Keeping The Idea Pipeline Flowing

Royal Dutch/Shell Group uses the Net to drill for new ideas. Each week, a half-dozen teams in the oil company's exploration and production divisions meet separately in Houston and in Rijswijk, the Netherlands, to mull ideas that other employees have pitched to them by e-mail.

So far this year, the six-person teams, known as GameChangers, have surfaced 320 suggestions--including how to use laser sensors to find oil. The result: Four of Shell's five top business initiatives last year emerged from the GameChanger teams. Now, those projects are producing dollars. One came up with Shell's new "Light Touch" oil-discovery method, which senses hydrocarbon emissions released naturally into the air from underground reserves. It helped Shell find some 30 million new barrels of oil in Gabon last year--and millions in new revenues. At Shell, the Net manages innovation by keeping the ideas gushing.