What’s your question?

strategic shifting for innovationSometimes an interesting questions doesn’t come out nowhere, it requires some serious inquiry and reflection. Defining the real problem is the key part of the innovation process, if you don’t figure out the right question to lead your effort you will end up solving the same challenge, in the same way, that everyone else.  

At the beginning of the year, I collaborated with an innovation consultancy in Mexico D.F. on a project about dog adoption. To begin, we went out and met people, asked them some questions and generally observed how they interact with street dogs. We then took our notes and observations, put them together and uncovered some great insights, which we then turned into questions that gave us some holes to keep digging through.

Still, it dawned on me that like most organizations, the NGO we worked with had an uninspiring mission statement that any other dog adoption organization could have. So, connecting the on-the-ground insights with this, we shifted the conversation to something more thought provoking!

To shift how we helped the NGO approach dog adoption, we turned their mission statement on it’s head: When they were asking themselves, “how might we encourage people to adopt dogs?”, we turned this into “what if dogs adopted people?”.

Everything changed after that!

It provoked excitement, inquiry and engagement. People got a sense that they were indeed looking for a more innovative way to approach the challenge of dog adoption. This question leads our ongoing efforts…

Similarly, yesterday I was reading an article about “affective computing” which tries to answer the following question: What if marketing and advertising were able to instantly self-modify on the fly based on immediate nonverbal feedback?

Isn’t this interesting? It frames everything about advertising in a different light, doesn’t it?

In a similar vein, just like company mission statements, when people ask us what we do we usually answer with an uninspiring answer that doesn’t provoke any authentic engagement. So, to help us think differently about what we do, a better approach is to ask ourselves: what’s the question that our work is trying to answer?

One of the most commonly asked questions about dogs as pets is how much should I feed my dog. This seems like an extremely easy to answer question, but it’s not. After all, what a dog should eat depends on the food, the age and activity level of the dog, the size of the dog and the breed. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that may affect what you should feed your pet.

There really is no formula that tells us what we need to feed a dog of a given breed, size and weight. It’s important to know what a healthy example of your dog’s type should look like, and when to tell if he or she is too fat or thin. Thin dogs should be fed more, and if the condition doesn’t go away, should be seen by a vet. Fat dogs’ eating habits should be examined. If you’re free feeding and your pet is overweight, consider feeding a measured amount each day, instead.

Unfortunately, finding out what the perfect dog looks like can be pretty tricky. After all, we don’t see many dogs of our pets’ breeds under normal circumstances. However, it’s important to keep our dogs in good condition. Dogs which aren’t fed enough, or which get low quality food, can have bad muscle tone, be more easily injured, be low in energy and have a number of illnesses. Dogs which are fed too much will become overweight and may suffer from joint issues, greater incidences of liver problems and diabetes, low energy and skin trouble.

Pet food labels will give you some information, and will include a recommended guideline. However, these aren’t always accurate, and each brand has its own method of determining how much should be fed. This can make things pretty confusing. Use the information on the back of the dog food bag as a starting point only.

The first place to start is by getting higher quality food. Low quality dog foods may be cheaper, but they’ll never keep your pet in good health. Pick a high grade food with ingredients you trust and look at the recommendations on the back of the bag. Now, find out what your dog’s weight is, and take his or her age into consideration. Pay attention to activity level, as well. Your vet should be able to tell you how much your dog should weigh, and may be able to let you know whether your dog is over or underweight. Fat dogs that don’t get enough exercise are a lot more common than over thin ones, so there’s a good change you should be feeding less and walking more.

Once you’ve started feeding the amount your base calculations give you, weight your dog once a month. One good method for smaller dogs is to hold your pet and step on the bathroom scale, then weight yourself separately and subtract that number from the combined weight. Find out whether or not your pet’s weight is going up or down, and adjust feeding amounts accordingly. Remember, your dog should have a shiny coat and good activity level to be healthy, so pay attention to your pet, and not just the numbers.