Try One Frightening Thing

In an interview with National Public Radio, Nigella Lawson provided the following secret for creating new recipes: try one new frightening thing every day.  The examples she gave might not appeal to every palate (e.g., lemon risotto morphing into lemon with linguine, and  Ham in Cider moving through Ham in Coca-Cola to become Ham in Cherry Coke), but they do provide insight into a useful approach to innovation.  She started with the insight that the best way to find out what works is by experimenting.  The changes she tried were not out of left field.  They were within the realm of possibility, provided you looked beyond the immediate and well-known.  For the excessively timid who live life in a recipe-bound, rules-bound, precedent-bound fashion, Nigella Lawson provided the following comforting reminder:

The worst that can happen is that you don’t have the best supper of your life. And the best that can happen is that you feel thrilled and excited and gratified by the fact that it’s worked.

This is a great example of the value of setting perspective in order to enable innovation.  By pointing out that all that was at stake was the quality of the supper, she creates a “safe-fail” environment, which is key to innovation.  In this instance, the downside is not dire, so what do you really have to lose by trying something new?  And, if your experiment doesn’t work, what real harm is done?

What are some equivalent opportunities in your organization?  Are there areas where you’ve been been recipe-bound for lack of willingness to take the comparatively small risk that supper might only be edible rather than delicious tonight?

[Photo Credit:  Rosie Greenway]

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4 thoughts on “Try One Frightening Thing

  • July 8, 2009 at 11:49 am
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    Inevitably, of course, one can also learn from other people's frightening things. With that in mind, I should share the results of a cooking experiment some time ago.

    Cod in red wine: don't do it. It is a very bad idea (and taste). A waste of good fish and good wine.

  • July 9, 2009 at 4:04 am
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    Dear Mary,

    I like the idea of trying frightening things. However I fear many risk-averse lawyers will not, simply because they may have seen what happens when you mix ingredients that weren't meant to be together (see:

    )

    More seriously, “safe-fail” is a good idea, unfortunately any sort of failure can be seen as unsafe in a law-firm and is to be avoided at all costs. Certainly that has been my experience in law firms.

  • July 9, 2009 at 8:04 am
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    Dear Mary,

    I like the idea of trying frightening things. However I fear many risk-averse lawyers will not, simply because they may have seen what happens when you mix ingredients that weren't meant to be together (see:

    )

    More seriously, “safe-fail” is a good idea, unfortunately any sort of failure can be seen as unsafe in a law-firm and is to be avoided at all costs. Certainly that has been my experience in law firms.

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