The ability to quickly adapt to changing situations (seasons, markets and input costs) is a key factor in business success. Applying new knowledge and skills enables a business to seize opportunities and provides a buffer against influences beyond the farm gate. 

It is important to commit to identifying and implementing new ideas. This involves a commitment to gaining or developing the knowledge and skills of each individual and, through them, the lifting the capability of the whole business. 

Developing knowledge, skills and confidence within a business requires a commitment to seeking new ideas and information, learning by doing and trying new ideas and encouraging positive attitudes and supporting change. 

Seeking new ideas and information

People with a commitment to learning, growth and improvement are those who are most likely to be able to adapt to the changing realities of business and family life. Learning creates opportunity and this can lead to new production and business options. In general, well-trained people are more confident in their decision making and are more likely to make timely decisions that benefit the business. 

There are many ways to learn, discover new ideas and identify opportunities. Some people prefer reading articles and books, while others prefer to attend workshops and field days or to participate in discussion groups and use the internet.  

Commit to an annual training plan (tool 4.4). Identify the training team members would like to attend or need to attend. Develop a plan and add a budget to boost accountability.  

Tool 1.15 in MMFS Module 1 Plan for success provides a template for conducting a capability review, which highlights areas of strength to encourage and areas for further development and timeframes for their achievement.   

Learning by doing and trying new ideas

Applying new knowledge or skills to benefit the business is not always a straightforward process.  One useful approach is to debrief and discuss what went well and what could be improved when tasks are performed. Examples of times to debrief include: 

  • A team member attends a training program. Discuss what they took from the program; the pros and cons of the new approach or concept. Consider implementing some changes that could benefit the business.  
  • Debrief after team members have participated in a key activity, for example, after pregnancy scanning. Asked about what they observed, what they think could be improved, how they have seen others approach this task, what they recommend doing next. This builds their buy-in and brings new insights into the business.  

Another idea is to allow team members to trial a new idea or ask them to present the idea as business case. This means they share their idea in a logical format, which can be reviewed and refined. They may even use a partial budget process (tool 1.14 in MMFS Module 1 Plan for success) to identify the gains and trade-offs.  

These processes consolidate learning by doing and trying new things. The key here is to be open to new ideas. Business managers don’t have to make all of the changes suggested by team members, but they can actively listen and discuss them. A manager may have been working on a farm for many years and has the advantage of experience. It is important to allow the emerging team to have the same period of trial and error in a supportive workplace.  

Encouraging positive attitudes and supporting change

There are many reasons why people are reluctant to adopt new ideas and implement change.  Generally, these barriers to adoption can be attributed to either a lack of knowledge, skills and confidence or a lack of perceived benefits from the change. 

When planning or implementing new ideas, use production or discussion groups to share experiences (good and bad) in a positive environment. This support significantly contributes to successful practice change by sharing information and reinforcing positive outcomes and attitudes. 

Following are some constructive ways to develop the capability and confidence of the business team: 

  • At business meetings, plan ways to improve the capacity of the team to learn and implement change within the business. 
  • Allow the team opportunity to have input to business decisions and include them in the planning process so they become familiar with the process of assessing opportunities and risks. 
  • Use external information sources (discussion group or advisors) to assist with business decisions and include the team in these conversations to ask questions and learn more about how you utilise and implement advice. 
  • Develop and maintain a positive attitude. Build a commitment to whole-of-life learning, training and skills development. 
  • Work equally hard on yourself and the business. Remember, the business can only grow as fast as you do!