This Foodie Friday, I want to share something I discovered from my grandmother, who knew very little about cooking and even less about business. Nevertheless, I came upon something the other day which is instructive in both areas. We bought a GroupOn to have some videotapes transferred to DVD and are in the process of going through the old stuff to make sure that what we’re sending isn’t just hours of babies laying about (which a lot of it is, not surprisingly). At one point during some family gathering, my grandmother is asked about making matzoh balls and how she did it. The answer?
“First, you take a glass of matzoh meal.” Not a measuring cup, not 12 ounces, a glass. You’ll probably find if you ask older cooks that they use simple tools even when more advanced things are available. Like most professional chefs, they understand ratios – a glass of this needs one egg and half a glass of that. Their simple tools belie the fact that they have a much deeper understanding of what they’re doing, even if Nanny and her peers would never look at it that way.
The business thought is that sometimes all of us make things too complicated and maybe even hide a fundamental lack of understanding. Whether it’s assembling a complex spreadsheet when a calculator will do or something like funneling data through a data warehouse to assemble reports we’re too careless to do by hand, there are lots of examples we can find. While I’m obviously a big fan of technology, sometimes we lose the basic understanding of what we’re doing in favor of an understanding about how to use a particular bit of tech. As I tell my clients, we need to figure out the right answers from a business perspective and then worry about the tools. Many of them are focused on the “what” – the tools – and not on the “why.”
Nanny has been gone for many years now – her birthday was this week so I’ve been thinking of her – but it’s amazing to me how much we can still learn from people who wouldn’t know a computer from a breadbox. Or a matzoh ball.