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Brainstorming - Finally

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assignment 4
I reviewed my problem statements from last week.

Problem Statement 1:
Helena, an older homeowner in the Marcy-Holmes area, needs to walk her dogs in the winter while all of them remain safe and uninjured, because all of them require exercise to maintain balance in their physical and mental health.

Problem Statement 2:
Susan, a 19 yr old freshman at the Univ. of MN from Augusta, ME, needs an exercise companion during the winter months because she misses her dog from home and she feels more secure running at night with a dog at her side.

Feedback had suggested that one (or both) of them was either leading, or too specific. From my review I generated these two HMW statements:

How Might We...
1) How might we enhance winter activities with our dogs?
2) How might we provide additional interaction between our dogs and others in winter?

I invited 4 friends to join me for a brainstorming session on Friday evening. Sadly, Friday afternoon arrived and two cancelled. After multiple communications, we reschedule for Monday afternoon. I also invited another friend to that session, making a total of 5 invitees. All were briefed regarding the topic (Dogs and Winter) and asked to come with a few ideas.

4 p.m... Two people arrived. ☹ They were known creative: my sister, a musician and Candy, long time friend and fabric artist.

I introduced the topic, Dogs in the Winter, and explained the rules and process we would be following.

  • Goal: generate as many ideas as possible

  • No limitations on ideas

  • No criticism or discussion of ideas

  • Each idea needed a drawing and a title

  • Each idea to be announced to the group and placed on the wall.

  • Try to stay on topic

  • Use ideas already up as inspiration

For a warm up activity, we collectively wrote parody lyrics to holiday songs using dogs, or our dogs, as the subject. Each of us was to select a song and start a verse. When the initiator became stumped, one of the others had to jump in with a rhyme or segue. We had three rounds, and a lot of fun. "Up on the Rooftop" will never be the same again. (I tried to record it, but was not successful.)

We started on the first HMW statement: How might we enhance winter activities with our dogs?

What followed seemed to me like 20 minutes of refereeing an All Star Wrestling match. We did generate ideas, but I was reintroduced to the issues inherent in managing activity participants with moderate to severe ADHD. Yikes! I spent a lot of time requesting that stories recanting past experiences with dogs be saved for later. We did generate 30 ideas.

The response to the second HMW statement (How might we provide additional interaction between our dogs and others in winter?) was slower. Both of my participants repeated said, "We can use the same ideas we did before." I tried rolestorming (per class) with suggestions that they adopt the role of the dog, an elderly owner, and a working student. Only 14 ideas were generated for this HMW statement.

Our combined IPM for both segments was 0.37.

All ideas (44) were sorted (using the "silent treatment" as in class) into five categories: Activities (that could just be undertaken); Create (places/sites that would require build-out); Exist (products that already exist); Organize (ideas that require organization of multiple participants); Product (ideas that would lead to new, or modified, products on the market). Some ideas could fit in multiple categories, or would require follow-up in a second category.

Using multi-vote, 10 ideas were chosen. In response to enhancing winter with our pets:

1. Progressive Dog Parties


2. Easy-on dog boots


3. Headlight for dog chest


4. Solar dog coat


5. Dog treadmill access


In response to providing additional interaction:

1. Dog watermark


2. Outdoor toy library


3. Lend-Leash program


4. Indoor toy library


5. Adopt-a-dog (Groups)


Interviews/Problem Statements


For 2 interviews, my process was extremely informal. As I walked my dogs in the neighborhood, I engaged 2 of my fellow walkers and asked them about their experiences with dogs in winter. In both cases, each of us was handling multiple dogs so my notes are from memory.

My questions were pretty general; prompts to the topic and then let him talk. Overall, the subject was introduced with DOB -dog owner banter. The usual "Getting colder."; "Yup.": "It gets harder to get these guys out every winter."; "I hope it's mild this year."; etc.

I believe I only asked two specific questions....

  1. What is more challenging about keeping the dogs exercised and in good health during the winter?
  2. What do you dream of that would make it easier?

