'Break down the silos': Astronaut advises farm groups to collaborate more

Collaboration is one thing that many agriculture groups already do, but can you imagine the work that could be done if everyone — yes, everyone — was working together to reach one goal?

That’s the message astronaut, author, and public speaker Dr. Dave Williams gave while speaking at this year’s Public Trust Summit.

“There’s always an opportunity to improve collaboration no matter how good you are, how many organizations you’re working with, and how you’re developing it in your own organization, there’s great opportunities to simply learn from others to be better,” he says.

When looking specifically at collaboration, Williams gave an example about how the healthcare sector, which he works in now as a hospital CEO in Ontario, worked together about five years ago to get feedback from patients. He called it an “outside of the box” approach as working directly with patients (or for the ag sector, consumers) can be tricky at times.

“There was a tremendous move to engage our patients at levels of the hospital board (including having) patients on committees, because we wanted to hear from the end users in our system, how they felt about the system, how it was working for them or more importantly not working for them, and how we can improve and change,” he explains. (article continues below player)

“Those are tough conversations to be able to have, but just like in life, I learn more from adversity and difficult circumstances than I do from succeeding. We learn more from patients who might not have had the most positive experience, and we want to work together to solve the challenges that they faced so that others are not going to experience the same thing.”

While at the conference, Williams engaged with many attendees prior to his presentation and one thing he heard repeatedly from different people was that there needs to be an, “opportunity to break down the silos” metaphorically speaking within agriculture groups. There might be two, three, four, or even five groups with the same objective or message, and although the work they’re doing is great, if they were to come together, the outcome could be greater.

If we can do that through communication, through working together, and working together collaboratively to create messaging to engage consumers it creates a tremendous opportunity, he says.

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