Do we need a farm report for Innovation?

What if we had a regular innovation report similar to the daily farm report. For those of you without an agricultural background (which is most everyone these days) every day before they headed out to the fields to work, farmers would listen to the farm report on the radio. This would provide all of the farmers with the information they needed to make decisions for the days tasks including detailed weather reports, changes in grain futures, etc. What is the equivalent for companies seeking to innovation?

This question came up while I was attending the seventh annual Innovation Journalism Conference at Stanford University. The journalists there reporting on innovations focus more on the fruits of the harvest (new iPhone 4.0!) rather than the hard work that goes into enabling that harvest. Innovation Process reporting is difficult to do but something that teaches more about why the future is not as evenly distributed as we might expect. Then it hit me, is there an opportunity to create the high-tech version of the farm report to help those struggling to innovate?

You could imagine a a regular report that provides firms with such information, from around the global market place on such topics as…

  • Foreign Exchange rates
  • Demographic Trends
  • Customer sentiment trends
  • Patent scorecards of number and categories of published inventions
  • Changes in tax rates
  • etc.

So what do you think? Is this something we could use? What other elements are important to include? What frequency would you want this type of information?

2 thoughts on “Do we need a farm report for Innovation?”

  1. A colleague and I are seriously intrigued by this idea. The critical thing to connect to seems to be the utility to the farmer (in this case the entrepreneur or business manager.) I don’t see changes in tax rates or foreign exchange rates having the same impact as the announcement of gypsy moths being sited, or leaf blight being found. The key is to be able to make immediate decisions. Trend data cited above seems more like the nature of a USDA crop report than a daily farm report. We like the idea; struggle with what really could be reported.

  2. Thanks for the comment! I love how you’ve extended the analogy with gypsy moths, etc. For my own start-up efforts, I would love to know how the competitors are doing, but more importantly how my customers and potential customers are doing? There was a great article in Inc recently on why Tony Hsieh sold Zappos. What is fascinating in his account was the influence of the global financial crisis on his operations. He needed to know how banks were going to value his inventory or whether he was on track to his is revenue requirements to maintain his good credit standing. As we all know but tend to learn viscerally too late, cash is king. Other things I might be interested are what are the trending costs in human capital? If I know I’m growing and need to hire more developers, what is the global market for talent? Where is there a surplus I can take advantage of? (i.e. which local coop just got a huge shipment of barbed wire that’s on sale so you can now fix that fence in the back 40 acres?) It also seems that the IP trends might also be interesting but also distracting as it could derail execution and increase liabilities. So as you can see, I am still torn as to what it might contain, especially when it needs to be the lowest common denominator of useful information to really qualify as a farm report. Thanks again for your note!

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