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CGIAR breeding programs need more than just tech upgrades — they need change management

Did you know that vehicles with steering wheels on the left are often cheaper to make than right hand-drive cars? They are mass-produced in much larger batches. But many drivers and governments were just unwilling to change to this dominant design. We humans are not so adept at change. Instead of embracing novel ways of thinking, we’d rather stick to the old ones. We cling onto what is safe, what is familiar or what we are already good at. We see this in the workplace, in our personal lives and in society as a whole. The world still can’t agree on using the metric system!

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT); October 6 2020

By Hugo Campos

Figure: Shivali Sharma (right), pre-breeding research leader at ICRISAT, explains pearl millet pollination techniques to visitors at the ICRISAT campus. (Photo: Michael Major/Crop Trust).

 

Did you know that vehicles with steering wheels on the left are often cheaper to make than right hand-drive cars? They are mass-produced in much larger batches. But many drivers and governments were just unwilling to change to this dominant design.

 

We humans are not so adept at change. Instead of embracing novel ways of thinking, we’d rather stick to the old ones. We cling onto what is safe, what is familiar or what we are already good at. We see this in the workplace, in our personal lives and in society as a whole. The world still can’t agree on using the metric system!

 

Within the domain of plant breeding, we are both driving and responding to rapid change. It is mesmerizing to visualize the changes gene editing is about to deliver, not to mention what genomic prediction is already delivering. We are being challenged on every single aspect of plant breeding.

 

Change of a different sort is about to cascade through the world’s main network of agricultural research centers — which includes centers at the global forefront of plant breeding. CGIAR is embarking on a transition into a much more integrated One CGIAR organization.

 

An overarching goal of this integration is no other than to ensure breeding improvement plans — and the changes they aim to drive — are implemented as seamlessly and quickly as possible. The Excellence in Breeding Platform is both driving and supporting this change among CGIAR centers and international and national partners.

 

The case for change in plant breeding programs

 

Plant breeders are in fact missing some vital opportunities. For example, there continues to be a rather limited use of real market insights to inform resource allocation within programs. This in turn results in a selection of traits weighted towards what breeders and associated scientists think are needed, which may not necessarily meet actual market needs.

 

With new goals and structures foisting change on breeding programs, their success depends on one thing above all else: savvy change management. Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to manage change well.

 

See more https://www.cimmyt.org/blogs/cgiar-breeding-programs-need-more-than-just-tech-upgrades-they-need-change-management/

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