Can we really be creative in an industry like oil and gas that’s bound by regulation and where failure can have major implications for safety?
By ‘creative’, I don’t mean getting arty, I mean finding original and imaginative ways we can tackle persistent problems or deal with changing circumstances.
In this sense, I believe most of us would argue that we not only can, but we must if we’re to rise to the challenges of lessening our impact on the planet and ensuring we stay safe and profitable in an increasingly challenging environment.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. We’re not all innovators and that’s probably just as well, because we need to put ideas into action as well as come up with them.
We can, however, build a creative environment, support the development of ideas and help bring them to fruition. This doesn’t mean providing foosball tables, bean bags and thinking spaces. Rather, it means getting buy-in from stakeholders, securing budget, setting goals and promoting innovative work that has been carried out within our own teams and the wider industry.
It’s also very much about the culture of the organisation. At Imrandd we built the notion of creativity into the name, it stands for Integrity Management Research and Development and this has helped permeate the drive to innovate throughout the organisation.
I’d love to be able to say that this was a premeditated masterstroke of management, but, to be honest, when we were starting up we just thought it sounded kind of cool and it at least gave an idea of what we do. I’m very glad we did, though.
However, culture isn’t determined by a name, budget or business model, but rather by the people within a business.
A creative culture comes from the top too. The management team has to be committed to the whole concept, even at times when it’s not them generating ideas they need to keep the team concentrating on delivery of the core service or product while always looking at how to improve in future.
This needs to be balanced with creating space for those inclined to experiment and come forward with ideas, in the knowledge that not every experiment will work and not every idea will be pursued – and that’s OK.
Does this sound expensive for an SME? It doesn’t have to be. Ideas cost nothing and experiments should be time bound and controlled.
On the flip side, not having any competitive edge or anything that differentiates us aren’t things we can afford. Will this approach guarantee our continued growth and success? I hope so. It certainly won’t hurt, and we’ll continue to learn and sharpen our focus on the next areas of development and, possibly best of all, it will stay interesting.
We also discovered that adopting this attitude has attracted others with a similar mindset, and we’ve been lucky enough to have some great people join our organisation, because they’ve heard that we’re doing interesting things and this is what really motivates them.
That kind of motivation is infectious and, if nurtured, can be self-perpetuating.
Even if we’re not all creative we can foster creativity, even in what can appear a rigid and controlled environment. If not, we run the risk of continuing to do the same things while hoping for a better outcome.
Positively, our industry appears more open to change and new ideas than ever before and new applicable technologies are being introduced at an incredible pace.
For those who want to get creative, this seems to be the right time.
Innes Auchterlonie is managing director of Imrandd