MIT Sloan: Conceptually Speaking

A global company must ensure that its core ideas and principles are articulated to employees dispersed around the globe if it is to work cohesively towards realising its business goals.

Schlumberger is a legend in the oil field services sector, renowned for its industry-leading technology and deep expertise, which allows the company to deliver maximum value to its customers.

"Ensuring that team work and knowledge sharing occur across boundaries requires a great deal more than just financial resources."

To remain a leader in the sector, the company has committed itself to two essential tasks: developing innovative technologies – in 2006 alone Schlumberger’s R&D investment topped $0.5 billion – and maintaining a strong, cohesive workforce. However, with roughly 70,000 employees from more than 140 nationalities in more than 80 countries working for the company, ensuring that team work and knowledge sharing occur across boundaries requires a great deal more than just financial resources.

‘Our personnel have grown much more diverse over the last few decades,’ says Schlumberger’s management development director, Joe Perkins, ‘and our increasingly decentralised R&D operations are regularly generating new product lines.

‘The challenge for us is to find a common language that will enable us to look at innovation and product development as an integrated chain, from what is happening in the field to what happens in the lab on through to our business operations.’

The search for that common language solution took Schlumberger to MIT Sloan.


The solution took shape when a team of Schlumberger senior executives participated in a popular MIT Sloan executive education course, Driving Strategic Innovation.

The Schlumberger team quickly realised that the course embodied critical elements the company was looking for – everything from causal loops in the energy market to innovation, value chains, supply chains and marketing. They also realised that MIT Sloan’s unique ability to integrate advanced research, new technology and innovative business practices made the school an ideal collaborator.

With Schlumberger executives, MIT Sloan designed a strategic custom programme featuring case studies developed from in-depth interviews with some of the company’s Houston-based employees. The programme brings a broad spectrum of participants to the MIT campus from around the globe. A recent group included technical centre managers, product managers, regional marketing managers, and the president and managers of oil well services operations from diverse locations.


The five-day intensive session creates an invigorating climate for brainstorming, where participants apply best practices from inside and outside the industry to Schlumberger’s highest priorities. At the same time, executives build a powerful interdisciplinary network that helps them keep the company anticipating, rather than reacting to, the demands of its industry.

‘Schlumberger places a great deal of value on global managers who have worked in diverse environments and functional segments,’ says Perkins. ‘The custom programme we have developed with MIT Sloan encourages managers to think broadly, with a common focus and a common language.’

Schlumberger executives return to their operations energised from their intensive learning experience at MIT Sloan and equipped with novel strategies and new relationships that will support them in the challenges ahead.

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The MIT Sloan School of Management, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of the world's leading business schools.