To Innovate or not to innovate, this is the question....
Or is it?! The real question for me is what is innovation?!
The reason for my ponderance is that here in the oil and gas industry the word on everybody's lips is innovate. We need to innovate, if we don't we'll die. But what do we mean by innovation?
If we go back over five thousand years we can see some examples of great innovation with the Egyptians in the building of their great monuments and pyramids but I'm just thinking of paper made from papyrus.
Then in our own oil and gas industry, the invention of the rotary table in the 1880's revolutionised the rate at which wells could be drilled. Prior to this wells were drilled using cable-tool drilling techniques. However, things were done in very much the same way until the top drive drill was invented in the 1980's. So as you can see although there will have been incremental design improvements, real innovation can take a considerable amount of time.
The diesel engine is another innovation that had major impact on the modern world. Invented by Rudolf Diesel in the 1880's it made an immediate impact on areas such as shipping and power generation. Saying that, it wasn't until the mid 1960's that through innovation in fuel air mixing technology, diesel cars became a mass market form of transport.
So back to my original question, what is innovation and why do we need to innovate?
I suppose we can answer the second part first if we just think about the following proverb:
'Necessity is the Mother of invention'.
For our industry, which is going through it's longest and deepest downturn for a generation this is only too evident. For many organisations and companies within our industry, if they don't innovate quickly and correctly they will disappear.
I think we are getting a little closer to understanding what innovation is.
Innovation is something that we are driven to do out of need, necessity or desire. I choose the word desire quite deliberately. I'm sure that James Dyson didn't invent the bagless vacuum cleaner because the market wasn't being served with the bagged variety, he probably did it because he saw a better way and therefore created a gap in the market and competitive advantage.
So does innovation need to be a major step change in thinking or technology. I would suggest not. Innovation need only be what you want it to be or something that your organisational culture can cope with. But in saying that, I would hope that any innovation you embark upon would bring about a step change in performance of yourself or organisation, even if the innovation in itself is really quite small.