It’s Foodie Friday and what has my attention today is an article in the Washington Post Wonkblog. Anything titled “Scientists have figured out what makes Indian food so delicious” has my full attention. After all, anyone who cooks wants to learn some secret to make everything taste better, right? As it turns out there was a business secret in there as well.
The researchers broke each dish down to ingredients and compared how often and heavily those ingredients shared flavor compounds. What they found was the less often dishes “shared” flavor compounds, the more delicious they tended to be. “The unique makeup of Indian cuisine can be seen in some dishes more than others, and it seems to be tied to the use of specific ingredients,” they reported. “Spices usually indicate dishes with flavors that have no chemical common ground.”
In other words, in the West many of us try to find flavors that “go together”. The MIT Technology Review put it this way:
The food pairing hypothesis is the idea that ingredients that share the same flavors ought to combine well in recipes. For example, the English chef Heston Blumenthal discovered that white chocolate and caviar share many flavors and turn out to be a good combination. Other unusual combinations that seem to confirm the hypothesis include strawberries and peas, asparagus and butter, and chocolate and blue cheese.
And of course, as with so many things in this world, that’s a right answer, not THE right answer. The lesson from Indian – and as it turns out many other Asian – cuisine is that more flavors with less overlap makes for a better dish. And that is a great business point too.
Many of us build teams that are way too homogeneous. In our effort to hire people who will “fit in” to the team, we don’t optimize our flavor profiles – how well the team functions. The team would be much better with people who have less overlap. You need members who will challenge ideas and not just go along. More perspectives, more skills, more voices equals a better product. Just as what makes a great chef is the ability to get those contrasting flavors to mesh so too is the test of a great manager how well he or she can bring together a diverse team of strong people.
Recipes as a network – who’d have thought that?!?!