Thoughts from the President During a Pandemic

July 24, 2021 - Dealing with Uncertainty

Dear Danforth Center Community,

I had an interesting call this week with Brett Begemann, a Director on our Board and the recently retired Chief Operating Officer of Bayer Crop Science US. Brett has been a strong supporter of the Danforth Center since the beginning, and an encouraging source of wisdom for me over the past several years. We were talking about how the Center community might change in the post-COVID world (assuming we get there!). This is occupying a fair bit of planning time given the changing expectations and attitudes about flexible and remote work arrangements among current and prospective community members. The potential impact that such changes will have on our culture, for example, presents uncertainty that most organizations with a knowledge-based workforce are facing.

While discussing the difficulty of predicting how decisions we could make might affect our community, Brett articulated clearly the sensible approach that smart organizations will take. It starts with the simple acknowledgement that we don’t know how decisions we make today will fully play out tomorrow! Acknowledging that fact clears the path to find ways to measure the effects of changes, and then to adjust course if the data point in a different direction. Smart organizations don’t need perfect plans to navigate an uncertain future, but they do need ways to assess how things are going and a willingness to change course based on what they learn. Brett effectively defined what it means to be a reasonable and rational organization in the face of uncertainty.

With our Strategic Plan, the community is developing and implementing a number of new initiatives. None of the planning anticipates every wrinkle or challenging scenario that will be encountered. The new Field Research Site has involved a lot of course adjustment to date, and will require more adjustment in the future as we learn from the experience of building a new facility. The Innovation Initiative has involved piloting of programs and iterative learning to figure out better, more productive ways to catalyze startup companies around Danforth Center technologies. We’re figuring out how our education, outreach and training programs can be scaled in new ways, despite the fact that clear blueprints for doing so do not exist. In fact, every new initiative underway has some unpredictability and, therefore, risk. The question for me is not, “Do our plans anticipate every challenge and eliminate all risk?” but rather, “How well can we recognize and understand problems as they arise and adjust our course of action appropriately?”

Jim Carrington, President and Chief Executive Officer

Previous Weekly Messages from Jim Carrington

Danforth Center Response Plan

The Danforth Plant Science Center recognizes the potential of exposure to Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our building and the impact it could have on our people and the Center. Accordingly, we have a plan in place in the event of a positive test for COVID-19 of an individual who was present in our Building(s).

Danforth Center Updates

During this unique moment in history, the first priority of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is the health and safety of our Center community, our families, and those who work with us.