Breeders are thinking forward. They want to know where the market demand is going. At the same time, breeders are trying to influence this movement themselves by creating innovations that have a head start on their competitors. In rare cases, their innovations respond to market demands that are not even there yet. For example, a rose is sold with funny colors or striking edges and customers love such flowers. However, there was no ‘need’ for these colors or edges on forehand.
A moat around your castle
Every step of the breeding business is closely monitored by all participants. If one is able to benefit from a market gap that he/she had foreseen, the benefit will eventually be eroded by competitors that are also responding to this gap. This allows businesses to earn above normal profits for a limited time, before competitors enter and destroy these higher returns. Investor Warren Buffet calls such an enduring benefit a moat. In his metaphor, your breeding company is a beautiful castle with a moat around it, to prevent your castle to be entered and attacked by others.
Those castles with the widest and deepest moats have the highest probability of great performances on the long run. Therefore, the best moats are always under construction: companies always want to enlarge the distance to their competitors, even if they do not have the largest moat at the moment.
Focus on the future
Translating this back to our sector, we all want to be the innovative breeder that takes advantages of market developments before competitors even notice them. We all want to have the bestselling varieties in the world and we all want to have that advantage for good. To do so, we have to fully focus on creating new or improving our existing varieties. We have to focus on the future. We have to match our breeding goals with the best gut feeling about market developments.
Getting Things Done!
Wow, that doesn’t sound easy at all. It isn’t. But fortunately, breeders are not alone in this challenge. Almost everybody wants or needs to focus on different things in life. A very helpful method is Getting Things Done by David Allen. He presents a system to take all stuff out of your head: ‘Because our mind is for having ideas, not holding them’. He guides you in creating a mind, clear as a waterfall. A clear mind and external systems that record your projects, tasks, meetings and all other loose ends in your head.
Do you recognize that day that you can’t think clearly about things, because your head is full with things such as: I need to send that e-mail, I really have to call Jack today, I want to arrange that meeting tomorrow, I have to finish this document next week? For everyday stuff, I would recommend reading the book Getting Things Done and implement the parts you like. When it comes to breeding, this is different.
Mind like water
In the example above, all ‘small’ but necessary daily tasks take lots of energy and thinking space. The same holds for breeding related tasks. Of course you have to know where your plants are, where they come from, what their properties are and what they look like. You need them as much for breeding as you need your calendar, task lists, project overview, and call list to get things done. However, you do not want to think about these things all day. If such thoughts pop-up, you want to decide on them and store them until the moment and location you need that information.
The core tool for focusing on the right things, in both cases, is to create an external system that you can rely on. I am working with different task lists, inboxes, mail systems, a calendar, a notebook, and recording tools in a way that I can fully rely on the system I created. I don’t have to worry if I forgot something, or I don’t have to think the whole day about calling Rick, and still forget it when I get home. I don’t; because the system I use, will remind me (in more than 95% of the times) at the right moment to do the right things. That allows me to use my mind for thinking about important things that can’t be done by a piece of paper or calendar.
What is in it for me as a breeder?
As a breeder, you need your mind to think about the market and suitable varieties. You need to think about how to get those varieties that are being loved the most. Is an old variety with minor changes suitable for the current situation or do I need to develop a new variety? To allow your mind to focus on thinking instead of storing, all given facts as history, location and properties of plants need to be stored in an external system. A system that you can rely on. A system that gives you the right information at the right moment in the right way. A software tool without the need of your brain to still think about it if it works properly.
A mind for having ideas, not holding them
Each day, you get tons of thoughts about tons of projects like what you still have to do or to arrange. Once it pops-up, store it on a central place: your physical inbox. Put a sticky note in your inbox with some keywords and continue your work. If you are emptying your inbox, decide on it: is action needed? If the thought doesn’t have priority at all, decide to not take it into account and forget about it. Does it have little priority? store it on a ‘long term list’ for a certain project or in general. If it has a higher priority, do something with the thought right away. What is the first step? Do you want to start thinking about the process in six months? Put it on your calendar. Do you need more information about it? Make a first action point: Plan a meeting with Paul and discuss A, B, and C and ask D and E. Put this task on your task list. Once this meeting has finished, plan the next step with your new information. If you need to check something on the internet or call someone, put it on separate lists and go through these lists when you are respectively behind your pc or for example travelling and have the opportunity to call. A smart trick: take a whiteboard, OneNote page or piece of paper and make a ‘Long term’, ‘Short term’, and ‘Now’ list. Use the long term for things you need to arrange or plan in advance, short term for things you need to do coming days and now for things you are working on coming hours. The first two are for overview and the last one is for keeping yourself to work.
And for my breeding data?
The external breeding system needs to support you in your decision making to increase your productivity even further. If you have an idea about a certain variety but are wondering where the variety came from (parents), you want to access your data quickly. If you have thought about an idea and you want to remember a certain crossing for example, you want to make a pre-crossing with remarks why it is such a good idea. If you have read (and stored) market information and you are wondering what the market for a product was last year in Europe compared to the US, you can easily access your ‘thoughts’ and get the information you need. Now your full brain capacity can be used for what it is meant for. So, what are your plants for tomorrow?