(Not) a recipe for innovation
Ji Won Yoon, New Zealand.
My Passion in action — Baking
The key to baking a great cake is to find a recipe — and not stick to it.
In doing so, this violates the First Law of Baking: always stick to the recipe. But while these recipes are there as a guide, they are not there to beat us with a rolling pin if we use 2 grams more sugar than it says to. Creating something new never came from following the recipe to a T; innovation is much the same. It is likely that an idea will diverge from an inspiration, but following that idea exactly will not produce a new product.
You and I are going to try and bake an amazing cake. But we are not going to stick to the recipe.
Innovation usually starts with a eureka moment, but research is needed to put the mind back into a realism approach before putting the plan into action. To begin the baking process, we need to research to find the best recipe for this particular type of cake. However, choosing the recipe on the basis of the title, for example “the best chocolate cake EVER”, nor the notoriously convincing paragraph above it, will almost never lead to finding the best one; the recipe itself cannot convey if it is the best recipe out there. Similarly, using one article written by one person when researching about a new idea usually leads to a single opinion that unlikely represents the majority. The most important advice in a recipe is the comment section, where other bakers have suggested their opinion. One comment may suggest to use ¾ cup of sugar instead of 1 cup, because they found it overly sweet. Gathering information from many different sources is vital in the development of the new idea. Suggestions from previous trials will be much more beneficial than believing a single person’s recipe.
The recipe has been selected, and suggestions from previous trials have been taken into account. Unfortunately, some of the ingredients needed are missing. People can find themselves in a similar situation with prototyping their creation — limited access to equipment, data and materials can often deter the process. But what about replacing self-rising flour with flour, baking powder and baking soda? And the dark chocolate chips with a chopped-up block of chocolate? This is where the First Law of Baking is defied, and the cake could be an absolute disaster, mind blowing, or somewhere in between.Innovation is never a straight path; we cannot be afraid to go astray from the original plan. We cannot be limited by our limits!
The cake has finished baking and it turned out well: different to the original recipe, but better than expected. We were aware that it was possible not to get a perfect product, because we were experimenting, and not following a recipe that already had great reviews. Expect to fail in the process of innovation. Going beyond the boundaries set by others will have a chance of failure, but that does not stop the chance of success.
Successful innovation often presents to the world a fancy final product, but there is a lot more hidden in the background. Just like the cake that we’ve just presented to the table — people don’t know the hours of work that you’ve put into it — they’re more interested in eating it.
Advice for Peers
Expect to fail in the process of innovation and do not be limited by your limits as innovation is never a straight path.
You can find some of Ji Won’s baking experiences at https://www.instagram.com/amateur_bakes/