Business & Policy
From the Editor: October 2013
Survival Is Optional
By Lianne Appleby
It was Charles Darwin who said that those who endure are the ones most adaptable to change. Directly speaking, his insight referred to the proliferation of any given species, but indirectly, one can apply the acumen to many other scenarios. No longer is “survival of the fittest” applicable only to flesh and blood. It can now be extrapolated to products – and even entire companies.
Take Kodak, for an extreme example. Once a giant in the camera industry, someone in the company made the decision early on that digital photography was not the way to go. Thus, in an era when digital is king, Eastman Kodak Co. announced in August that it had “won court approval of a plan to exit bankruptcy as a commercial printing company that sells nothing to consumers.”
In short, Kodak is moving away from cameras, film sales and developing – the very products and services that originally made it a household name. With 47,000 employees shed since 2003, the closure of 13 film, paper and chemical factories, and 130 photo laboratories, Kodak is a victim of its own failure to adapt.
Also in August, but on a positive note, the North American Manure Expo came north of the border for the first time. This event is a manifestation of the need to change. Manure application is no longer a risk-free, simple process that can be done when it is and in a way that is most convenient for the farmer: regulations must be followed, and neighbours need to be considered. The very fact that the Expo exists shows the need for ongoing education, the development of new technology and the constant need to adapt – and to do what is right, what is now expected.
Poultry producers must keep their ear to the ground not just with respect to manure
management, but also with respect to production. It is no longer enough to grow chickens as they have been grown by the generations before us. Market needs must be met, and as a land with many diverse cultures making up our population, we are now seeing the need to serve those cultures by revisiting the chicken breeds that we grow. We can meet emerging demand by modifying production and raising “specialty” birds for the cultures that seek them.
Kodak lawyer Andrew Dietderich said, “While the new Kodak won’t be the company of popular imagination, it will be a leader in its chosen field.” For Kodak, however, there was never a choice. Through lack of forward thinking, the company missed the digital revolution, and by the time management realized it was a technology that would stick around, it was too late to adapt and become competitive.
For survival, the key is to be forward-thinking enough to know when change is necessary – and to be one of the early adopters. But then, as W. Edwards Deming, the U.S. professor and author, once said, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”
We are fortunate enough to have the supply management system in Canada, which stacks the odds in favour of a viable poultry sector. But, as individual farmers and as an industry in general, we must remember that in the bid to not only survive but thrive, a visionary mind is priceless.