Technical times

PHOTO: Karla Wasinger, IT business analyst, Infrastructure, shows off the Microsoft HoloLens during the Emerging Digital Technologies Showcase.

How ConocoPhillips is tapping into the power of its employees to fuel innovation

by Gus Morgan
three photos of classroom workshop
The 2019 Learning & Innovation for Today & Tomorrow event featured two innovation workshops, nine technical tracks and 36 courses.

The team of young petrotechs were taking turns explaining to senior leaders how their data-collecting nano robots could benefit ConocoPhillips.

“We could pump these robots in through fluid,” said geologist Dylan Loss, referring to the tiny Play-Doh prototypes his team had scratch-built. “They’re small enough to go into pores, and they’re basically going out through the reservoir. They’re like logging tools, so they’re getting petrophysical logs and then transmitting that data back to the wellbore.”

During this brainstorming exercise — one of many hands-on learning activities during Learning & Innovation for Today & Tomorrow (LIFT), a recent technical training event for ConocoPhillips petrotechs with four to 10 years of experience — these modern-day MacGyvers were envisioning how they could use technology to solve some of the company’s most pressing technical challenges.

large group on ConocoPhillips lawn outdoors
More than 200 ConocoPhillips petrotechs participated in the 2019 Learning & Innovation for Today & Tomorrow event at ConocoPhillips Center in Houston.
Cultivating a multidisciplinary environment

Such collaborative thinking exemplifies ConocoPhillips’ innovation culture, a data-driven world where talent and technology develop simultaneously. Each day, employees find themselves immersed in a workplace that encourages ideation.

It’s why ConocoPhillips offers training events such as LIFT.

A complementary mix of training and networking, the 2019 LIFT event featured nine technical tracks and 36 courses, giving petrotechs the opportunity to learn, innovate and connect with colleagues. Participants were required to choose a track outside their expertise, pushing them out of their comfort zones and advancing their technical skills.

For petrotechs, LIFT was an educational buffet, featuring a diverse menu of technical classes such as geophysics, petrophysics, reservoir forecasting, geomodelling, hydraulic fracturing, artificial lift and enhanced oil recovery. Networking events, innovation workshops and soft-skill classes complimented the technical training to give petrotechs exactly what they hungered for: knowledge and connections.

4 photos of students participating in workshop activities
 INNOVATION CULTURE: Petrotechs participate in innovation workshops during the 2019 Learning & Innovation for Today & Tomorrow event.
A chance to interface with others’

“One of the best parts of LIFT for me was the chance to interface with others from the business units,” said Kyle Hodges, a production engineer. “It gave me exposure to the problems they deal with and the solutions and approaches they’ve taken.”

head shots of Kyle, Jessie, Ian
FROM LEFT: Kyle Hodges, Jessie Chen and Ian Efron

Jessie Chen, a field facilities engineer, said that at LIFT she heard how colleagues deal with problems similar to the ones she encounters in Canada.

“Now when I encounter issues, I know who to contact to brainstorm solutions,” Chen said.

Ian Efron, a drilling engineer, said LIFT broadened his organizational perspective.

“Sometimes we can get siloed,” Efron said. “So it helps to see how different organizations interact and meet people I normally wouldn’t meet.”

Steinar Vaage
During the 2019 Learning & Innovation for Today & Tomorrow event, Steinar Vaage, SVP, Global Operations, Wells & Projects, emphasized the importance of cross-functional teamwork.
‘Faster and smarter in everything we do’

Before the cross-discipline courses began, participants heard from senior leaders, who highlighted the importance of learning, collaboration and knowledge-sharing. 

Steinar Vaage, senior vice president, Global Operations, Wells & Projects, emphasized the importance of cross-functional teamwork.

“Cross-functional is here to stay,” Vaage said. “The more you know about the other pieces, the more valuable you are. Being curious and looking beyond your discipline is really important.”

Vaage said cross-functional teamwork brings a broader perspective, enabling employees to see the entire value chain and find ways to be “faster and smarter in everything we do.”

Bill Bullock, President, Asia Pacific & Middle East, told petrotechs that career growth comes from investing in relationships.

Dave Mabee outdoors speaking to crowd
Innovation Manager Dave Mabee addresses petrotechs during the 2019 Learning & Innovation for Today & Tomorrow event.

“Find people you can learn from,” he said. “Ask questions from those who can help you get better and push you. If you ask a lot of questions, good things happen, especially if it’s outside of your discipline. Spend a lot of time asking why, then listen.”

Dave Mabee, Innovation Manager, stressed that innovation is not about the next gadget.

“If you find a way to drill better in the Permian, within six months everybody is copying you,” he said. “If you have a better completion in the Eagle Ford, within nine months everybody is copying you. Any single innovation has a shelf life and everybody catches up. So it’s more about culture. Trust and empowerment are really at the core of an innovation culture.”

Greg Leveille speaking in conference room
To win in a transforming industry, Chief Technology Officer Greg Leveille said ConocoPhillips needs to focus on analytics, innovation and technology adoption.
The push to become a data-driven company

Mabee’s innovation insights at LIFT flowed over into ConocoPhillips’ next big training and tech event, the 2019 Analytics & Innovation Symposium, a two-day conference with more than 40 presentations, four workshops and four keynote speakers.

Attended by more than 700 participants, the symposium was designed to help employees improve, innovate and connect. A vast array of the company’s data analytics and innovation initiatives were highlighted.

Keynote speaker Mark Gallagher, Formula One media analyst and managing director of Performance Insights Ltd., shared how data analytics has transformed Formula One over the years. 

Matt Fox at podium
Matt Fox, EVP & Chief Operating Officer, addresses participants during the Analytics & Innovation Symposium at ConocoPhillips Center in Houston. “Innovation is about reducing cost of supply,” he said. “You have to innovate to win.”

“Formula One is all about embracing data,” Gallagher said of the motorsport where teams use data analytics to advance their performance and remain competitive.

Throughout the symposium, employees sharpened their analytics skills and learned about emerging digital and data analytics through case studies. Symposium tracks included Emerging Digital Technologies, Subsurface, Drilling and Competitive Intelligence.

The symposium also featured a segment called ConocoPhillips Got Talent, where participants pitched innovative ideas to leaders and innovation champions. Complimenting the event was an Emerging Digital Technologies Showcase and networking reception, allowing employees hands-on access to the latest technical tools.

Mark Gallagher speaking to audience in conference room
Keynote speaker Mark Gallagher, Formula One media analyst and managing director of Performance Insights Ltd., shares how Formula One evolved into a data-driven culture during the Analytics & Innovation Symposium at ConocoPhillips Center.
More learning opportunities in 2020

This fall, ConocoPhillips will host its inaugural Global Technical Conference, an event destined to become the company’s annual flagship technical event.

This conference for petrotechnical and associated data science and emerging digital professionals will provide a dynamic opportunity to connect, learn, collaborate and innovate. Participating groups will include Geoscience, Reservoir, Wells, Production, Facilities, Operations and data scientists.

In addition, ConocoPhillips will see the return of LIFT in the first quarter of 2021, and it’s expected to be an annual event thereafter.

Adrian Hyde speaking, drone in front on tabletop
Adrian Hyde, Global Technology Lead, explains how a drone named Goliath is being piloted to detect emissions at well sites. The drone was on display during the Emerging Digital Technologies Showcase.