What’s your dog whistle idea?

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I have been saying it for years and there’s even an acronym to help you remember – KISS.  Keep it simple stupid.  And this year at PARMA, the keynote speaker Ross Shafer brought the concept to reality with a plethora of examples.  The best one being the Dog Whistle Idea.

Ross is a dynamic guy that boils complex issues down to their essence and burns them into your mind  – forever.  This year, he spoke about a real estate management company that was losing millions of dollars a year in pet deposit fees at its apartment complexes.  But there was one elderly gentleman that got all of his pet deposit fees.  When they asked him how he did it, he said he made a personal investment in a very sophisticated tool – the silent dog whistle.  He walked up and down the halls, blew his whistle and then knocked on the doors to speak with the tenants after the dog came running and barking.  Simple, effective and just three bucks for the sophisticated tool.

The Dog Whistle Idea

There are a lot of examples of Dog Whistle Ideas that can be implemented in risk management to address complex issues.  David Lee Roth of the rock band Van Halen had one – the brown M&M.  If David found a brown M&M then he knew that the facility owner’s crew hadn’t read the contract and that he needed to check the entire setup.  Ross told another story of a fella that used a small personal desk fan to blow empty potato chip bags off the conveyor belt to prevent shipping empty bags of chips to customers.   This was after the company spent $70,000+ on a single machine to remove bags that didn’t work.

I have seen a lot of complex solutions implemented in the risk management field over the years with dismal results.  This is especially true in emergency response planning.  How many times have you seen emergency plans that rely on cell phones, SMS messaging and internet email communications  to warn people of an active shooter or other emergency.  When the event occurs, the batteries aren’t charged; we left the phone in the car; we were in an area with one bar of reception and so on.

In the book Blink, the author writes of the 2002 Millennium Challenge where General Van Riper destroyed his enemy using simple, old-school techniques – not the latest technology.  For example, Van Riper used motorcycle runners to get messages to the front of military lines.  Now that’s a lesson we can apply to SMS text messaging during emergencies.  Why not just run the message over???

Here’s a little more insight about the 2002 Millennium Challenge from Wikipedia:

Red, commanded by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, adopted an asymmetric strategy, in particular, using old methods to evade Blue’s sophisticated electronic surveillance network. Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to front-line troops and World War II light signals to launch airplanes without radio communications.

Red received an ultimatum from Blue, essentially a surrender document, demanding a response within 24 hours. Thus warned of Blue’s approach, Red used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of Blue’s fleet by the second day of the exercise. In a preemptive strike, Red launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the Blue forces’ electronic sensors and destroyed sixteen warships. This included one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five of six amphibious ships. An equivalent success in a real conflict would have resulted in the deaths of over 20,000 service personnel. Soon after the cruise missile offensive, another significant portion of Blue’s navy was “sunk” by an armada of small Red boats, which carried out both conventional and suicide attacks that capitalized on Blue’s inability to detect them as well as expected.[1]

So before you get too sophisticated and spend your entire budget on fancy solutions, do what Ross Shafer does and ask yourself – what’s my Dog Whistle Idea.



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