Dancing with Coyotes

by | Dec 12, 2022 | Blog | 1 comment

How solving the real problem kept two doggies from being eaten by coyotes

My friend Laree and her husband Dan were living in Placerville, California. Placerville is a California gold rush town that sits at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It is a lovely rural place.

Laree and Dan have two small dogs, Rasi and Lodi. And they love them. They liked to walk them on the paths on their property. A number of years ago Laree was out of town and Dan sighted a coyote near their home. There were also stories circulating amongst neighbors of coyotes directly approaching folks while they were walking and snatching up small dogs – never to be seen again.

Hoping to eliminate the coyote problem before Laree returned home and become her hero, he set about examining the problem. He determined that the problem he needed to solve was to get rid of those coyotes.

Although it was legal to shoot coyotes in their area, Dan wasn’t interested in harming the animals. Eventually, he found a “wildlife rehabilitator” who recommended setting several humane traps for the coyotes. The idea was that after the coyotes had become trapped, they would be relocated to the mountains.

The rehabilitator sold Dan two of the traps at $300 each. When the neighbors saw the traps go up, they were delighted. Dan was going to rid the neighborhood of the menacing coyotes. The neighborhood hero!

Unfortunately, the two traps didn’t work. All they caught was a fox and a grumpy racoon. The coyote was still around. So, if two traps didn’t work. Perhaps two more would do the trick? Dan buys two more traps for a total of four traps and now an investment of $1,200 in The Great Coyote Trapping Adventure.

Dan diligently checks the traps for two weeks. Still no coyotes trapped but he still sees them. Dan and Laree’s little dogs are still in danger of becoming a quick meal if they go on a walk.

How does this saga end? First, a little bit about coyotes.

Coyotes are pack animals. The single coyote seen on Dan’s property was probably not the only coyote. Coyotes are also nomads. They follow the food. When there is no food source for the coyotes, they move on.

Dan and Laree’s problem can be viewed in several ways. One way to look at the problem would be to state it something like: “How might we eliminate the coyotes?”

Another might be: “How might we keep our little dogs safe?”

If you focus on solving the first problem, you come up with ideas like shooting coyotes and coyote traps.

But what if you focused on the second question, keeping the dogs safe? After all, isn’t that what you really want?

By focusing on the question, “How might we keep our little doges safe?” It doesn’t matter if you have coyotes, cougars, cobras, or crocodiles outside. Keeping the dogs safe was the real issue.

So how did Dan and Laree solve the dog safety problem?

They put the dogs in the car and drove a few miles away to a safe place to walk. So the little doggies got a car ride and a walk. Eventually, the coyotes moved on. After a hiatus, Dan and Laree’s dogs were then able to enjoy their home property coyote-free.

Oh, and Dan never did catch a coyote in those traps. Those coyotes are smart critters.

The problem you see is the problem you solve.

Dan focused on the coyotes as the problem. As a result, all of his energy was going into solving the coyote problem and not the purest task at hand, which was to keep his dogs safe.

Dan is a very smart and talented man. If he can fall victim to solving the wrong problem, so can the rest of us.

In fact, I’m suggesting that most of the time, most of us don’t know how to figure out what the best problem is.

My new book, Solve the Real Problem, explores how to determine the best problem to solve in any challenge in life – from work to home to family. It’s due to be released in early 2023. I am really excited to share it with you.

Here is a link to pre-order. Thanks for reading!

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Through a series of structured learning experiences, you will learn to become deliberately creative and build your skills to lead innovation teams in your organization. You will be instructed by Dr. Roger Firestien who has presented programs on innovation to over 600 organizations around the world including: fortune 500 corporations, government agencies, universities, associations and religious institutions.

1 Comment

  1. Dan Greenberger

    Love this story, Roger! Great example of solving the right problem. And your background on coyotes further illustrates the value of clarifying the situation to help define which problem to solve.


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