The ART Of Business

June 11, 1998: The Day the World Changed Forever

Pundits, “experts,” and gurus thrive on telling us what the future will hold.

They tell us that if we somehow collect better data -- and analyze it with more and more sophisticated techniques -- we can get closer to eliminating uncertainty about tomorrow.

Still, what all the looks into a crystal ball cannot foresee is the inexplicable nature of human creativity.

Our era has been defined by the unpredictable actions of men like Wright, Fleming, Edison, Jobs, Salk, Ford, and Borlaug.

It is now time to add another name to our Pantheon: Nick Steinsberger.

On June 11, 1998, Steinsberger, a 34-year old petroleum engineer working for Mitchell Energy, unleashed one of the biggest waves of creative destruction in the modern era.

On that day, as told marvelously by Russell Gold in his brilliant book The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution, Steinsberger used powerful amounts of injected water -- instead of the industry-norm gel -- to crack the shale beneath S.H. Griffin Well #4 in North Texas.

A few days later, to the astonishment of everyone, the well was producing more natural gas than could ever be imagined.

As Gold observed, “…Steinsberger had given birth to the modern frack industry. He had figured out how to force shale to give up its gas.”

Steinsberger’s innovation continues to re-shape and re-define the world in ways we still can’t quite comprehend.

And, it reminds us that progress smiles at all of our attempts to force its flow into understandable patterns and grooves.

Progress creates havoc with our generalizations, breaks our rules, and will always continue to surprise us.

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