Cre­ativ­ity in the Year of the Dog

Look­ing for fresh in­spi­ra­tion? Con­sider how you can learn from the at­tributes of our ca­nine com­pan­ions

Bangkok Post - - BUSINESS -

Kung Hei Fat Choy, Happy Chi­nese New Year! To­mor­row marks the start of the Year of the Dog, or to be more pre­cise, the Brown Earth Dog. The dog was the first species that hu­mans do­mes­ti­cated, and thanks to this long bond with hu­mans, dogs are uniquely ac­cus­tomed to our be­hav­iour. What cre­ative in­spi­ra­tions can we ob­tain from “man’s best friend” to help us flour­ish in the com­ing 12 months?

Be­ing of value: Com­pared to other an­i­mals, dogs have devel­oped a strong in­flu­ence on hu­man so­ci­ety be­cause of both their prac­ti­cal use­ful­ness and the emo­tional com­pan­ion­ship they of­fer. Dogs serve a wide range of prac­ti­cal roles: hunt­ing, herd­ing, guard­ing and pro­tec­tion, pulling loads, as­sist­ing the po­lice and mil­i­tary, res­cu­ing peo­ple in emer­gen­cies, aid­ing the dis­abled and in other ther­a­peu­tic roles.

More­over, dogs are loyal com­pan­ions who can light up the day with their play­ful en­thu­si­asm, sin­cere af­fec­tion and emo­tional sen­si­tiv­ity to­wards their two-legged friends. As the hu­mourist Josh Billings noted: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves him­self.”

Cre­ative in­spi­ra­tions: Wouldn’t you en­joy do­ing busi­ness with some­one who is help­ful and at the same time fun to be with? So, ask your­self: How close are we with our cus­tomers? How in­ti­mately do we know their true wants and needs? How can we be­come more use­ful for our core cus­tomers? What other roles may we per­form for them to make our­selves more use­ful? How can we de­sign bet­ter emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ences for the users of our prod­ucts and ser­vices? How can we bet­ter sat­isfy both their func­tional and emo­tional wants and needs?

How to “breed out” new ideas: Over the mil­len­nia hu­mans have se­lected cer­tain dogs to breed with each other, due to par­tic­u­lar phys­i­cal and be­havioural char­ac­ter­is­tics that sup­port de­sired func­tional roles. This se­lec­tive breed­ing has led to the hun­dreds of mod­ern breeds that are clas­si­fied into cer­tain dog types (such as com­pan­ion dogs, guard dogs or herd­ing dogs). Th­ese types vary greatly in size, char­ac­ter and be­hav­iour and func­tions.

Cre­ative in­spi­ra­tions: The breed­ing process is sim­i­lar to the ap­proach taken by a clas­sic cre­ativ­ity tech­nique, Mor­pho­log­i­cal Ma­trix. How can you en­gage in mor­pho­log­i­cal think­ing?

First, cre­ate a ma­trix list­ing all the mor­pholo­gies cov­ered by your value of­fer­ings. Such cat­e­gories might be: prod­uct fea­tures (func­tional and emo­tional ben­e­fits), ser­vice types, cus­tomer types, re­lated pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties, etc). Then, list el­e­ments un­der each cat­e­gory (B2B, B2C, NGOs in the cus­tomer cat­e­gory, for ex­am­ple), and add as many new el­e­ments as pos­si­ble into each (don’t for­get that we’re in the dig­i­tal age). Fi­nally, ask your­self: How to cre­ate mean­ing­ful new prod­uct and ser­vice “breeds” by con­nect­ing cer­tain de­sired fea­tures and el­e­ments?

Prob­lem-solv­ing: Are dogs in­tel­li­gent crea­tures? If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’re likely to agree. While breeds vary in in­tel­li­gence, dogs can per­ceive in­for­ma­tion, re­tain this as knowl­edge, and ap­ply it to solve cer­tain prob­lems. They can also learn to re­spond to dif­fer­ent body pos­tures and voice com­mands. But how do dogs fare when com­pared to other ca­nines?

