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Is your future-pendulum swinging too far?

I’ll keynote a major agricultural conference tomorrow morning, with an audience of plant science companies as well as a group of grain growers. There are about 300-400 people in the room.

Here’s a video clip from a keynote in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I spoke of the mindset that is often found in the world of agriculture — in that there are “two types of farmers.” Ask yourself — no matter what industry you are in — whether you see a similar mindset.

Then ask yourself if your own “future-positive” attitude has been sliding into the “apathetic / pessimistic” category as of late. Probably so!

But here’s the thing: despite economic turmoil, there is still no lack of innovation in agriculture, as in many industries. Just read a bit of the backgrounder for this conference: agriculture is “currently in the midst of a technology explosion in plant science. Advances in genomics, combinatorial chemistry, high throughput screening, advanced formulation, environmental science and toxicology, precision breeding, crop transformation, nanotechnology, synthetic biology and bio-informatics are tools that will transform …. global agriculture in ways never before imagined. These technologies will also take agriculture beyond food and feed production, with applications in health, nutrition, medicine, energy, industrial materials and the environment.”

You can’t really disagree with anything there.

The challenge right now is that rapid global turmoil is challenging the ability of innovators — such as those in the room tomorrow — to keep momentum going; to see the the adoption of new ideas and methodologies. There’s not a lot of innovation risk capital out there right now.

That’s why a good part of the message in the room tomorrow morning will focus on the “pendulum.” It’s likely that given fast paced economic events, far too many people are swinging over to the “apathetic/pessimistic camp,” away from the “future-positive camp,” and not thinking about the longer term implications of rapid-science driven innovation.

Back during the dot.com bust, many people convinced themselves there wasn’t a lot of upside to come from technology. How wrong they were: their pendulum had swung too far. And that’s what’s going on in almost every single industry out there today. Innovators refuse to let that happen, and look for opportunities of disruptive innovation that they can pursue today.

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