Thursday, April 7, 2011

For The Love of Food

I am a foodie. I like good food. If it is locally grown and organic, the better. If it comes from our own gardens in the back yard, the best. I also love to cook and I love to eat healthy food with friends and family.

I do not have a collection of cook books but I do have some favorites. A good recipe can make a world of difference when it comes to putting together a fine meal. This in combination with the right pots and pans can make a meal a marvelous adventure.

When I travel, I like, when possible, to eat good food and to have long meals with clients. These are working meals but when good food is present the conversations are better and more meaningful. People just open up, relax and explore ideas differently with good food.

But I know from experience that the good food is only half of the story, the other part is the atmosphere surrounding the food. Good food in a poor service environment just feels wrong. Great service and poor food does not sit well either. It is the combination of the two that makes all the difference.

Right now, too many people who are planning for the future are stuck in the “Tyranny of the OR,” a concept first presented by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their wonderful book, Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, HarperBusiness, 1994. No one reads this book anymore because Collin’s more recent titles like Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall have become best sellers. But both of these books are built on the foundation of the book, Built To Last.

Within Built To Last, there is a concept called the “Tyranny of the OR” vs. “The Genius of the AND.” As the authors explain, “Instead of being oppressed by the “Tyranny of OR,” highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the “Genius of the AND” - the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time. Instead of choosing between A OR B, they figure out how to have both A AND B.”

For example, these companies can have the following:

- purpose beyond profit and a pragmatic pursuit of profit

- a core ideology and a vigorous strategic plan

- Big Hairy Audacious Goals and incremental evolutionary progress

- ideological control and operational autonomy

- investment for the long term and specific demands for short-term performance.

As the authors continue, “We’re not talking about mere balance here. “Balance” implies going to the midpoint, fifty-fifty, half and half. A visionary company doesn’t seek balance between short-term and long-term, for example. A visionary company doesn’t simply balance between idealism and profitability; it seeks to be highly idealistic and highly profitable. A visionary company doesn’t simply balance preserving a tightly held core ideology and stimulating vigorous change and movement; it does both to an extreme.” The challenge is to embrace both.

When good food and good service are experienced together, then the whole experience is profoundly different. There is no balance as much as a synergy of the elements. The results are transformative.

This spring I encourage everyone to go out and eat good food in a great restaurant. Or if possible, purchase or grow good food, cook it, and then serve it to friends and family. The results will be worth the effort.

For when we come to embrace the “Genius of the AND,” we will understand the comments by F. Scott Fitzgerald when he wrote,”The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” This is exactly what visionary companies do every day.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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