Systematising our approach to innovation
Ragnhild Ulvik is convinced she has one of the most exciting jobs in Statoil: finding the best ideas in the company and moving us into the future. She knows that taking an idea from inception to finished product can be a long and arduous journey—with no guarantee of success.
Ragnhild Ulvik is taking the bull by the horns. As head of Statoil's innovation team, she will gather all the best ideas she knows are flying around the company. Some will be matured, while others will die—and she says it is inevitable they will make mistakes on the way.
“We want to create an environment where we mimic smaller companies. An environment in which it is safe to fail—that’s the whole point,” says Ulvik.
One of the ways to accomplish this is to gather responsibility for innovation across all disciplines, right up to corporate level. Ideas are gathered in Corporate Strategy and Innovation (CSI), a unit that will function as a bridge-builder across disciplines in the entire company and at the same time, cooperate even more actively externally.
“We have a lot of experience to draw upon when it comes to innovation and cooperation, particularly in our technology and renewables units,” says Ulvik.
At the same time, there is a lot to be gained from activating the whole company and partners in working across disciplines. By using new digital tools to gather and share experience systematically, gains can be achieved that were never previously anticipated.
“To be quite honest, I think this is one of the most exciting jobs in Statoil,” she says.
Meanwhile, founder and CEO of Huddlestock Capital, Murshid Ali, has been working on his digitalisation brainchild for a long time. Revolutionising the financial market with new technologies might seem a daunting task, but he’s not giving up easily. There are rays of hope, although he still has a long way to go.
“I feel we’re still in the Vale of Shadows right now, but we need to be ready when digitalisation really takes off.”
He is just one many innovators who has challenged Statoil on how to survive in a world that looks very different today compared with to the world that was envisaged 10–20 years ago. Once a buzzword, digitalisation has become reality, and traditional approaches don’t always work so well any more.
Optimism and new technology
But it’s not only in the oil industry that there is potential for profit from digitalisation. Murshid Ali believes that a digital platform that can replace financial solutions is one of the ways to capture the benefits of digitalisation. “One of the drivers for us is clearly the opportunity we see to be involved when it takes off. It is quite disruptive, and very exciting.”
He’s one of the young voices Statoil consulted in the “Good Advice from Young Minds” campaign. He’s uncertain whether Statoil is equipped for the challenges ahead, but judging by the optimism of Statoil CEO Eldar Sætre, and Innovation Manager Ragnhild Ulvik, he may be wrong.
“I am more optimistic now than for a long time,” was Eldar Sætre’s message to the audience gathered at Statoil Future Energy Forum in Stavanger.
He is convinced that Statoil has to grasp to nettle and become a leading digital player, but he recognises the enormity of the task. The whole point is that the company he leads must be competitive, now and in the future. And to achieve it, oil, gas, wind and digitalisation must all be included. Mixed Reality technology is already in use, for instance on the Mariner development, and the pilot wind turbine Hywind is about to become a large floating wind farm outside the UK.
A flow of ideas
For a long time, Ragnhild Ulvik been receiving e-mails with suggestions from people inside and outside the company with all manner of ideas—some good, some less so. Some ideas are as simple as changing a bolt to make something work better, or as large as changing the entire business model.
“I'm so glad we've systematised this now, and it’s not just my mailbox that's the system!” she says.
From now on, her team will sit apart from other colleagues, but not so far away that they cannot be reached. Together they will sift through ideas, knead and refine them, compare and reject. And they will do so without anyone telling them that they must come up with at least one innovation a week, since that makes creativity hard.
“We will probably come up with a portfolio of things, ranging from everyday problems to changes that can renew the entire business model. We will capture the ideas and act on them. Some of them might make it to the discussion table, and some of them—who knows—perhaps even further?” she says.