What’s My Name?

Our Foodie Friday Fun this week begins with a question. What do English Muffins, Vichyssoise, and Spaghetti and Meatballs have in common? I think if you asked many people they might answer that each is a “foreign” food that has become popular in the U.S. Actually, while the popularity piece is correct, each of those dishes was invented right here in America. You can add such “imported” dishes as Pasta Primavera, German Chocolate Cake, a Cuban Sandwich, and nearly every bit of what most Americans think of as Mexican food to the list. Each of these was created here despite their name or feel.

English: Spaghetti and Meatballs

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What does that have to do with business? I dine a lot at a local Mexican spot. This is not the “Mexican” food of Taco Bell, Chipotle, or Qdoba. There are no English menus and while there are certainly tacos, burritos, and other familiar sounding dishes, there are fillings such as tongue and tripe instead of the ubiquitous ground beef and chicken. There are also dishes (iguana, anyone?) that are truly Mexican. No chimichangas here.

I bring this up because we often allow our preconceptions of something to dictate how we process information. We hear “pasta” or “spaghetti” and we believe something originated in Italy. We see a spreadsheet and assume that the numbers and formulas have been vetted when in fact there may be computational errors or typos. Much worse is some people’s tendency to hear a name and assume  a lot about the person.  You know what I mean – a Jewish name means someone who will be good with money, an Asian name means they’re great with numbers. It’s a long, unfortunate list.

So the next time you settle down in front of a fajita or a nice bowl of chili and appreciate their “authentic” flavors, just remember that the flavor comes from Texas and not from Mexico. When you next settle in front of a report or a spreadsheet, spend a minute to ask about its origins as well. You can even think about what the motivations where of the person who created it. Try to keep an open mind about the interviewee in front of you as well, whatever their name, It might just change your whole perception.

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