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Kentucky basketball coach, John Calipari, speaks during the plenary opening of the 2016 Alltech ONE Ideas Conference in Lexington, Kentucky. | Courtesy Alltech
on May 23, 2016

‘One Big Idea’ urges innovation in agriculture, business

Alltech’s annual event addresses ways to improve corporate culture, encourage environment to foster new ideas

The focus of Alltech’s ONE Ideas Conference’s plenary sessions circled around the event’s theme, “One Big Idea,” and the ability for an idea to change the world.

“If you never go down the corridor, don’t expect the doors to open to you. That’s what this morning is all about – helping each other to open doors,” said Alltech founder and president Dr. Pearse Lyons.

The animal health company’s annual event drew nearly 3,000 attendees from around the world with a three-day conference that included facility tours and various activities.

Despite diverse areas of expertise, plenary session presenters tied their unique experiences and successes into business advice for the agriculture audience.

Entrepreneurs sell dreams

During his address, “ONE Vision: One world of abundance and endless opportunity,” Lyons pointed to the fleeting opportunities everywhere and an entrepreneur’s unique ability to see them and harness their potential.

“What do entrepreneurs sell? They sell dreams,” he said.

In his opinion, entrepreneurs are naturally curious, and their strength lies within three characteristics: choosing to take the road less traveled, setting and meeting deadlines, and a healthy dose of insanity.

However, he noted that all good ideas come with obstacles.

“Sometimes too good to be true is true, but it comes with a catch,” Lyons said. “Everywhere you look, it’s there, but you have to learn to overcome the catch.”

With farm-raised fish and the use of fishmeal, for example, he noted that “the catch” is that there is no choice but to replace it in order to preserve the stocks in the sea.

“This is a road block, not a catch. Entrepreneurs overcome road blocks. Algae is how you overcome it. Cut out the fish and focus on the algae to save the ocean,” he said, pointing to Alltech algae production near its headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky.

Lyons urged business owners and the agriculture industry to “search for the catch,” to overcome these challenges, and share their successes with the world.

Reshaping corporate culture

During his talk, “One Team: Strategic and Operational Leadership and Working Together,” former president and CEO of the Ford Motor Company, Alan Mulally, stressed the importance of breaking down silos and creating an inclusive culture with one goal: prosperity.

“With programs so big, you need to include everyone and have them come around the business plan,” he said. “It’s comes down to accountability, transparency and expected behaviors.”

According to Mulally, who was the third-longest-serving Ford CEO behind Henry Ford and his son, Henry Ford II, the best way to change – and improve – corporate culture is through inclusion and transparency.

For example, employees should be comfortable to share problems without a solution with management and their peers in order to find help within the organization.

“Everyone is on the same team. Everyone has to know everything,” he said.

His tips for strengthening corporate culture include:

  • Define a compelling vision
  • Include everyone
  • Work on a strategy to deliver the vision
  • Revisit the plan
  • Work together, always

Prior to his presentation, Lyons awarded Mulally Alltech’s Medal of Excellence.

Critical life skills to better ‘the team’

During his presentation, “One & Done: One season to teach skills to last a lifetime,” John Calipari, head coach of University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team, discussed how he typically has one year to mentor his collegiate athletes before they move onto the NBA. During this time, he feels it’s his job to instill a series of life skills that will transcend their time on the court.

Many of these life lessons can be related to the business world and corporate culture as well.

For example, to build a corporate culture that allows you to move quickly and successfully when opportunity presents itself, Calipari cites the importance of trust-based relationships; face-to-face interactions, which is the “only way to judge true impact of your words;” and in the belief that you say more by talking less, i.e. actions speaking louder than words.

On the same note, he urges companies to “play with freedom,” fail quickly and move on in order to grow. To do so, he tells companies to be flexible, always communicate, embrace learning, and cultivate mental toughness.

“You’re either winning or learning – there is no losing,” Calipari said.

The 2016 Alltech ONE Conference is held May 22-25 in Lexington, Kentucky.

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