In the first case, I talked to Stan who regularly walks his two Westies. I was interested in his opinion because he copes with smaller dogs than I. Both the number of dogs and their size can have considerable impact on the needs of the owner.

Stan lives in a townhouse with no yard. He is a retired business man. His dogs are middle-aged and so their exercise requirements are beginning to wane. He has primary responsibility for their care and exercise, although his wife takes them out sometimes. (Less in the winter.)

One of his challenges is that Heath, the black male, can be fairly dog-agressive. A second subject was the difficulty navigating potentially icy sidewalks in the dark. (We had some additional conversation here. We are agreed that the ice and dark have far more impact on exercising our dogs than the cold does.) He also mentioned that some of the chemicals used on the sidewalks now are far more injurious to the dogs that the old salts used to be.

He misses having a yard, but feels that the smaller dogs get adequate exercise. He feels that larger breeds, which he's had in the past, need more running room. "There is no substitution, regardless of the dog, for at least one leashed walk per day."

His wishes: 1) Better lighting; 2) Better enforcement of sidewalk clearance regulations; 3) Elimination of the painful chemicals; or 4) A 'safe' place to walk - on leash, lit, and clear sidewalks.

I also talked Marnie, a neighbor who has had up to 4 Great Pyrenees in her home. She is one of the leaders of the statewide Pyr rescue organization and active in the neighborhood association. I felt the latter two activities might give her additional insights into the challenges of dog ownership in the MN winters.

Marnie is in her early 60's, and lives in a home with a yard specially subdivided to provide for the Pyrs and her avid gardening. She currently has one permanent dog, and one foster. She states that just finding time to walk them is the first challenge. She, like I, sometimes enlists the aid of students in the neighborhood to help get her dogs exercise. This can be a bit of a concern as you develop knowledge and trust of the person, and as the dogs get accustomed to another handler. (Try to provide consistency, but it can be difficult.)

I tried very hard not to lead the conversation. Still, much of what Marnie said was a close copy of Stan's comments. Although she has a yard, she cautions herself not to rely to much on just letting the dogs out in the winter time. "It just makes summer that much harder." She was pretty adamant about getting rid of the chemicals that can cause the dogs pain. "I can't carry a 150 lb. Pyr home." Also, ice and darkness were cited as more problematic than the cold.

My third interview was with a woman who owns a pet waste pickup business. I worked for her for a couple of seasons, and can vouch for the change in dog behavior and waste volume that occurs in winter.

Sonja stated that she sees a marked increase in business during winter as people choose to just let their dogs out into the yard (or tie them up outside) more. She also noted how much of her annual sales occur in spring from people who neither walk the dogs nor clean up their yards all winter. We talked a little about the changes in behavior seen as dogs get less structured exercise from their owners. From dogs becoming more boisterous to downright dangerous, it is clear that they are less happy in the winter. (Note: Looked for stats on whether dog incidents are more common during the winter months. Could not find quickly, but this may warrant some further research.)

Talked to a few people just jogging by about their winter jogging habits, and whether they would consider taking a canine companion along sometimes. The majority responded that they continue to jog during the winter, and that they would like to have a companion. (One young woman mentioned that it might even be a safety enhancement.) They were not sure how they might hook up with a pet. We also had some discussion about responsibilities and issues about consistency in commands.

Lastly, I talked to two friends who fairly regularly come around and take my boys for a walk or jog. These are people I met over the fence as they stopped to encounter my dogs, and with whom I've developed friendships. Both of them articulated that they were missing dogs from home when they first began stopping to talk to my dogs. They began walking them both because they found it relaxing and they wanted to help someone (in this case, me) out.

Problem Statement 1:

Helena, an older homeowner in the Marcy-Holmes area, needs to walk her dogs in the winter while all of them remain safe and uninjured, because all of them require exercise to maintain balance in their physical and mental health.

