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The top 3 “thought tools” for farm leaders

Getty/iStockphoto Old tools on wood table background
Keep these mindsets in your problem-solving toolkit.

On the farm, when there’s a job that involves fixing something – whether it’s a machine that broke down or a collapsing fence – one of the most important elements of the repair job begins long before the “hands-on” work starts: making sure the right tools are there.

If you need a service tech from the local equipment dealer to come out and work on a machine down in the field, for example, you want them to have everything they need to repair the equipment right away. That means they need to have all the right parts and tools already at hand so the repair can move quickly – and correctly.

Toolkit for thought

Today’s farm leaders often aren’t the ones dealing directly with repairs in the field or machine shed, but handling problems related to the business side of their operations. And I believe certain “tools” – or in this case, mindsets and ways to problem-solve – are what leaders need to keep handy in their mental toolkit.

Having practice with these mindsets can be helpful when farm leaders are faced with business problems impacting their operation. They can often lead to more creative and ultimately, better solutions to the farm’s biggest challenges when it comes to financial success.

Leaders can work to practice using these thought toolkit tools separately or combine them as needed. The more you practice using them with any problem or scenario that comes up, the more easily you’ll implement them when it comes to major problems or crossroads in your operation.

Top three tools

Tool #1: Adaptability. In today’s fast-changing ag world, the ability to pivot – and to pivot quickly – is the key. Building in ways to help your operation be more flexible can help lead to success because then you often have multiple alternate routes to achieve your goals. Practice working through more than one solution to a problem – start by doing that mentally by taking a step back first to create several different solutions rather than executing the first one that comes to mind.

Tool #2: Beginner’s mind. The thought tool of “beginner’s mind” asks that the person take a look at the situation or problem they are facing with the idea that they haven’t ever encountered it before – even if it’s something they’ve already done several or maybe even hundreds of times! Using beginner’s mind can help leaders come up with more creative or innovative solutions to problems – maybe even a problem that the operation has been dealing with for a long time. Try using beginner’s mind on a couple of the challenges facing your farm right now – you may be surprised what you learn about that problem, and your overall operation, by taking a “fresh” look.

Tool #3: Strategic thinking. Thinking strategically about your operation and the challenges it faces means going out further into the future. It means thinking about the implications of what you are choosing to invest in for your operation, and making sure that’s aligned with where your farm is headed in the future. You can practice strategic thinking in just about any business decision you’re making for your operation – keep doing it until it becomes a habit and a thought tool you can easily work with.

Free trial

One area that farm leaders say can be challenging without the right tools is marketing the crop. Many farmers have found our marketing information service, MarketView Basic, to be helpful. You can get a free two week trial – which includes regular audio and video updates, technical analysis, recommendations and more. Learn more about our market advisor programs and offerings at

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

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