“You don’t look like that anymore,” a good friend recently observed in reference to the headshot that I use in EXPLORER and other professional spaces. “You need a new picture!”
A quick glance in the mirror confirms her point and is a not-so-subtle reminder that time marches ever onward, and as it does both we and the world around us are in a state of change.
The same is true for mission-driven organizations, like AAPG. We don’t often think about groups in this way, but associations also follow a predictable life cycle:
- The development phase of conception, infancy, puberty
- The mature phase of young adulthood and adulthood
- The declining phase of late adulthood and old age
I first encountered this framework attending a seminar conducted by ASAE – The Center for Association Leadership and Tecker International, a consultancy. The seminar leaders asked us to identify what phase of the life cycle best described our respective organizations.
An organization proceeding through old age will descend into obscurity and ultimately dissolution, the instructors explained. But this isn’t a foregone conclusion. Associations have the opportunity to experience revitalization, to step back and reimagine the organization based on present reality – to turn the clock back and assure its continued relevance to its members and profession.
“An organization proceeding through old age will descend into obscurity and ultimately dissolution ... But this isn’t a foregone conclusion. Associations have the opportunity to experience revitalization.”
AAPG may be 105 years old, but it’s this revitalization process that your Executive Committee is currently engaged in together with several strategic working groups.
An IMAGE of Revitalization
The International Meeting for Applied Geoscience and Energy, our annual meeting, is concluding as this issue of EXPLORER hits your inbox. This new meeting, conducted jointly with the Society for Exploration Geophysicists and in cooperation with SEPM, was an opportunity to test new concepts and ideas for the future.
IMAGE reveals three core elements that I believe are essential to AAPG’s revitalized future.
The first is energy.
When AAPG was created in 1917, the value of and uses for petroleum were just being fully recognized, and over the ensuing century these have grown dramatically.
When we talk about oil and natural gas serving as the foundation of modern society, we’re not referring just to primary energy sources. That is important, of course, but the pervasive use of petroleum products as feedstock for the products used daily and the global food supply is staggering.
Yes, there are other sources of energy: from biomass to coal, geothermal to nuclear, solar and wind. None of them match oil and natural gas, neither on their own nor in aggregate. Each has a role to play, but oil and natural gas are fundamental. We need to help a new generation of geoscientists understand this well enough to want to be a part of our profession and develop the knowledge and skills to be able to educate their peers.
The second core element is applied geoscience.
AAPG is a professional organization with a focus on applying the geosciences. Many of our members apply geoscience to discovering and developing energy sources. Others are adapting those skills to develop new ways to store carbon in the subsurface or minimize the environmental impact of hydrocarbon development. Still others apply technology and understanding from oil and gas systems to geothermal energy development.
Our SEG colleagues have worked over the years to highlight the myriad ways that geophysics can be used to solve problems. The near-surface geophysics pavilion at IMAGE showcased this. And SEG’s Geoscientists Without Borders program, also supported by the AAPG Foundation, helps people throughout the developing world by applying geoscience to solve specific problems.
Fundamental geoscience research is certainly worthwhile and important, but what makes AAPG different from our more academic sister societies is our focus on application: we use geoscience to create value.
The third core element is community.
Mission-driven organizations like AAPG exist because of a fundamental truth: an individual alone cannot achieve and accomplish the mission. Rather, it is a group of individuals coming together, pushing beyond what is known, sharing knowledge and learning from each other by which the community achieves its goal.
Accept the World As It Is
A revitalized AAPG must be community-focused, global in its scope, embrace diverse viewpoints and perspectives and work cooperatively and respectfully toward our goal to advance geoscience and use it effectively to benefit people.
Your elected leadership is committed to getting this strategic review right. These core elements represent my perspective and viewpoint. What are your thoughts about what we need to focus on in a revitalized AAPG? Please let us know.
Successfully revitalizing AAPG is possible. But it does require the willingness to understand and accept reality. We cannot design an organization for the way we wish or hope things could be.
This point was driven home to me when my colleague Matt Randolph informed me that he took the headshot above in 2012. That’s my present reality.