Collaboration, curry, and the importance of the creation process

Maybe it’s just me, but I derive a lot of inspiration from food, and do some of my bthai curryest thinking in the kitchen. And so it was, on the weekend, when I found myself trying out a new mortar and pestle (much different from the other two I own!) that I started thinking through what it means to create something.

I generally take the shortcut when I make my curry paste. I take all the lemon grass, the chillies, the garlic, and throw it in the food processor. But to test drive the mortar and pestle, I decided to do it the hard way; chopping and pounding each and every ingredient until I had a uniform paste. From the moment I started, the lemon grass began releasing an incredible aroma, and as I incorporated the chillies, I could see their color spread into the paste as it was pounded into the basalt. At every stage, I could see the transformation unfold, the smells and sights flooding my senses.

The result? A profound sense of connection and excitement about what I had produced; anticipation of what it would be like to use it. I understood something more about the paste and the process, and thought more deeply about the end product, when at last, I sat down to eat. What would I change next time? What worked? What didn’t? And most of all; pride. The final dish was the result of my work and effort, and it tasted all the better for it.

I was halfway through pounding out the ingredients when I started to think about the parallels with what we do; our workshops are the grueling hard work of leaders sweating it out with their people to pound out a solution that everyone has had a hand in. Each decision, each input, is seen, sensed and understood by the people who take part, and the end product is something that people can’t help but feel a deep connection and commitment to.

Solutions handed down from the top are the fast food of decision making: they are mysterious, uniform, uninspiring and generally unappetizing. Who knows what’s in there?

Co-creation is, to be sure, a lot more work. But when it has to count, there’s no better way to ensure results. You can’t put a price tag on how invested people become, just like there’s nothing you’ll find in the supermarket that compares with what I pounded out for an hour on Sunday afternoon.

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