Problem Statement 2:

Susan, a 19 yr old freshman at the Univ. of MN from Augusta, ME, needs an exercise companion during the winter months because she misses her dog from home and she feels more secure running at night with a dog at her side.

Mind Mapping Assignment


Before beginning the exercise, I had a long romp with my dogs in the yard. Tennis balls, sticks, old shoes, and two streaking Golden Retrievers were involved. I was in a playful, but slightly tuckered-out mood when I began idea generation.

I generated (in a couple of sessions) the map below on the theme: Winter

A major subtheme is the dogs in winter: how to keep them well, how to keep me in one piece, etc. Second would be Writing, a principle activity in winter. Third, legislation. Not very good for creating products I'm afraid. I'm more about actions and ideas.

One product idea: Easy on dog booties


They gather around the paw, rather than having to pull them over. I think this would be less struggle for the dog, and therefore help the owner.

Second product idea: Make Minneapolis a dog-safe city. Ban use of chemicals for sidewalk (and lawn) treatment that harm pets. If not banned, require safe and visible signage. Reduce license cost to encourage more licensing.


A "Backpack Cover" that can be deployed when it rains.


This would attach to the straps with velcro. Waterproof or -resistant material. Unzip to cover backpack when it rains. For those of us who resist coats and umbrellas, but carry electronics.

A dining club concept...


I envision this as a subscription or package type service designed to allow less adventurous eaters to explore all of the wonderful foods available in our community. First, various restauranteurs would be approached regarding booking a night for a party of 10 to 12. The evening would include an ethnic menu, (with expert guidance on ingredients and how to eat), entertainment (cultural music or dance), perhaps a multi-media tour, and a coupon to return for a reduced price meal on another occasion. These would be scheduled approx. 1/month (more if it is popular). Marketing would be to sell packages of 1, 3, 6, or 12 evenings (with price reductions) Transportation could be optional.

A pet gym (primarily safe exercise environment):


Provide 24 hour, key card access to a gym facility with treadmills, covered (or at least well shoveled) walking track, and possibly a lap pool. Envision offering other services including pet nutritionist.

Canine Condos placed outside of malls and grocery stores; theaters.


I like to walk my guys to the store or when I go shopping. Since we have a dogphobic society, I have to tie them up outside. Not cool as I've seen dogs teased, fed foods they can't tolerate, etc. My condos would be like bike lockers... rent by the hour, water, heat (or A/C) provided, etc. Could even provide an option for monitoring via smartphone while you are away.

Matching service... places and people who want to exercise dogs with dogs (& their masters) who have challenges getting them enough exercise.

{Graphic coming}

Joggers/runners who would like to take a dog along matched with folks who have trouble giving their pets enough exercise. (I.e., Me - I walk my 18 mo. old Golden Retriever 3 times a day most days, but I can only walk. He wants to R-U-N! I know there are others in similar situations or older people who can't get out much in the winter.) Take dogs to senior homes and encourage exercise through taking the dogs for a walk. (Less winter related, but the idea came on... :-) )

Working on other more "producty" ideas.

Assignment 1: Cookies (edited)


When this assignment was received, I immediately recalled two cookie notions that have been floating in my head for years: 1) Drambuie cookies, and 2) Cream of Wheat (CoW) cookies. The latter is, I think, an attempt to recreate something I remember my grandmother making when I was a child. The idea of hot, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth CoW took the first round.

Base ingredients would have to be flour, butter, and sugar (type to be determined). I needed to figure out whether the CoW needed to be pre-cooked or was cooked during preparation and baking. I considered additional flavor ingredients of Vanilla, Almond Extract, Pecans, Almonds, Walnuts, Orange Zest, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Honey, Maple Syrup, and Cream Cheese. (Some of these components were suggested by my sister, who has never been so enthusiastic about a course assignment!)

I started with the basic cookie dough recipe found in Ratio (1 part sugar, 2 parts fat (butter), 3 parts flour). This is, as the author points out, a basic shortbread recipe. Preparation of this (in small quantity, 300 degrees for 30 minutes) yielded a cookie that was a bit sweeter that I like, but seemed a good starting point.

