Some Ideas Should Fail

by Dallas Mount

cattle grassland

How many of the new ideas that you implement work? I hope not 100%. If 100% of the new ideas you implement in your business work then you are probably being too cautious. There is a healthy portion of new ideas that should fail.  

I spent a year riding pens in a feedlot. I really enjoyed working with some of the talented pen-riders. These riders were very skilled at identifying cattle just as they started to get sick so medication could be administered early in the disease cycle. After we pulled our cattle for the day, it was then our task to take the temperatures of the sick animals we pulled before administering the treatment protocol. If 100% of the cattle a pen rider pulled temped, then we knew we didn’t pull deep enough. We probably left some sick ones in the pen that should have been pulled. The next day we would find the ones we missed, hopefully before it was too late to treat them.  

Implementing new ideas in a business should be like pen riding freshly weaned calves. Not everyone will temp, and that’s a good thing. Here’s a 4 hour WOTB (Working On the Business) session to do with your ranch team this summer or fall. Have a meeting where everyone is expected to bring 3 ideas that will make the ranch better. Could be to improve profit, simplify operations, make life easier or a cost savings to the ranch. The ideas get written on large post-it notes and put on the wall. Each idea is discussed for 5 minutes. The group needs to have a basic understanding of the idea – don’t fall into vetting them yet. 

With the ideas on the wall begin ranking them with a numerical scoring system such as 1, 3, 5, 50.

  • First upside – if the idea worked how big a deal would it be? 1 – no big deal, 50 – game changer!
  • Next, what is the downside risk if it didn’t work? 1 – no big deal, 50 this could break us!
  • Then, rank the likelihood of this working and the likelihood of this failing. Take your best guess, the value is in the discussions.

This process will certainly elevate a few ideas that deserve more in depth research. Assign someone from the team to do a deeper dive into the top ideas and report back next month. If you’re not trying something new, you’re falling behind. Remember not every idea should work. If they do, you’re not pulling deep enough into the pen!

2 Responses to “Some Ideas Should Fail”

August 09, 2023 at 6:58 am, Doug Gillham said:

Great analogy. Every cow/calf guy should spend a few months with “professional” pen riders at a feedlot,
I was shocked when Theresa told me not all my ideas are good.


August 09, 2023 at 7:17 am, Mark Hollenbeck said:

Great analogy.


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