BeefMagazine.com | Published September 13, 2016
Chip Kemp, American Simmental Association
Every industry is riddled with examples of supposed experts missing the mark as they neglected to heed the voices of those they serve. Too often, those with the loudest megaphone attempt to explain what we should want as opposed to hearing what is truly desired or needed. Enter the Edsel, the Blimp, AOL, and the overwhelming majority of politicians.
So how do we avoid the pitfalls of leadership hubris? How do we ensure that customer voices are at the core of decision making? How do we balance the need for innovation with the ability to get novel products to gain traction in the marketplace?
Humility and an intense interest in listening to and understanding the needs of business partners are crucial. Agriculture at its very core is neighbors teaching neighbors how to make it greener, produce it healthier, grow it faster, or improve the taste. There are countless examples of successful firms engaging their business partners regarding new products, new approaches, and new directions. Your seed salesman, local coop, area veterinarian, regional sale barn are all forced to hear their customers and react accordingly. The feedback loop is quick, impactful, and brutal.
Other parts of our industry have been slower to seek input from commercial clients. One example is the area of Genetic Evaluation of Beef Cattle. The complexity of science, speed of innovation, overly-acronymed jargon are all reasons that well-intentioned folks sometimes isolate themselves and are slow to share findings and ideas with the end user. The historical breed association has been eager to report results, but less enthusiastic about incorporating commercial data or letting folks see behind the magic curtain of genetic analysis. Again, this isn’t necessarily an indication that associations were hiding or avoiding their obligation. Rather, in most cases it was a matter of limited personnel to share the message and limited scientific capability to incorporate commercial data.