There may not appear to be an obvious link between the prospects for North Sea oil and gas and the recent successes of British Cycling.
But the innovative thinking which delivered Olympic gold medals and Tour de France victories could also benefit the UK’s energy industry.
The theory of marginal gains, adopted by Dave Brailsford when he was head of performance at British Cycling, was seen as a transforming force which helped deliver major success.
Under Brailsford’s leadership, the UK cycling team won multiple world championships and Britain led the cycling medal table at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
The concept of marginal gains is that you break down all the individual elements involved in riding a bike and improve each of them by 1% to realise a significant increase when all were combined.
While using this approach within the oil and gas sector may have previously seemed over the top, or in some cases a distraction from other growth initiatives, in these lean times it is one that should be considered as a means of transforming companies so they are streamlined, efficient and ready to handle to challenges of the future.
We are seeing, as the offshore energy market begins to move beyond initial cost cutting measures, businesses looking to the future and reshaping their operating models in order to maximise sustainable growth and North Sea lifespan.
There are a number of areas where oil and gas companies can use the 1% rule, and first and foremost among these is human resources.
Cutting workforce numbers is undoubtedly necessary for many firms.
The challenge is how to do this in a smart way, so vital skills are maintained and engagement not destroyed as companies seek to gain advantage from future opportunities.
After all, the cyclical nature of this industry is undeniable.
Small changes in areas as far-ranging as flexibile/smart working, the approach to industrial relations and sharing the costs of future development through outsourcing, joint ventures and shared services can make a significant impact.
While the temptation can understandably be to shut down all “non-essential” spend, focused investment in people should not be considered a luxury if an organisation wants to limit future skills shortages and talent retention.
Beyond the marginal gains approach there are, of course, issues which require more significant efforts.
These include how companies balance competition and collaboration. This has, historically, proved a real challenge in practice and understanding of the issues can be patchy.
While I have no doubt that the North Sea oil and gas sector has a positive future, a willingness to engage with real change will ultimately be required to get us there.
Implementing a series of marginal gains across the many aspects of how businesses operate could combine to make the transformation that is required.