Special note: This excerpt is used with permission from: Harvesting Intangible Assets: Uncover Hidden Revenue in Your Company's Intellectual Property, by Andrew Sherman.

We are all farmers.

We make our turf. We protect our property. We plant our seeds. We plow our land. We combat adverse weather and ecosystem conditions and overcome adversities. We prepare for our harvest. We carefully remove the frost from vine. We hope for the best and prepare for the worst as the market sets price for our efforts. We embrace the notion that our results will be directly tied to our levels of effort and expertise.

We begin anew.

No matter what your profession, no matter what your company does, no matter what your life situation may be — we all follow this fundamental and deeply rooted agricultural process in some way throughout the days of our lives.

We are all the new agrarians — but did we recognize ourselves as such?

Have we learned from the successes and failures of the agrarian economies that preceded us?

Can we learn to apply the traditional as well as the latest best practices of farming to our daily lives and in the growth of our companies?

How can we make our lives more enjoyable and enriching and our companies more productive and profitable by adopting an agrarian approach to life planning, time management, resource allocation, innovation harvesting, and business model reshaping?

Consider the following questions as they apply to your life and your businesses:

  • Have you carefully selected a territory that is fertile for growth and right for your type of crop?

  • Do you understand the dynamics of ecosystem?

  • Have you done everything in your power to properly nurture the soil and enhance the land’s ability to produce?

  • What seeds will you plant, and why?

  • Are you ready to invest the time and energy to care for these seeds once planted?

  • Whom will you hire to help you raise, harvest, and sell the produce at your farm?

  • What tools, resources, and expertise will you require to maximize the fruits of your harvest?

  • What adverse weather or market conditions must you overcome to be successful?

  • Who else is growing these same crops? How does their experience compare to your own?

  • Do you have a keen sense for the cycles and timetables that will optimize your harvest?

  • What is your game plan for bringing your crops to the marketplace? Will you do it alone or join with others?

  • What are your distribution channels, and who are your target customers? On what basis and criteria will they select your harvest rather than others’? On the basis price? Quality? Convenience? Availability?

  • How will you allocate revenues that this year’s harvest will bring? Have you performed a sensitivity analysis based on high/expected/low target ranges?

  • What steps need to be put in place to set the stage for beginning the process again?

  • What have you learned from the successes and failures of last year’s process to make next year even better?

Each of these questions must be answered by every type of farmer every year in every country around the world. Every year, they “bet the farm,” overcoming the challenges of the wind, sun, drought, floods, and other conditions beyond their control to put food on all of our tables.

But the questions also apply to each of us — in the growth and development of our companies and as applied to the growth and development of ourselves as humans and as an evolving society.

If we care for the soil and harvest properly, we produce value

And, just as with farming, if we care for the soil and harvest properly, we produce value. If we overwork or overtax the farm and add too many pesticides over too much irrigation, the outputs will be limited and potentially dangerous.

Farmers who strive to perfect this process and learn from the successes and failures of each year’s harvest enjoy financial stability and wealth creation.

They work hard to control the variables that are in their power and develop contingency plans around the variables that they can’t control. They see the crops as an extension of themselves and are happy as they see them grow and progress.

They enjoy the process and connect with the land in a spiritual way. But at the very core and soul of their existence is the relationship between themselves and their land and between their tools and their seeds and between the quality of their harvest and the dynamics of the marketplace.

In building companies and fostering innovation, we must all embrace these same principles. We must put conditions in a place that support a corporate culture likely to yield a productive harvest and be constantly planting the seeds of creativity, encouragement, curiosity, empathy, respect, challenge, and fulfilment.

We must understand which tools will be most effective for reinforcing the underlying principles of this culture. We must take steps to manage the conditions that are within our control and develop “Plan Bs” for those that we can’t.

Most important, we must fully invest in the growth and development of our human capital by providing education and training to our teams at all levels to teach how to become farmers inside our companies and in their own lives.