Recipe culture is ruining business

behaviour change recipe Feb 06, 2020

I have a frosty relationship with cooking. It’s not something I find relaxing. It’s not something I like to spend time on. It’s not something in which I have confidence.

This has meant being bound to recipes. I stick to the process and trust the outcome will be okay.

But there’s a difference between following a recipe and knowing how to cook.

Recipe-culture is infecting business

Recipe-culture is infecting - and ruining - business.

  • On LinkedIn, for example, people are following the “how to post” recipe and hoping to see results. Pithy headline, spaced out text, three hashtags and voila!
  • On websites, people are following the design recipe of how one should look.
  • On sales calls, people are following the script recipe of getting to ‘yes’.

I get it.

Recipes are tantalising because they make us feel safe. These guard rails protect us from failure, and if we do fail, allow us to blame the recipe rather than ourselves.

Hell, I’ve produced recipes myself. “The ultimate recipe for a cut-through, frustration-free business”, for example. 

The problem is, at its worst, recipe-culture is rote. We follow a pre-defined process without really understanding what we are doing or why.

We skip the thinking. We dumb things down. We become derivative.

Knowing how to cook

Enter “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”, a best-selling book that has turned cooking on its head. In it, chef and author Samin Nosrat contends that understanding the four principles of cooking – salt, fat, acid and heat – empowers us to not only make anything, but make it taste amazing.

“By mastering these four variables”, the blub goes, “Samin found the confidence to trust her instincts in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients. And with her simple but revolutionary method, she has taught masterclasses to give both professionals and amateurs the skills to cook instinctively.”

Wow! Learn four principles and you can cook anything. This is freedom. Insight. Creation.

Imagine if you could do the same in your business?

In how you work with and through others?

In how getting people to do what you want them to?

Rather than being bogged down by a prescriptive list of ingredients and processes, imagine having the confidence to write any email, design any website, create any presentation, and host any meeting?

That’s why my approach to my work is to unearth and teach the principles underlying behaviour.

Anyone can give you an ingredients list of behavioural terms, and maybe even some recipes for their application.

But I don’t want you to follow recipes. That’s not where the magic happens.

I want you to cook. 


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