Although dogs and wolves share a lin­eage, there are no­tice­able dif­fer­ences be­tween the two species. Free-roam­ing wolves have longer teeth, big­ger skulls and also big­ger brains. More­over, ex­per­i­ments have shown that Aus­tralian din­gos out­per­form do­mes­tic mod­ern dogs in non-so­cial prob­lem-solv­ing.

Like­wise, re­searchers have found that when pre­sented with an un­solv­able vari­a­tion of an orig­i­nal prob­lem-solv­ing task, so­cialised wolves tried to find a so­lu­tion them­selves, while dogs looked to a hu­man for help. Do­mes­tic dogs seem to have “out­sourced” more ad­vanced prob­lem-solv­ing to hu­mans, which is con­ve­nient but makes them highly de­pen­dent.

Cre­ative in­spi­ra­tions: Many multi­na­tional and large cor­po­ra­tions to­day out­source in­ter­nal skills and cer­tain func­tional roles to out­side sup­pli­ers. While out­sourc­ing has re­duced head­count and — to some ex­tent — over­head costs, it has also led to an or­gan­i­sa­tional brain drain.

The sit­u­a­tion is com­pa­ra­ble to a dog turn­ing to hu­mans to “do the think­ing for us”, “solve our prob­lems on our be­half” and “tell us what to do”. But just as a dog is de­pen­dent on the smarts of oth­ers, so do com­pa­nies de­pend on the in­tel­li­gence of their out­sourc­ing part­ner. So, ask your­self: “What prob­lem ar­eas and func­tional roles are so im­por­tant for our busi­ness that we should ‘in­source’ the abil­ity again? What topics do we want to re­solve by our­selves to con­trol our fate?”

Stay­ing healthy: Dogs are of­ten plagued by par­a­sites such as fleas, ticks, mites and worms. Par­a­sites live in or on an­other or­gan­ism and ob­tain their nu­tri­ents at the host’s ex­pense. While they typ­i­cally don’t cause se­vere harm, they steadily im­pair health, en­ergy and per­for­mance lev­els.

Cre­ative in­spi­ra­tion: Just as you want to keep your dog par­a­site-free, you may use the Year of the Dog to rid your busi­ness of parasitic el­e­ments. Ask your­self: Who has ben­e­fited from us and de­rived mon­e­tary nu­tri­ents at our ex­pense with­out re­turn­ing an ad­e­quate ben­e­fit? Such free­loaders may be sup­pli­ers and ser­vice providers, ad­vis­ers and lob­by­ists, and maybe even cer­tain man­agers and staff. In­ves­ti­gate how much ben­e­fit each de­rived from you, and what you re­ally got in re­turn. If you no­tice a gross mis­match, clean out the par­a­site.

Re­ward­ing loy­alty: Peo­ple born in the Year of the Dog are said to be loyal and hon­est, ami­able and kind, re­spon­si­ble and pru­dent, lively and coura­geous. Due to a strong sense of loy­alty and sin­cer­ity, dogs will do ev­ery­thing for a per­son — or busi­ness — who cares for them.

In­spi­ra­tion: Who are key mem­bers of your com­pany or team who have loy­ally and re­spon­si­bly worked for you for a long time and con­trib­uted to the suc­cess of your busi­ness? Who are your long-term cus­tomers who loy­ally con­tinue buy­ing from you? Who are other loy­al­ists who have served your cause as loyal sup­pli­ers, ad­vis­ers, ad­vo­cates and cheer­lead­ers? In the Year of the Dog, think about ways to say “Thank you” to th­ese loyal, de­pend­able and sen­si­ble com­pan­ions.

Dr Detlef Reis is the found­ing di­rec­tor and chief ideator of Thinkergy Lim­ited (www., the In­no­va­tion Com­pany in Asia. He is also an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the In­sti­tute for Knowl­edge & In­no­va­tion-South­east Asia (IKI-SEA), Bangkok Univer­sity, and an ad­junct as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Hong Kong Bap­tist Univer­sity. He can be reached at

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