At first glance, cooking and baking seem to be different sides of the same coin. They both require various edible ingredients. They both require skill and knowledge. They both call for cutting, chopping, mixing, and stirring. And they both can create good things to eat.
But the actual processes of cooking and baking are often very different, a point which is made abundantly clear if you read their respective recipes. Cooking tends to be more free form and open to interpretation and improvisation – asking for things such as “a handful of sliced almonds,” “season to taste,” or “occasional stirring.” Baking, on the other hand, is rigidly precise, demanding not just a cup of flour but one cup and one tablespoon of sifted white flour, for example. And while cooking allows for substitution, baking does not. Don't have as many onions as the recipe calls for? Throw in some scallions. Short on shallots? Garlic will do nicely. But if you find you don't have enough baking powder, baking soda's just not going to do the job.
Cooking then, seems more like art; baking more like science. No wonder, too, that the different disciplines attract different types of people. While the uninitiated would think that good bakers would make good cooks and vice versa, that doesn't usually tend to be the case. Instead, good cooks will usually say that they can't bake and good bakers don't brag about their cooking abilities. Different strokes for different folks.
It's not just in restaurants that you find people with very different skills working together and contributing their different abilities to present superior products. In our office, for example, we have a number of people with very different skillsets and temperaments who understand that if we each do what we're best at, the sum of our labors will be worth so much more than our individual contributions. We've got left-brain thinkers who are number and detail oriented and apply their abilities to tracking our projects, meeting our deadlines, and maintaining our computer system and our offices. We've got passionate people-oriented professionals who maintain our client relationships and get their satisfaction from satisfying others and keeping our clients satisfied too. We've got creative thinkers — artists, designers, and writers — who get their jollies from creating concepts, strategies, and visual solutions that have never been seen before but move our clients' businesses forward. And we have hard-nosed analytical business thinkers who make sure that our clients — and our agency — stay proactive and profitable no matter how the world around us changes.
In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins famously wrote about “getting the right people on the bus.” But he also talked about making sure that the right people were in the right seats on that bus.
My father used to say that “you can't make jobs for people, you have to find the right people for the jobs.” This presents a real challenge as the world and our business evolves and changes. As we continuously reinvent ourselves — from a design firm to an ad agency to a brand management firm to a consultancy — we need to continue to provide opportunities to the people in our office who are also evolving and changing right along with us.
Over years of generously giving me great advice, my friend, client, and mentor Seth Werner has impressed upon me the critical practice of hiring for attitude. As Seth points out, you can teach skills but you can't teach outlook. This too presents an ongoing challenge as we endeavor to keep the right people in the right seats (Jim Collins) in jobs that we created for the business opportunities and not the practitioners (Leonard Turkel) who have to have the right attitude (Seth Werner).
So as we all try out a sparkly new 2014 and plan for the future while we reflect on the past, it seems to me that there has never been a better time to seek out the best and most passionate cooks and bakers you can find and make doubly sure that your cooks are cooking and your bakers are baking.
THAT should help create a delicious new year for all of us.