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Agrimarketing : October 2009
Walking through IDEO’s Palo Alto headquarters, where bicycles hang from the ceiling and an old VW bus serves as a conference room, you feel a sense of limitless possibility, an experience not easily created or sustained in these economic times. The design firm, which creates products, services, environments, and digital experiences, understands that whether the economic climate improves or worsens, the future will come, and innovation cannot be thwarted. In April, 35 Syngenta global managers visited the IDEO head- quarters in Silicon Valley to discuss innovation in the food and agriculture industry with the firm’s partners. The trip served as the managers’ third session in Agribusiness Leadership Plus (ALPs), a non-degree, 16-month management and leadership devel- opment program delivered by the Center for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue University. “We often want to come up with the answer as fast as possible, but time to think is as valuable as time to do,” says Steve Maund, Fungicides Section Leader in Global Product Registration at Syngenta and ALPs participant. “We must resist the temptation to jump into solution mode and give our right-brains some space to be creative.” SMALL STEPS CAN LEAD TO BIG GROWTH As companies fight to maintain current levels of success, it is easy to slide into hand-to-mouth mode, where maintaining the status quo becomes the company’s principal focus. The visit to IDEO reinforced the concept that firms must continue to invest in the future by bringing innovation to their customers. “Business is about balance,” says Jerry Gauche, Senior Vice President at National Oilwell Varco (NOV). “You have to invest for the future, as well as create a cash flow that sustains the business in the short term.” As a worldwide leader in the oil and gas drilling industry, NOV knows who they are. They make significant investments toward innovation in the core areas of their business. But they also invest modestly in areas that are not core today but could be in the future. By making small investments in areas that stretch their core, NOV does not resist change or struggle against growth. Instead, NOV has been able to position itself to seize seemingly high-risk opportunities in an uncertain marketplace that have the potential for high reward without the big downside that could come with bigger investments in non-core areas. INNOVATION EVERYWHERE When A.G . Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble (P&G) took the reins of the company in 2000, he was not afraid to experiment or take risks. In his nine years as CEO (2000-2009), he is credited with reviving the company by launching a long-term commitment to innova- tion, transforming P&G into one of the world’s most innovative compa- nies. Lafley placed the customer ’s needs at the center of the innovation equation and defined innovation as everyone’s job — driving innovation throughout the entire company and stressing the importance of innova- tion throughout the entire product cycle. Innovation cannot be “put away” because of the economic downturn, according to Allan Gray, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University and Director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business. It is precisely uncertain times like these that require a keen focus on the future. “You want to make sure to put yourself in a position for whatever opportunities the future may bring,” Gray says. “Always create options for what is to come.” AM Betty Jones-Bliss (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Associate Director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue University. Kristyn Kapetanovic (email@example.com) serves as Marketing Assistant for the Center. October 2009 I Agri Marketing 17 Keeping Focus: THE IMPORTANCE OF INNOVATION IN AN ECONOMIC DOWNTURN by Betty Jones-Bliss and Kristyn Kapetanovic Sales and Marketing Insights from Purdue University SEMINARS Upcoming Agribusiness Center for Food and Agricultural Business ARA Management Academy February 2-4, 2010 ASTA Management Academy March 2-5, 2010 Jones-Bliss Kapetanovic Looking for professional development opportunities for your employees? The Center for Food and Agricultural Business can develop a custom program for managerial and sales education for food and agribusiness professionals. Learn more at www.agecon.purdue.edu/cab 17 Purdue Advertorial Page 2:00 Purdue Advertorial Page 10/1/09 4:19 PM Page 17
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