Dog Training & Science Conflate!
Being an 800 pound gorilla is great as long as you have a monopoly and market share (looking at you APDT). So how does a behemoth slide into obscurity? Case studies have been written on Eastman Kodak and others who have failed to embrace technology, who were either too lethargic and not nimble enough or didn’t change at all and sat on their laurels while the market was teeming with perspicacity, innovation, verve and change. A stodgy larger organization, weighed down by bureaucracy and tradition, cannot or did not want to change its pace. As the Ostrich Theory states, these stagnate companies bury their proverbial heads in the sand.
SPARCS (Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science) is that innovation, verve and change. I’ll be focusing on the business end of that change since the details of the SPARCS event were covered quite nicely by Jennifer Cattet, Ph.D.1
A monopoly’s market share only lasts as long as it has some edge, some irreplaceable widget, copyright or piece of information (scarce resource). As Seth Godin elegantly mentions in The Curious Imperative,3 in this internet age of ubiquitous information, does this model stand a chance? The principles of net neutrality both implicit and explicit state that information should be treated equally and will find a way to the masses like water flowing down the mountain in the most linear stream. So how have some institutions, like Time magazine and other legacy newspapers, become valueless, irrelevant internet relics?2
Market share dwindles in many ways. One way is by still charging for that which is free without adding any value to the proposition, such as the APDT charging hundreds of dollars for live streaming of select programs and access to lectures while SPARCS offers full coverage of the same speakers for free.4 One can listen to world class professors from Stanford or Yale for free, online, from anywhere in the world.9-11 Why would someone pay the APDT to listen to what is free elsewhere? That business model is over, where’s the vision? Market share may also diminish when companies become obsolete, or cease offering accreditation, certification or a value proposition for members, such as the APDT routing their core users and drastically changing their business model. Finally, controlled access to scarce resources is no longer relevant when information is ubiquitous and free. Whatever the reason, a heuristic axiom is that cavalier hubristic attitudes will surely speed up the process into obscurity. Just ask the countless failed dot coms of 1999 that partied like Prince and relied on free money and an internet bubble to achieve great market values only to plummet and go bankrupt. I can see and feel the winds of change in the seemingly “boring” industry of the science of dog training and ethology. Though not all may find ethology as titillating, this is how is see it.
I am happy to say that The Winds of Change is now not just an awesome song by the band Scorpions.
Shot Across the Bow
After watching the recent FREE live SPARCS event on June 20 – 22nd, with all of their wonderful menagerie of cogent speakers (Yes, even the atavistic curmudgeon Ray Coppinger, PhD with his controversial absurdities comments about canines ‘lack of consciousness’, and politically incorrect comments) it is apparent the business model of bringing the science to the masses is changing and quickly! The SPARCS event hosted some of the foremost (and up-and-coming) speakers and scientists in the canid field. You could pay to be live in the audience and would then receive continuing education units from your credentialing organization or you could sign up for one of their two membership packages to replay the conference at your leisure. SPARCS offered this free, live streaming to everyone! SPARCS also leveraged their platform and speaker assets by engaging and connecting the listeners from around the world, turning them from disconnected listeners to avid engaged participants. Bringing everyone into the fold and altruism back to the education equation with questions about how to solve interesting problems and examples on how to lead.8,12
The winds are moving and the writing is on the wall. Organizations such as the ethical, force free PPG (Pet Professional Guild) and the progressive IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) are continually making intelligent progress hosting their own education events and growing memberships.
It is an exciting time to be in the canid industry! As early as a few years back there was little choice, availability to science, and barriers to entry monetarily and technologically. Industry behemoths were charging what they liked with little challenge or value from others. Voices, like mine, who called for higher standards, went ignored and emails went unanswered. But eureka, these voices broke through and some progressive organizations are now embracing change. By adapting different business models, the constant thirst for change and information has been hydrated. The masses have spoken and in large numbers! Tens of thousands of canophiles attended both live and from all over the world via live streaming, the latest SPARCS event! What a success!
Yes, I admit to dealing with my own instinctive drift, toggling to and fro with the world cup now and again, however I did not get overcome with ennui and all in all it was a riveting showcase of science and scientists at their finest. Bringing the chasm between research, science, practicality and trainers on the front line ever so closer together singing Kumbaya. This just may supplant the hypothetical constructs and conventional myths of reality “Whispering” shows and will benefit canophiles the world over.
The event did not go without some hiccups here and there. There were some rusty spots and technical issues but did I mention it was FOC (Free of Charge)! Any technical glitches got cleared up quickly and I am sure Prescott and crew will learn and be back stronger next year. It was fun participating at home, on twitter and interacting with the erudite speakers and wonderfully voluble hosts, Julie Hecht, MSc and Mia Cobb BSc who have a wonderful blog as well, Dog Spies, and would have showed up Billy Crystal at the Grammies.5-7 I look forward to next years event and maybe this time, in person!