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Too much turnip can be a turn-off!

“The mouse took hold of the cat’s tail, the cat bit into the dog’s collar, the dog took hold of the boy’s coat tails, the boy of his mother’s skirts and the wife of her husband’s waist. The farmer once again took hold of the leaves of the enormous turnip.

Together they pulled and they pulled and they pulled some more. Then, slowly, ever so slowly, the turnip began to move. They pulled and they pulled and they pulled some more until, finally! with the mightiest of ‘pops’, the enormous turnip came out of the ground.”

If Alexei Tolstoy’s story is intended to teach us anything, it is that with team-work you can achieve anything. Everyone, even the smallest mouse, can make a contribution that, when added to those of others, make huge difference.

Yes, it does that. But…..

Being a professional eater, even as a child, the lesson I took from it was that after months of turnip for breakfast, lunch and dinner – the farmer reflected that maybe, the following year, he would grow carrots!

Farmers are in a demand-led industry and have to always be thinking of what their customers want, or may want. Those who ignore market demand will find themselves out of business. But, cultivating the new is costly and you are constantly under threat of new entrants in the market bringing new products  - eg: pot noodles, quorn, pop-tarts or cous-cous. And, then there are the bureaucrats – constantly implementing ill thought out policy.

Ever was it thus:  “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow (sic.) is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field” (Dwight D Eisenhower).

At a stretch, you could look to farming for a whole market analogy. The need to innovate, the cost of innovation, new market entrants and new policy coming out from ‘pencil pushers’ a thousand mile from the action.

In fact, what else could recent NYSB and ABA moves against ABS’ be other than a replay of the Corn Laws?  A protectionist move to preserve an expensive and outmoded model.

Post their eventual repeal, good farmers prospered – bad farmers went out of business.  Note to the State Bars – you are protecting bad lawyers you already regulate, competition (regulated, of course) will drive higher quality.

This weekend, I and some fellow tweep innovators (Jon HarmanBrian InksterLawSync and Mark Smith) we alikening innovation in law to innovation in farming –  it requires forward planning, lateral thinking and a certain amount of courage.

It also requires delivery.  Innovation unimplemented is merely an idea and ideas will not make you more attractive to your customers.  Those wanting carrots won’t buy turnip on the basis you thought about growing carrots.

The key is to understand what the market needs to assess the options for delivering it and to select the right seeds of innovation to plant well – don’t be afraid to reject the weak or unsuitable.  Once planted then tend to them, support them, nuture them and, eventually, harvest them.

One last thing, size isn’t everything – as our turnip farmer found out.  Customers don’t care about your economies of scale, getting bigger is neither innovative nor a substitute for innovation.  What customers really want is choice, those that innovate to deliver genuine choice will not just survive but will prosper.

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