What Amateurs Can Teach Professionals

I saw something last evening that provides the inspiration for our Foodie Friday Fun this week.  If you’ve been reading the screed for any length of time you know that I’m a fan of Hell’s Kitchen.  The contestants are professional cooks (I hesitate to say “chef” since very few of them seem to have the qualities needed to be a team leader in the kitchen).  I believe all of them have been to culinary school but all do work in professional kitchens.  One would think that a work environment that’s filled with opportunities to do damage to one’s self would prompt a pro to make safety an intrinsic part of how they work.  As last night showed, not so much, which also prompted a business thought.

Photo: flickr user abdelazer

One of the cooks was using a mandoline to slice a potato.  As you can tell from the photo, a mandoline is a fabulous way to cut off the tip of a finger or two if you’re dumb enough to hold whatever is being sliced in your hand instead of using the guard/holder.  In a pinch you can hold the veggie against the blade with the palm of your hand pushing it down, but you never expose your finger tips to the blade just as you don’t dice with your fingers straight out.  Needless to say, the professional cook took a trip to urgent care to replace the piece of his finger.

Here is the business thought.  The cook has probably used this tool hundreds of times in just this way and without harm.  Most professionals do things over and over and at some point those things become second nature.  Unfortunately, that routine may incorporate bad habits. Amateur cooks like me have to think carefully when we use dangerous tools.  I’ll admit I think less when using a chef’s knife than when I use a mandoline, but I do pay attention in both cases since I don’t use either tool for hours at a time every day.

The same holds true with our business activities.  Reports become routine.  We do fill-in-the-blank analyses.  That’s when someone – the business! – gets badly hurt.  Business professionals need to learn from amateurs, or at least learn to approach the tasks they do daily with the same care as the person who rarely does those tasks.  Think to when you were given an assignment which involved something new.  You double and triple checked everything and were super careful.  That’s the amateur mindset.

And now it’s off to pull out my mandoline to remind me to be careful today.  Care to join me?

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