The Lions – Potential Redefined

Don’t Stuff the Dead Dog!

By Chris Spicer
(3 minute read).

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed is a book written by the actor Alan Alda in which he uses a wry sense of humor to relate some lessons learnt from his childhood. The books title comes from a tragic, but somewhat humorous tale, surrounding the death of his pet dog Rhapsody.

Inconsolable because of his loss, Alan’s father tried to comfort his son by promising that, ‘Rhapsody will return’. Unbeknown to the grieving child his dad had decided to ask the local taxidermist to work his magic on the canine corpse. But unfortunately, having never seen the animal alive, his efforts to resurrect the past were somewhat out of tune with reality.

On Rhapsody’s return it soon became clear that in seeking to preserve the past, the ill-advised taxidermist had created a monster. ‘We pulled off the brown butcher’s paper he was wrapped in and looked at him. The dog had a totally unrecognizable expression on his face. He looked as if he’d seen something loathsome that needed to be shredded …. Losing the dog wasn’t as bad as getting him back!’

Visiting family had to be forewarned that the dog in the living room was not real. The canine’s vicious mouth convinced people that he was in desperate need of human flesh. Even when demoted to the porch, deliverymen would do anything to avoid the house.

Rhapsody became a constant reminder that things would never again be the way they were. ‘I see now,’ writes Alda ‘that stuffing your dog is what happens when you hold on to any living moment longer than it wants you to.[1]

In an effort to preserve the past, how often do we create a facsimile, a scary monster that does little to attract people to our organisation? Holding on to something longer than it wants us to, can seriously affect our ability to move forward and possess the future.

Kodak’s inability to embrace the future offered by Polaroid is seen by some, as a mistake that would ultimately lead to their demise. Xerox had everything in their Business Development Department to make the Apple Mac, but it took a forward-thinking Steve Jobs to bring about this innovative breakthrough in the world of personal computers. Many publishers rejected the Harry Potter story before a small publishing house called Bloomsbury had an editor whose eight-year-old daughter asked for the author not to take the book back as she wanted to finish it – the rest as they say is publishing history.

Vibrant organisations can quickly become living museums when a minority chooses to exercise mental taxidermy on old methodology.

To succeed in an every changing society today’s leaders will need mental agility, the ability to adapt to a new way of doing things. For no matter what field of service we find ourselves in, we all run the risk of slipping from the leading edge of innovative enterprise to the trailing edge extinction – when preserving the past becomes more important than securing the future.

Although it is affirming to celebrate the good of yesterday, we sometimes need to bury what is passed, in order to enjoy what is yet to come. For we ‘Stuff the Dead Dog’ when we:

  • Listen to voices fixated on the past, with no thought for the future.
  • Try to breath new life into old methodology.
  • Give room to the monsters others create, instead of making room for the ‘puppies’ of innovation and enterprise.

The power to lead in changing seasons is found in the ability to preserve our core values, while progressively moving forward to possess our tomorrow.

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[1] Never Have Your Dog Stuffed – by Alan Alda – February 2007 – ISBN-10: 0099493764