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Poetry of Collaboration & Innovation

John Gibson, President & CEO, Paradigm
Keynote Speech
Draft 1, August 28, 2009, JEV

Some of you know I like to do weird things sometimesthings people dont expect
from a CEO. I guess theres a frustrated vaudeville act hiding in here somewhere.

When I got the job as president and CEO of Landmark, for example, I rode my Harley
Hog into the atrium at Landmarks headquarters for the Friday afternoon beer bust.
Complete with motorcycle jacket, boots and a red bandana. Some people thought
that was kind of weird.

Did you know I also did some stand-up comedy? No joke. Id just stand up there, and
people would laugh at me. But, you know, Im not sure if that was comedy or

These days, I approach speeches and keynotes a bit like improv theatre. Nobody
ever knows quite what Ill say before I stand up and open my mouthwhich, of
course, can drive your PR people nuts! Especially when they print up flyers and post
invitations on your web site, and tell everybody what youre going to say in advance!

But, you know, sometimes you have to break out of the boxes people like to put you
in and do something a little odd and unpredictable.

Thats why Im going to go out on a limb and do something Ive never done before in
public. Im going to read you a poem. No kidding. So lets get serious for a moment.

The poem is called Working Together.(1) It was written by poet David Whyte for
the National Aeronautics Association in 1995, for their presentation of a prestigious
aviation industry award to Boeing for creating the innovative new 777 jet airliner.

Why am I reading you this poem? Because I think it captures what you might call the
soul of technological innovation, and a deeper kind of collaborative relationship
necessary for true breakthroughs to occur.

Working Together

We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again.

The visible
and the invisible

working together
in common cause,

to produce
the miraculous.

I am thinking of the way
the intangible air

traveling at speed
round a shaped wing

holds our weight.

So may we, in this life

to those elements
we have yet to see

or imagine,
and look for the true

shape of our own self,
by forming it well

to the great
intangibles about us.

The Essence of Collaboration and Innovation

We shape our self to fit this world, and by the world are shaped again.

Thats collaboration.

A technology companylike Boeing or Paradigm or, in fact, whatever company you
happen to work forfirst shapes itself to fit the world, or the market, that it serves.
And, if its paying attention, if its really listening, by that world is shaped again.

If youre ever going to win awards for innovation, like Boeing did, you learn to
shape the self by forming it well to the great intangibles around you.

What are the great intangibles? First, theyre the more subtle materials you have to
work withas Boeing worked with the air, as oil companies work with reservoirs
theyll never see directly or touch with their hands, and as software companies like
Paradigm work with intangible bits of code. But the great intangibles we form our
companies around also include the vague, invisible and often inarticulate needs of
the customers we work with.

Whyte says the visible and the invisible work together to produce the miraculous.

What customers say they wantthrough interviews and surveys like David Bat just
presentedis what Id call the visible element around which most companies
shape themselves and their R&D strategies. But, if the poet is right, to produce the
truly miraculous, you also need to pay close attention to the invisible needs hiding
beneath the many explicit requests for new features and functions. Sometimes,
meeting the real, underlying needs requires, as David Whyte says, elements we have
yet to see or imagine.

Thats innovation.

And that is what the IBM Global CEO Study Enterprise of the Future calls
Innovation Beyond Customer Imagination. Every two years, IBM interviews over a
thousand CEOs worldwide and asks what they believe will make them successful in
the next five or ten years. Where are they investing their limited resources to create
the greatest value for themselves and their customers?

Innovation beyond customer imagination was one of five key findings from the
latest CEO interviews. Let me read one short quote from that study:

The Enterprise of the Future aims beyond customer expectations to create
products, services and experiences that were never asked for, but are
precisely what customers desire. (2)

About a dozen years ago, after work one day I was in the swimming pool with my
son, who was 11 years old at the time.

I was whining about an annoying problem I was facing at work. You know how
much your kids love to hear about your day? Well, I was just sharing a bit of quality
time with him. I said, These customers are driving me crazy! First they wanted two
screens on their desktop, and now they want three or four screens! How many damn
screens will it take to make these people happy?!

My son casually replied, Well, how big a screen do these people need?

And I said, Now theres a different question

People were telling me what they wantedmore screens. Remember, this was
back in the 90s. But what they really needed was more screen real estate. So I
jumped out of the pool and called up the CEO of Silicon Graphics and said, I dont
need any more screens, Ed. I need a bigger screen! And he said, Oh, well, thats a
lot easier to do! Thats how Landmark first got into visionariums.

