In recent years, I have become somewhat competent at cooking. I never paid much attention to my culinary capabilities in the past, but a change in my life circumstances made me try my hand at cooking. And it has turned out quite well. I receive lots of compliments about my cooking. So what’s my secret? Simple. Treat cooking as an engineering problem. Apply simple engineering principles and you can become a pretty good cook. Here are some pointers:
1. Follow a Process: As in any engineering project, process is key to cooking. Don’t try to wing it. USE A RECIPE. I will either use one of my favorite cookbooks, or even better, I will look for a recipe on Google. When you are choosing among recipes, pay close attention to customer feedback – I won’t use a recipe that hasn’t been favorably reviewed by real people. And I read the comments people post to find innovative tweaks or variations of the recipe. Over time, you can build up your repertoire of tried and true recipes. And as you become a real pro, you can even improvise. But stick to the knitting at the start.
2. Source Quality Ingredients: As is true of any enterprise, you need to pay close attention to the supply chain in cooking! Don’t skimp in quality of inputs. I know that Whole Foods costs an arm and a leg, but if I’m going to make a special meat or fish dish, I will buy my meat from Whole Foods or a similar store. And will try to use the meat as soon as I have bought it. The same goes for spices. Grind them fresh for that added flavor. Remember – garbage in, garbage out. To make a good dish, you must have good ingredients.
3. Reenginer the Process: You can make your cooking a lot more efficient by reengineering the process of cooking. For instance, if you are cooking a meal with three or four dishes, look for standardization and modularity opportunities. Choose dishes that share some common ingredients, particularly veggies, onions and other things that you need to chop. Then, to save time in the preparation, prepare these ingredients for all your dishes at one time. Also, to “crash” the total process time, figure out the long-lead time preparation steps and sequence your cooking to start on those steps first. For instance, iif one of your dishes needs to simmer for 30 minutes, get that dish started first, and leverage the “dead time” to work on other dishes or to clean up. When I make a full meal, I think through the GANTT chart for my meal and plan the critical path to minimiz total processing time. The result – you can put a 4-course meal on the table in less than an hour, even though the total preparation time for all dishes may be 2 to 3 hours!
4. Simplify the Process: Look for creative substitutions that can lessen the labor and the preparation time. For instance, pre-prepared spice mixes work reasonably well as a subtitute for putting together all the individual spices. Boiled chick peas can substitute for boiling chick peas yourself. Chopped veggies for stir fry are more expensive than chopping them yourself, but they save time, give you the appropriate variety and quantity, and prevent wastage. Microwave your potatoes before you cook them. Remember to thaw your meat or fish ahead of time, so that you don’t have to spend time thawing when you need the meat. Find recipes that use less ingredients. And so on. If you can get 90% of the quality with 50% less time, go for it.
5. Remember “Attractive Quality”: The Kano model for quality talks about the importance of “attractive quality” – these are features that “surprise and delight” customers. Applying this to cooking, you should pay close attention to small “extras” in your recipes that can create surprise and delight. It might be a litte garnish of roasted nuts or a sprinke of fresh cilantro on top of your rice. It can be a special presentation touch. It can be an extra ingredient like saffron or an herb that people don’t expect. Little extras go a long way.
6. Escape the commodity trap: When you put effort into cooking, why produce “commodity” food? You might as well create “value-added” differentiated food! So I always try to do something different, something new, something unexpected, something gourmet. While you have to stop short of making over-complicated dishes (something I fall prey to at times!), you can often be creative and different with little extra effort. Of course, you do need an appreciative audience.
So, these are some tips and tricks for becoming a good cook, using your engineering and project management skills. Cooking isn’t rocket science. Its an engineering problem!
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Today I walked down memory lane
Thought I’d visit with myself in the past
It had been a long time
As I rummaged through my mind
Dusting off cobwebs from what was
I uncovered a scene that lay forgotten
Faded and dimmed by passages of time
As I began to play it back in my mind
It slowly came into focus
I slipped effortlessly into in the past
I was back in the moment
I began to feel like I had felt
And to think what I had thought
It is as if a dam had been broken
I was awash with emotions
And overcome with feelings
As I slowly brought myself back
That the past lives in the present
Memories are here and now
So be careful when you walk back
Sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie
If the caravan must pass
with the minimum amount of commotion.
I was in Mexico this week to deliver a public seminar on Marketing. My host was Seminarium Mexico – they organize top-quality seminars featuring faculty from leading business schools. In my conversation with the host and participants, it became obvious to me how quickly the financial markets crisis affected the Mexican economy, and how bad things are likely to become. The Mexican Peso has lost more than a third of its value since August 2. Companies hare hurting badly despite the fact that exports from Mexico will become cheaper. People are very nervous about a run on the banks. The mortgage market is thankfully not in bad shape as mortgage-backed securities and derivatives linked to real-estate are not as prevalant. But it is a matter of time. I came back with a feeling that that things aren’t looking good down South. But in tough economic times, it becomes even more important to be customer-centric and to fight to retain the most valuable customers. That was my message in the seminar, and it resonated with the audience.
My new book just got published in Europe. I co-wrote this with two Italian co-authors – Emanuela Prandelli and Gianmario Vernona. They are both at Bocconi University in Milan. The book is called Collaborating with Customers to Innovate: Conceiving and Marketing New Products in the Network Age. The book synthesizes the work that the three of us have been doing on collaborative innovation and distributed innovation with customers in viertual environments. We discuss the power of virtual environments as a platform for collaborating with customers. We look in-depth at phenomena like Virtual Knowledge Brokers, Customer Communities, Open Source Systems. We present several in-depth case studies of companies that are leveraging the Internet for co-creation and collaborative innovation with customers.
The book can be found on Amazon UK at the following URL:
What Could Be
The roads that we don’t walk
Do they still continue to exist?
The songs that we don’t sing
Do they still play on our lips?
The books that we don’t read
Do their words still speak?
The people that we don’t meet
Do they still live in our midst?
The dreams that we don’t dream
Do they still haunt our sleep?
The feelings that we don’t express
Do they still touch us deep?
The kisses that we don’t give
Do they still caress our lips?
The prayers that we don’t offer
Do they still give us peace?
The yesterdays that never came to be
Do they still hold possibilities?
I gave a keynote last week at the Teradata User Group Conference in Las Vegas. The subject was “Collaborative Analytics”. To me, it seems logical that two key trends – the rise of Collaboration and the interest in Analytics should come together to create the concept of Collaborative Analytics. I define Collaborative Analytics as a process where inter-organizational teams organize, analyze and interpret federated customer and operations data to make better joint business decisions.
In this presentation, I first talk about the importance of Collaboration, and the rise of the Collaborative Enterprise. The Collaborative Enterprise consists of Collaborative Business Processes, which are inter-enterprise processes that need to be designed and optimized at the Business Network level, not at the level of the enterprise. Next, I discuss the concept of Collaborative Analytics, which is analytics for the Collaborative Enterprise. I point out the promise and potential of Collaborative Analytics, and discuss the challenges in implementation. I also offer a 5-step process for putting Collaborative Analytics to work.
The presentation can be viewed here: