It’s been an amazing year … so many new opportunities while sprinting along the razor’s edge of existence! Early on, we did a lot of self-examination and strategic planning for a new AAPG. Part of the early short-term strategy was to cut and cut to bring the budget down to essential services and those programs that are sponsored by corporate or AAPG Foundation donations. At the same time, we began working on longer-term strategies. You have heard it said that “We are at our best when we prepare ourselves for the worst.” I would change that to say, “We are at our best when we prepare ourselves to avoid the worst!”
Vision involves patience. It takes time to try and understand the many pathways into the future. Although we continue to evolve our strategic vision, now we are focusing on tactical solutions. A pressing issue for AAPG, as I’ve noted in most of my columns, is that even without the pandemic impact, most of the internal and external parameters that determine success have been downbound for years: exploration activity, membership, sponsorship, exhibitors, advertisers, conferences, meetings, training, etc. It became clear that we need far-reaching solutions for the future of AAPG. Collaboration – strength in numbers, greater market share – was a driving aspect in our tactical thinking.
One of my favorite quotes that kept rolling through my head in this process is from Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
A New Future
So last year and early this year, I began talking with society presidents about new relationships, including what are known in entrepreneurial circles as a new corporation or “NewCos.” In this case for a society, we will refer to it as a “NewOrg”– new organization. As a result, early this year we set up tactical action groups we called “TAG Teams” to evaluate new relationships. The first resulted in the joint SEG-AAPG annual meeting now called IMAGE – International Meeting for Applied Geoscience and Energy. This is an important step and will help the finances of both societies.
Second, by now you have heard of our planned new relationship with the Society of Petroleum Engineers. During our initial meeting, SPE President Tom Blasingame and I set up an AAPG-SPE Tactical Action Group composed of Gretchen Gillis, Bobby Ryan, David Curtiss and Alan Wegener, plus their four counterparts in SPE. Over the past several months, this team carefully assessed potential opportunities and made its recommendation to the AAPG Executive Committee and SPE Board of Directors. They recommended AAPG and SPE merge into a new, multidisciplinary organization – a NewOrg – building upon our strengths as petroleum geoscientists and engineers.
A key part of this negotiation was that we all agreed this would be a merger of equals into a new organization with a new name.
Certainly, SPE is larger than AAPG, so what is meant by a “merger of equals”? It is equal in respect, profession and strategy that will result and clear positions and responsibilities for geoscientists in the NewOrg.
Underlying all of this is the fact that SPE and AAPG have a foundation of trust. We have long-standing, successful, joint-venture relationships. We have similar financial models and business tactics. There is a strong element of respect and responsibility.
As a result, during the week of May 17, the SPE Board of Directors and the AAPG Executive Committee voted unanimously to move forward to define how a merger into a NewOrg might be structured. Obviously, this will generate a lot of questions and there is a lot of work remaining to be done, as we develop this plan and seek member input and engagement.
Science requires skepticism. To be clear, we are moving into the public phase of the process so the membership and public can ask questions and give advice as we build the NewOrg model for approval by the EC, House and membership (Big M).
In this process it is very important to understand that AAPG is at a crossroads (see diagram). In our opinion, this merger is the best option. We can merge into a NewOrg and become stronger for the future, or we can quickly fade away at the next crisis. We sincerely believe that this is a great opportunity for AAPG members now, and it is a great way to pay-it-forward for future generations of geoscientists and engineers.
Now it is time to say “thank you” to everyone for your support this year. I especially want to say “thank you” to my wife and love of my life for nearly 50 years, Mary, plus son Ian, and daughter Zoe. Many of you asked through the year how Ian and Zoe are doing, as in the past I often used them as amusing anecdotes in my executive director’s columns. Ian is 28 and is a private mechanic taking care of vintage cars. Zoe is 21, married and expecting her first child, whom they have named Charlotte Elaine. They plan to call her Charley in honor of my dad, Charlie.
Of course, thank you to this year’s AAPG Executive Committee, who have worked long hours squeezing their brains trying to figure out very difficult problems. I especially thank Gretchen Gillis for her work this year and wish her the best in leading the next charge. We still have a lot to do. Also, thanks to Mike Party for his leadership on the Advisory Council and for preparing a new monkey for me.
A special thanks to David Curtiss, Alan Wegener, Bryan Haws, Susan Nash and all the staff who have worked incredibly hard during very difficult conditions. They are amazing!
Finally, thanks to all of the members who have worked so hard in the divisions, committees, etc., and all the members who provided support and gave me good advice. A number of people asked me, “What is the most important thing I have learned this year?” We all have experienced so much turmoil and isolation amid the pandemic and politics, my best advice is that sometimes we just need to stop and re-focus on what’s most important.
So, I leave you with the scene from Tom Hanks’ depiction of Mr. Rogers in the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” In the restaurant scene he did an exercise. He asked us to take a minute of silence to think of all the people “who loved us into being.” It’s a great exercise. I strongly recommend it. I wish all of you the best.