Drowning Puppies

The Chief Innovation Officer of a major UK commercial bank says it’s important to drown puppies.

No, this is not about animal cruelty.

His “drowning puppies” is the way he manages potentialities, be it in the form of new ideas, conversational input, projects or initiatives.

Drowing puppies is about culling down the number of potential directions to take, and to do it early enough so that those “puppies” don’t become big, slobbering dogs that consume resources. 

The expression also reflects the fact that in a committee or conversational setting, people fall in love with their ideas, especially if those ideas are given the chance to grow. For many people, the more time they invest in developing something, the harder it is for them to let it go. The manager/moderator who tries to generate lots of input from others must also manage/moderate that human tendency.


An old pet store salesman trick is to allow the customer to take the puppy home “just for the weekend.”  (Try it FREE!)   Do that often enough, and you’ll find yourself stuck with too many little furballs yelping for your attention.

With unlimited resources, all versions of all ideas can be pursued — but alas, resources are limited.  Of course, it’s not an all-or-nothing situation: With good process, multiple versions of multiple ideas can be tracked, put on hold, tested, etc. Ultimately however, some puppies get selected for breeding, and the others must be drowned, sold or given away.

What kinds of puppies have you drowned recently?  

(Hat tip to Matt L)


About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on September 14, 2009, in Jargon, Project Management. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. That is an excellent book title. “Drowning Puppies”

    Eventually when you drown ALL my puppies; it may be time for me to make some kittens… or will you drown those too?


  2. —————————–
    September 17, 2009, 6:26am, J B-F wrote:

    I like it but it is a hard image. I’d rather uproot weeds. same idea, but shows you are right about things with real appeal, I don’t even want to drown imaginary puppies!

    September 17, 2009, 9:18am, N A wrote:

    clubbing baby seals?

  3. yes, people fall in love with their puppy / baby seal, but how many people fall in love with their weed?

    wait, don’t answer that…

  1. Pingback: Whose Line Was It Anyway? Individual vs. Shared Ownership of Ideas « Meme Menagerie

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