WEF: company’s commitment to youth, innovation and partnership explored

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As a strategic partner of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Saudi Aramco took part in the three-day WEF Annual Meeting of the New Champions, which convened under the theme "Charting a New Course for Growth" from Sept. 9 to 11, in Dalian, China’s northeast coastal city.

Representing the company was chief technology officer Ahmad Al Khowaiter. During his participation in a set of both public and private forum sessions, covering topics such as transformational technologies, digital disruption, economic divergence, regional rebalancing and environmental boundaries, Al Khowaiter reiterated Saudi Aramco’s focus on a new generation of leaders and the commitment to technology driven innovation.

Driving innovation

Joining the session “The Innovation Playbook” as a panelist, on a topic addressing how innovative businesses maintain their edge, Al Khowaiter asserted that the leadership of any company and organization should always be mindful of innovative approaches and have the courage to break down barriers in order for traditional organizations to embrace innovations and innovative ideas.

“A company’s leaders have to keep a watchful eye concerning what’s going on out there that might disrupt your industry or pose a real competitive threat,” said Al Khowaiter. “In 2011 when Saudi Aramco started the Accelerated Transformation Program (ATP), we were in a comfortable financial position. Typically, companies in such a position don’t want to make a change. But our company leadership decided that was the best time to make the transformation because we had abundant resources to do it and had more room to maneuver.”

Al Khowaiter then shared two examples of ATP initiatives highlighting Saudi Aramco’s investment in young leaders and in technology and innovation.

“As a large oil company, we have to find ways to stay agile,” noted Al Khowaiter. “We estimate that by 2020, the majority of Saudi Aramco’s workforce will be the millennials; that is people born around 1980. With this influx of young employees, new ways are needed to engage them in shaping the company’s future.”

Transforming for the future

The Young Leaders Advisory Board (YLAB) was established to allow Saudi Aramco’s young employees' to take part in solving problems using innovative approaches such as social tools and social networks. “It’s really a more agile platform for seeking good ideas from our employees. There are many areas where they have contributed,” said Al Khowaiter.

He then shared how Saudi Aramco has fully realized the importance of Research and Development (R&D) under the ATP.

“Instead of treating new technology and innovation as disruptive factors to the core business, Saudi Aramco has leveraged its resource and investment in this field to serve its traditional business and explore future business opportunities,” said Al Khowaiter. “Bold steps have been taken to expand our R&D capabilities, portfolio and global presence to support Aramco’s aspirations,” he added.

Also known as the “Summer Davos,” the WEF Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC) is rotationally held at Tianjin and Dalian in China. This year more than 1,700 participants from 90 countries took part.