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Striking Gold in Natural Gas

by admin | November 4, 2013

On December 12th, I gave a presentation at a luncheon jointly sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute and the Society of Petroleum Engineers.The title of the talk was, “Striking Gold in Natural Gas – A lesson from 1848” (on YouTube at used the example of Samuel Brannan, the first millionaire in California, to make a point about anticipating your competitors’ behaviors and identifying scarce resources.See, Mr. Brannan never found any gold.

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Disruption, or Business As Usual?

by admin | November 1, 2013

Warning: This blog post is going to tout my company more than usual. I promise I won’t make a habit of it, but within the context of this post’s subject matter, it is a logical way to go.

The October issue of the Harvard Business Review contains an article by Clayton M. Christensen, Dina Wang, and Derek van Bever entitled, “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption – The industry that has long helped others sidestep strategic threats is itself being upended.” As you might imagine, this was the first article I turned to.

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Productivity, The Internet, And Staring Out The Window

by admin | October 29, 2013

I heard recently that the latest thing in Silicon Valley when friends go to dinner is that all cell phones are placed in the middle of the table. The first one to reach for his or her phone has to pay for the meal.

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Decision Fatigue

by admin | October 26, 2013

In my last post, I related a story about a colleague who had a difficult choice to make. At one point, he commented that he would actually have been happier had the decision simply been made for him. Recent research indicates that there are several components to this emotion. One (which I talked about last time) concerns the fact that with lots of alternatives, not only does the time and effort required to make a decision increase, but one’s expectation of satisfaction – indeed, of sheer delight – soars, making disappointment all the more likely. We’re actually happier with fewer choices.

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To Move Or Not To Move?

by admin | October 24, 2013

A colleague of mine gave me grief for constantly blogging about what’s wrong with the world. I’m actually an optimist by nature (which he knows), but I’m trying to provoke thought, which usually means discussing problems or controversies, not warm and fuzzy feel-good stories. He essentially said, “Fine, but aren’t there some interesting, thought-provoking examples which end with a good decision and a positive outcome?”

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Total Energy Consumed Part II

by admin | October 22, 2013

In my last post, I talked about some of the thought-provoking talks I saw at the Total Energy USA Conference in Houston. This time, I’d like to talk about the presentation I gave.

In a nutshell, I believe that even if a company is in the fossil fuels industry, it makes sense to support a tax on carbon. I made my case along several dimensions.

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Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

by admin | October 18, 2013

I maintained at the time – and I still maintain – that if this CEO and others like him had been born to poor inner-city families, they would have become drug lords.They are smart, fearless, and they think the rules don’t apply to them.They wouldn’t work their way out of the hood by flipping burgers for minimum wage.

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Economist Hubris

by admin | October 16, 2013

Last November, I wrote a couple of blog entries entitled, “Everything We Know Is Wrong,” which were based on a presentation I made last year at the Decision Analysis Affinity Group (DAAG) conference. I’m going to be giving an updated version of that presentation at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) conference in Pittsburgh on May 21st as the keynote speech at the Division of Professional Affairs and Association of Women Geoscientists luncheon.

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Our All-Consuming Obsession

by admin | October 14, 2013

David Brooks of the New York Times wrote an interesting column back in February called, “Carpe Diem Nation” (I read it in the Feb. 13th edition of the International Herald Tribune; published on Feb. 11th in the NYTimes). In it, Mr. Brooks points out the extent to which the national attitude in the United States has shifted from one of sacrificing for the sake of a better future to one of sacrificing the future for the sake of a more comfortable present. I almost always find Mr. Brooks to be insightful; this time, his message is both insightful and disturbing. We are stealing from our children and grandchildren to maintain the lifestyles to which we have become accustomed.

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The Vanishing Middle Class

by admin | October 12, 2013

I just listened to an excellent piece on NPR Saturday morning while driving to the grocery store.

The reporter was a young woman (or a young-sounding woman, at least – after all, it’s radio) who had got wind of a city in the southern U.S. where a suspiciously high percentage of the population was on Disability Assistance from the government. This is a relatively poor town with one main industry – a fish processing factory – plus the usual collection of fast food places, corner gas stations, and the like.

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The 100% problem with the 90% solution

by admin | October 8, 2013

One of my favorite quotes is from a gentleman named Olin Miller:  “In order to be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.”  In almost all of my training courses, keynote speeches, and presentations, I include this quote on a slide near the end. I have been reminded of the … Continue reading The 100% problem with the 90% solution

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Desperately Seeking Signal (credit to Nate Silver for this title)

by admin | October 5, 2013

As part of my ongoing tours as a Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Distinguished Lecturer, I was in Bartlesville, Oklahoma a little while ago giving my presentation. My talk is about appropriate and inappropriate ways we can apply our risk tolerance when making strategic decisions on major projects. I spend some time talking about the statistical traps people sometimes fall into when analyzing uncertain opportunities (and let’s be honest – all business opportunities are uncertain).

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