By Cyndi Dawes.
The world is awash with recipes. Following a recipe to the letter generally guarantees success, so long as you have a modicum of basic cooking talent. Does being able to follow a recipe make you a cook? Probably not. Certainly not now in the time of COVID 19 innovation and change.
If you are the kind of person who flips out if a recipe calls for fennel seeds and you’re out, or if you choose another recipe or dash to the shops to get some… you are great at following a recipe.
If you confidently substitute another herb in the same flavour family and make other adjustments you are probably a cook. If you can cook a meal for others in a holiday house kitchen with sub standard knives, one frying pan and a dodgy stove, you are definitely a cook!
Being a confident cook requires more than following a recipe.
You need to understand flavour and flavour combinations, the best tools for the job, how to improvise with other tools, how long ingredients take to cook and underlying this some really foundational skills in understanding salt, fat, acid and heat.(1)
Crafting solutions to complex problems is a bit the same. At Huddle we often talk about being human-centred, not doing human-centred. To come up with collaborative solutions you need to be able to pivot in the moment—abandon the plan in that workshop to talk about the issues coming up and be outcomes focused, not process focused. In a research interview, lose the list of pre-prepared questions if the gold is elsewhere.
The thing about becoming a great cook, designer or problem solver is that we all start with the recipes. We learn skills and confidence to experiment through repetition and reflective practice. We also learn what kind of cook or problem solver we are by taking note of what feels easy, what our preferences for tools and approaches are. Certainly now in the time of COVID 19 prompting innovation and change, we see that those who take a cooking rather than a recipe approach to continuing to offer service and value are those surviving, and in some cases thriving. There’s no recipe out there that tells us how to do this stuff!
If you are starting out as a designer or problem solver, get hold of some great 'recipe' books on design, practice using some tools and doing design. And bring the intention of becoming a cook…one that is welcome in any kitchen because you have the skill and confidence to deliver in whatever circumstance you find yourself.
1. See Salt, Fat, Acid,Heat by Samin Nosrat, the book or Netflix series.