Photos below show batter and prepared cookies from this recipe.


Next, I wanted to determine what portion of the flour I would replace with CoW, and whether it needed to be pre-cooked or not. I felt there was a greater likelihood of success with cooked CoW. I prepared 1 serving according to package directions and a second batch of basic dough. After allowing 15 minutes for the CoW to cool so that the butter would not be completely melted, I began adding CoW. I blended in 1 tbsp. at a time, tasting a very small sample after each addition. At 4 tbsp. I thought the flavor balance was about where I wanted it, but the dough had become pretty moist due to both butter melting and the semi-liquid consistency of the CoW. I added 3 tbsp. of flour to stabilized and baked 4 of the cookies. These turned out very soft and chewy, a bit doughy but delicious.

I separated a bit of the dough and tried adding cream cheese for flavor. This proved to rich (at least as a dough) so I backed off and tried the sour cream. I added 3 tbsp. (one at a time) to find a good flavor balance. Another tbsp. of flour was needed to keep at what I judged to be a proper dough consistency. Baking these (30 minutes at 300 degrees) produced the results pictured below.


These cookies were flavorful, but a little too doughy in the center. As the picture shows, they browned nicely on the bottom, but acquired little color on the top. This is somewhat characteristic of my oven. I wanted to address the consistency in the next batch.

I cracked an egg, blended and added about 1/2 to the remaining batter.When I sampled this dough, I noticed that the settling time had allowed some flavor blending to occur. This resulted in the final recipe including a refrigeration period prior to baking. The results here were approaching the right texture and flavor.

I decided to try a full batch with the addition of a bit of Cream of Tartar. To address the browning issue, I tried increasing the oven temp. to 325 degrees and the baking time to 35 minutes. I also added 1/2 cup of chopped pecans. The batter and resulting cookies are pictured below.


These cookies were a bit too dry, and too dark. They still did not brown nicely on top. Further experimentation was called for, but it was 4 am and each batch took 1/2 hour to bake. Based on acceptable appearance and flavor, I called it a good base for further improvement on another occasion.

I plan to try 325 degrees for 30 minutes and perhaps brushing the top with melted butter during baking to promote browning and attempt to preserve a little more moisture. My first flavor adjustment will likely be adding some cinnamon. I think there are numerous variations of this recipe in the future.

Final Recipe (to date):

Cream of Wheat/Sour Cream Shortbread

Preheat oven to 325°

Prepare 1 serving Cream of Wheat (3/4 to 1 cup)
Set aside to cool at room temperature

½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp sugar

1 stick unsalted butter

Cream together until fluffy

6 tbsp sour cream
1/2tsp vanilla
1 egg

Cream together until fluffy

Cream in 14 tbsp flour

8 tbsp Cream of Wheat (Warm to room temp. - NOT hot)

Mix (Butter should melt a little. Dough will be soft and sticky)

Add 2 - 4 tbsp additional flour gradually until dough thickens.
(Will form standing peaks)

Optional: Add ¼ to ½ cup chopped pecans

Chill dough for a minimum of 10 minutes

Drop onto cookie sheet in ¾ to 1" balls. Keep 2" apart

Bake at 325° for 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned.

Recent Comments

  • bens0468: It would be nice if you explained your process more read more
  • boraa015: Your post is clear and two the point. I know read more
  • Marin Blair: I really like your idea and feel like it could read more
  • cospe002: Julie, I'll check back later in the week to comment read more
  • dunba043: I think it was a GOOD thing your interviews converged. read more
  • dyexx061: I really like the theme you are doing and I'm read more
  • enins001: I'm interested in where this sub theme, of dogs and read more
  • hafte004: So as everybody else already pointed out great design for read more
  • fadne019: It is quite a difference to see a computer generated read more
  • grang074: I can't believe how much effort you put into your read more

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