Can crowd-sourcing knowledge actually add value for decision making?

April 2017


Like many of you reading this, over my career I have evaluated a number of basins and their respective plays. Some of those plays my employer pursued, others not. Regardless of the outcome of my efforts, over the years I usually kept up on the high-level exploration activity in those plays, especially when wells were targeting those unproven plays that I became aware of or dreamt up in my earlier efforts. Whether a success or a failure, I could use the results of those new wells to update my mental model of the exploration potential of the tested plays. But I also had a day job which kept me busy, so often I would only think to share my insights when asked. Last month's article "Why is Knowledge important to the Oil & Gas industry (and do we even care?)" highlighted my personal concerns around sharing insights and where the loss of knowledge hits us as an industry the most. The article concluded with an appeal to value knowledge and to keep the aperture wide when it comes to applying perceptions to company shaping decision making.

Having established the need to apply knowledge more thoughtfully to business demands, the industry now needs to meet 21st century challenges by applying appropriate technology to harvest that knowledge. Reflecting on changes in corporate culture over the last three decades, one of the most significant events on my journey was the globalisation of the Independent Oil Companies (IOC), closely followed by the emergence of the National Oil Companies (NOC) and the rise of the low to mid cap independents. How did this affect us as knowledge holders in the oil & gas sector? In the early 90's, many of the Majors traded brand loyalty for lateral mobility. A job for life was replaced by "come and work for us and we will train you to move up or out, your future is in your hands". By actively encouraging professional promiscuity, the newly globalized IOCs effectively commoditised their professional work force. Almost overnight, the world became flat, where anyone with the skills, the capability and the knowledge could command a job anywhere in the world for the right price, moderated by fluctuating oil prices and choreographed by an emerging head-hunter community; overnight, we found ourselves chasing the money. So how can we as individuals differentiate ourselves in a commoditised landscape and increase our visibility as well as attractiveness to potential employers?

IOCs, NOCs and some large service companies have vast resources of knowledge, often buried deeply within their organisations. Some of those organisations are structured in a way that makes it difficult to establish who knows what, where and when at any given time, effectively denying the company access to that valuable information. Any individual’s knowledge becomes enriched with every project, assignment or location that the knowledge holder is engaged with, although prior knowledge may be over-looked or worse. Changing "Function in Role" is part of our personal development as an accretion of knowledge and perspective that shapes our cognitive bias. It makes us unique and uniquely qualified to perform certain tasks but we as knowledge holders (or as resource managers) seldom give that journey the significance it deserves or have the facility to map it on to business needs of the day. To do so would allow us to differentiate our knowledge to compete or more crucially, to contribute either internally or externally to the company we work for.

K2V Ltd has devised a very simple and quick way to harvest knowledge by internally crowd-sourcing what people know, levelling the playing field on the basis of spread, breadth, depth and certainty of knowledge. The way it works is that knowledge holders are invited to stick a pin anywhere in the world where they have acquired knowledge over their careers (spread). Breadth of knowledge is cumulative and is tied to "Function in Role", which evolves with individual career development, and is relevant to petroleum system robustness as well as opportunity commercial attractiveness. By visually representing Function in Role to depth of knowledge, adding the date that the opportunity was last worked by the individual combined with geo-spatial location, a picture emerges very quickly about who knows what, where and when. It is so much more compelling, however, if you just try it for yourself: click here and you will see the knowledge of 10 independent consultants who have pinned their knowledge to a map of the globe. At a glance, you can identify different levels of knowledge for different Functions in Role allowing you to rapidly converge on who it might be that you would like to have a conversation with for an opportunity you yourself may lack the content knowledge for. The published version is a cut-down demo but if you navigate the map, you will see that the attributes behind the pins allow you to chart the progression of individuals to establish the relevance of their knowledge to your business objectives as well as gaps that may exist within your own organisation (if you were to harvest knowledge internally) that may need to be addressed in the short-term.

K2V Ltd. is not the first company to add value by crowd sourcing knowledge. Some corporations have attempted to adopt similar approaches to liberate knowledge internally, which have not always succeeded for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that it requires the investment of time (2-3 hours) from individuals, who would only be inclined to contribute if they there was something in it for them. Another reason for failure has been the lack of simple IT solutions to keep a programme like this live when staff are continuously moving around.  Web enablement means that everyone can maintain their profile wherever they are in the world, keeping us forever connected to the business we choose to navigate and shape our career in. The personal rewards for doing this become immediately apparent - but the real prize is what comes next. The K2V (Knowledge to Value) journey is not just about harvesting knowledge - it is about harnessing that knowledge to add value to your business by applying it to critical business decisions. That part will be revealed in next month's article. The pins you see now remain as a permanent testament of knowledge to inspire others to contribute their own experiences.  So long as an individual maintains a passion for that knowledge, there will be people who will want to know about it; so long as K2V Ltd retains the "audacity of simplicity" and is not tempted to over-extend the functionality of the tool, the Knowledge PinMap™ will continue to do the job required of it.