And thats how technology companies are going to survive and thrive in the future.
Its going to take a whole new level of collaboration and innovationof listening
carefully to customers, while thinking outside the box.

Thats what Paradigm is trying to do better than anyone else in the oil patch. Were
trying to listen both to what you say you want and to what you really need. I think
were getting better at it. After all, there are at least two companies sitting out here
today that have almost completely replaced their previous software with the Rock
and Fluid Canvas 2009. Thats a pretty remarkable undertaking in an industry that is
relatively averse to large-scale change.

But its a difficult and delicate thing to listen beneath what you want for what you
truly need. After all, customers tell us they want a shitload of things! I could spend
the next hour just going through the list of everything you guys have asked for in the
next release! Some of those are like to haves, and some of them are gotta haves.
How do we tell the difference? More importantly, how do we start to hear what
youre not even saying out loud?

Thats one of the challenges that lies before us, everyone of us, as we look toward
the future and wonder how were going to survive and thrive.

Taking Collaboration and Innovation to a Higher Level

And thats not all. How do weas an industrystart to figure out what we
absolutely cannot live without, as opposed to what we either need or want as
individual entities? This is another of what the poet calls the great intangibles
about us, another element of the world that must begin to shape our corporate
selvesour thoughts and ideas, our R&D strategies and innovations.

In our industry, what are the things we simply cannot live without, going forward?

Well, for one thing we cant live without a capital infrastructure that will enable us
to extract and produce hydrocarbons at levels necessary to meet global demand.
Thats not a nice to have. Its absolutely essential. We need a global distribution
system that gets those hydrocarbons where they need to go, at a cost people and
nations can afford. We cant live without that either.

As an industry, we cannot live without technologies that seriously reduce our

impact on the environment. One of the other key findings of the IBM CEO Study was
that the successful companies of the future will all be greener, more socially and
environmentally responsible than ever before. Its not an option any more.

Reducing the impact we have on the environment is just one way of making
hydrocarbons more affordable in a world where, as weve seen this past year, you
cant make any assumptions about the economy. Another way of ensuring oil and
gas will be affordable in the years to come is through technological innovation.
Thats something else we cant live without.

As I see it, there are some companies in the oil patchand Im thinking of the big
oilfield service companieswhose bottom lines depend on drilling more wells, on
increasing the cost per barrel of hydrocarbons. Unlike oil companies whose bottom
lines depend on lowering operating costs and drilling fewer wells, which not only
reduces our footprint on the environment but minimizes the cost per barrel passed
on to the global market.

So we, as an industry, need innovative software technologies that target wells more
precisely than ever before. I dont see that as a nice to have.

What that means, in my humble opinion, is that we, as an industry, actually need
companies like Paradigm.

Let me try to state this as objectively as I can: The industry needs strong and viable
competition in E&P software to avoid devolving into a sort of monopoly run by
Schlumberger or Halliburton. We need viable enterprise-level alternatives to the
software created by oilfield service companies whose primary motivation lies in
deploying more big iron around the world, not in achieving breakthrough software

What else cant we live without, as an industry? I dont know.

The only way well figure it out is through more, not less, collaborationthrough
listening even more deeply than ever before to the unspoken needs beneath the
superficial wants. By looking and listening for what David Whyte called those
elements we have yet to see or imagine.

The Power of Listening

Paradigm is trying to be the best listener in the industry. We want to be the best
collaborator youve ever worked with. I think thats what will make us the industrys
best innovator in the years to come. Thats all Im really trying to say.

Ive used poetry to try to convey the soul of collaboration and the surprising
innovation it can spawn, without laying out the Seven Habits of Highly Effective

Innovators or the Ten Simple Steps to Successful Collaboration. Its more about
cultivating an attitude, about opening the mind and, well, about opening the ears to
listen for things that others dont hear. Poetry captures that kind of attitude better
than a lot of analysis.

As William Carlos Williams once wrote: It is difficult to get the news from poems,
yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there. (3)

With that in mind, let me conclude with an excerpt from another poem entitled
When Someone Deeply Listens to You, by John Fox:

When someone deeply listens to you,
it is like holding out a dented cup
youve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.

When it balances on the top of the brim,
You are understood. (4)

Thank you for listening.


1. River Flow: New & Selected Poems, David Whyte, Many Rivers Press, 2007, pp.
3. Leading From Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead, Sam M.
Intrator and Megan Scribner, eds., Jossey-Bass, 2007, p. 13.
4. Leading From Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead, Sam M.
Intrator and Megan Scribner, eds., Jossey-Bass, 2007, p. 220.