Change is a Choice

By Kevin Freiberg, Ph.D.

Change is a ChoiceWhat would happen if someone came up with the next generation of digital ag, robotics, data systems, genetically modified seed and equipment that radically outperformed yours and cost half as much? Someone is going to start a revolution that disrupts your industry.

Why can’t it be you?

In a world where everyone and everything around you is getting better, where technology waits for no one, and where a smarter, more sophisticated consumer or regulator wants transparency, traceability and accountability, people ask, “What’s new, what’s next?”

Add to this, the effects of climate change on crop growth, diminishing water resources and threat of overpopulation, and you see innovation isn’t just essential to business growth, it is crucial to our way of life. Here are some ideas for accelerating innovation:

Be hungry for change. In the next 24 months, your organization will change and you will change. The question is: Will these changes be crisis-driven or opportunity-led? A culture of innovation is one where people are hungry for change because they want to establish rules their competitors must follow to play the game.

Question the unquestionable. Think like an outsider. Challenge your taken-for-granted assumptions about the way the soybean industry works, about what your competitors are doing, about your customer’s expectations, and about how technology is going to disrupt business. Kodak, Blockbuster and Blackberry failed to question the unquestionable.

Go to the intersection of trends to find opportunities. Pay attention to early warning signs that precede major cultural, societal and market shifts. You can’t win with yesterday’s ideas, so what are the big, converging trends headed your way? There is white space where rising trends intersect and massive opportunity for innovation. Where do agtech trends intersect? How will they turn data into predictions, prescriptions and actionable insights to increase yield, lower input costs and reduce environmental impact?

Elevate the conversation to outcomes. Precision Ag 2.0 will move the discussion from the features and functions of new technology to outcomes growers want. With precision ag, many growers feel like they drink from a fire hose. “What solutions are best? How do these solutions integrate? How will it change my operation? And, is the return worth the investment?” The downside to not getting this right can be significant.

What are the implications for the supply chain? Equipment dealers must shift from selling horsepower and torque to selling the power of precision ag and a high-touch approach to help growers implement it. Agronomists will be technologists teaching producers how to use technology and make sense of it in real-time. Tech companies won’t invent in a vacuum, they will focus on how solutions seamlessly integrate with the larger ecosystem.

Navigate the messy middle. Adopting new tech and new approaches does not follow a neat linear line. There is a messy in-between that includes starts and false starts, limited resources, organizational and global politics, regulatory constraints, environmental impacts and more. Uncertainty creates fear. No one likes to feel incompetent. Everyone in the supply chain who wants to adapt must get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.

Nearly all worthwhile change starts with discomfort, with feeling incompetent. However, we mistake temporary hardship and a sense of clumsiness when we try a new approach for something permanent. We get the feeling it could last forever, but it doesn’t.

If you want to up your game, find the courage to feel incompetent again. If you dig in, are willing to be coached and slug through the messy middle, you will get smarter and better. The alternative is to pretend precision ag won’t affect you for a while and watch denial drag you into a slow, downward spiral toward irrelevance.

Change is a choice. Fear may resent it; denial may ignore it; ignorance may deride it and self-interest may distort it. But it is inevitable. What you do with it is your choice.

International best-selling co-author Kevin Freiberg is one of the world’s leading authorities on innovation and disruptive change. He has worked with more than 2,000 clients within 60 industries showing entrepreneurs and business leaders how to stand out in a sea of sameness.