Work, June 9
“One of the reasons why we are emphasizing interaction and knowledge sharing is because there have been 11 months of drastically constrained opportunities to meet with each other,” Nash said.
She believes that people are tired of feeling that they’re on the outside looking in.
“Instead of having hands and faces pressed up against the glass, we want to open it up and they can see each other, chat with each other, and make productive connections,” she added.