February 9, 2024

An impressive commitment to poop stewardship


Innovation comes from insight, and insight comes from moments.

And what is a moment?

Consider this definition from the field of physics.

A moment is a turning effect produced by a force acting at a distance on an object.

What a fascinating way to think about the creative process. It suggests that our job is to notice, catalog, deconstruct and then exploit as many of these moments as possible.

Because if we can uncover the small parts of the human picture that are truly crucial and recognizable, then we can render insight memorably in a concise phrase that leads us down an innovative path.

Comedians are particularly adept at this skill. Their job is to pluck moments from the world and serve them up to audiences. After all, moments are genuine, heartfelt, and most importantly, human.

Let me share an example from my own life.

Have you ever been walking your dog around the neighborhood and suddenly realized, oh crap, you don’t have any poop bags?

This has happened to every dog owner at least twice, and it’s a moment of panic.

Your face heats up like a malfunctioning microwave. Because the social pressure mechanism goes off. You’re scared of being shit shamed for not curbing your pet. You can get fined and even exiled from the neighborhood.

And nobody wants to be that guy.

Which is why you frantically rummage through people’s garbage cans to find something, anything, to clean up the poop, and fast.

A scrap of cardboard? A paper liquor bag blowing in the wind? An oversized leaf from a nearby tree? What about yanking a grass swatch off of someone’s garden and scooping it up? I guess I could always just gobble the poop up, lick my fingers clean, and say I’m recycling.

In my time as a dog owner, I’ve personally cleaned up dog poop using everything from a neighbor’s newspaper sleeve to an abandoned covid mask to my own sock. I remember one morning my dog had explosive diarrhea and painted the sidewalk brown. I stood there bagless and mortified.

The neighbors were going notice for sure. Plus, my dog and I both wear nametags, so it’s not like I can flee the scene of the crime.

I had no choice but to text my wife that we had a code brown, and she sprinted down the block to handoff an extra poop bag like a rectal relay racer.

Now that’s what you can an impressive commitment to poop stewardship.

Anyway, the point of my story is, that’s a moment. A turning effect produced by a force acting at a distance on an object. That moment is human and hilarious and grounded in an authentic emotional reality, which is my own fear of neighbor shame.

And remember, there are only five basic human fears, out of which almost all of our other fears are manufactured. Albrecht’s model says these fears include extinction, mutilation, loss of autonomy, separation, and ego death.

In my case with the poop bag, mine was number four. Separation. A fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness. That’s what my ancient brain was telling me would happen if I didn’t scoop the poop in the proper manner. We’re going to have to find a new apartment.

Now, if I worked at a pet care company, that very moment would be useful. It creates a spontaneous flash of insight which shows a familiar experience in a new light.

Consider the opportunities for innovation.

We could build a durable plastic holder that’s sized to fit in the the pet owner’s wallet and keeps auxiliary poop bags readily accessible.

Or launch an app that sends out geolocation notification to nearby dog walkers within a two block radius who can stop by to donate a spare to the cause.

What about holding a contest in which we crowd source pet owners to share videos of their most innovative poop pickup tactics?

Tell me that wouldn’t go viral.

Matter of fact, our pet care company could cobrand and sponsor a television program in which celebrity animal trainers prowl the streets to identify abandoned waste and see how many different creative ways they can find to clean up the poop.

The economic implications of this moment are profound.

That’s how you make shit happen.

Innovation comes from insight, and insight comes from moments.

Are you noticing and cataloging and deconstructing them often?