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Reader Note: If you are just catching on, each Thursday we’re are doing a chapter each week of a book I’m writing for Millennials – teaching the insights that will (hopefully!) allow them to live long and prosper – and be around to clean up after us Old People who made a mess of getting civilization this far.
There are three sections to each chapter. Something you can read to children, a general reader part, and the advanced/business section.
We pick up with morning like so…
We established in the first chapter that there is RECIPE for everything we do.
Chapter 2 involves understanding (and owning) PROCESSES.
Chapter 3 discusses recipes and processes of INVENTION.
Chapter 4 looked at FLOW The reason we do management reports is so we can spot problems and head them off at the pass.
Today we look at “worldview” and how that “place we stand in our minds” determines what happens in the strange land “outside our heads.”
For Children and All
And it came to pass that the King summoned both Tom and Little John to his Court one morning to discuss his favorite subject, food.
“I want you two fellows to start inventing some new foods for me!” he declared.
“Your Highness,” said Tom “we’ve done everything as close to perfect as we can. The breads are always just right, the puddings are all extraordinarily good and consistent, and the meats are always prepared exactly right. What more do you expect?”
“It’s all good, and I appreciate your efforts,” said the King. “But go to work on it and see what you can come up with. Besides if you succeed, there will be more gold in it for you.”
With that, Tom and Little John returned to the royal kitchen table. They considered the ingredients, then considered how they had been baking, cooking, roasting, boiling, stewing, and the like when suddenly Tom had an idea…
“What if we started making recipes within recipes?” he wondered. “Let me give you some ideas Little John, and see what you think of them.”
Little John was fascinated with the idea. He knew that recipes within recipes was an important idea the moment Tom had spoken it, because he remembered watching how the King would eat certain foods with special pleasure.
Bread was one thing that came to his mind. Each time when they brought a loaf of their finest bread to the King, he would not eat it all by itself.
Instead, the King could put some other things with it. He would put butter on the bread while it was still hot. The butter would melt, soaking into the bread. Then the King would put something sweet on the bread. Sometimes it would be honey, and other times it would be jelly, and other times it would be jam.
Little John recalled how he and Tom had discovered how to make jelly. Now as everyone knows, the difference between a jelly and a jam is that a jelly is made of the same things as a jam, but all the pulp of the fruit, and any seeds are filtered out.
One day, while making jam, according to the traditional recipe, Tom had decided to try filtering the hot jam mixture through a cheese cloth, a special type of fabric that has enough room in between the weaves to allow liquid to pass, but not the seeds or pulp.
The King had been delighted by the invention, because he had always complained about the little seeds in raspberry jam getting caught between his teeth.
Tom began his inventing process in earnest. He had a big chalkboard in the kitchen and he wrote two columns on the board so he could explain what he was doing.
“Little John, let’s make a list of things we make as a column on the left side of the board and then copy it onto the right side. What we’ll do then is invent recipes by drawing a line from an item on the left column to every item on the right, and thinking about what might go good with it. But we’ll start with only three main kind of things,” he suggested.
Tom then wrote down meat, bread, and vegetables on one side of the board and then same list on the other side of the board. It looked like this:
List of Recipes
Ideas to Try
Tom and Little John began writing down some combinations.
“How would meat be made inside a meat recipe?” Tom wondered?
Little John thought about it for a moment and then the idea flashed before him like a bolt of lightning.
“I’ve got it! We’ll follow our recipe for cooking crab and then we will put it inside of our recipe for cooking the perfect steak.”
Little John quickly caught on: “If we do that, we could put some asparagus and sauce on it, too….”
Not everyone can afford to have the kind of detailed preparation that Tom and Little John put into the King’s foods. But the King was thrilled and named the dish after a princess named Diane.
Impressed with their results so far, they moved on the to problem of combining meat and bread next. What they decided was to bake a piece of meat inside of a pastry shell. This recipe became so popular that it was given the name Beef Wellington after a certain duke who had come for dinner.
They then wondered what it would be like to put the bread on the inside of some meat. After thinking about it for a few minutes, Little John offered an insight. “What if we take a chicken or a turkey, and fill it up with our fried spiced bread recipe?” And it was with that insight that turkey stuffing was invented.
Mixing meat and vegetables led to their invention of stew.
Rolling two bread recipes together, one for dark bread and one for light bread, led them to discover how to make fancy breads that look like a spiral when you slice them. Putting finely chopped fried vegetables inside a thin pastry led them to invent vegetable rolls and potpies.
It seemed as though ideas would never end.
The idea of putting one recipe inside another kept them busy for many weeks, and all the while, the King kept getting better and better meals. He was pleased and offered to give Tom and Little John more gold for their work. But all wasn’t well in the kitchen.
The work in the kitchen had become far more complex as more and more recipes were being cooked at the same time. Tom and Little John were having fun inventing, but there was simply too much work for the present staff. They needed to hire more helpers in the royal kitchen.
They explained the problem to the King this way. “Your Highness, we have made an interesting discovery. While we can make better and better tasting foods for you, these foods require much more work. For example, when we make you turkey with stuffing, we have to prepare a turkey and we have to bake bread and then we need to assemble the whole recipe with spices, bake the turkey and then make the gravy and the other parts,” explained Tom.
The King, being a wise and kind ruler, saw the problem at once. “Well, if you need more people, how will you manage them all?”
“We’re not sure, Your Highness, but we are planning to create a new job in the kitchen which we’re going to call the Royal Recipe Planner. It will be the job of this person to prepare the shopping lists, which have become more complicated, and plan ahead for the next day’s meals,” Tom continued. “It seems that as we add recipes within recipes that things get complicated very quickly.”
“Sounds well worth the effort,” the King replied. With that, he authorized hiring of half a dozen more workers in the kitchen to work as Tom and Little John saw fit.
Because Tom now had more workers, he was able to spend more time inventing recipes. Presently, he began to focus on combing three and even four recipes into a single delicious dish.
One of his favorites is known today as Chicken Kiev. Several ingredients, cheese, ham, chicken, a crispy frying, and then a delicious sauce….
Tom devised ways to stuff pudding inside of a hollow pastry shell, which he called a Bavarian Crème if it had a heavy pudding, but which he called an Éclair if the filling was light like sweetened whipping crème.
Over the next several months Tom and Little John invented hundreds of recipes by putting simple short recipes inside of other recipes. The King was happy, Tom and Little John were making a lot more money and things were going very well indeed.
One day, Tom approached the King with an idea so big that he didn’t want to share it even with Little John.
“Your Highness, I have come to an amazing discovery,” he began. “Everywhere I look, I now see a recipe in everything people do. When I see a farmer raising crops, I see that he is following a serial recipe or recipes in order. The first recipe is preparing the fields; the second is planting his crops. Then he has a recipe called “tending his crops” and in that recipe he pulls weeds, keeps the birds away and waters the crops. Then he has a harvest recipe. If he happens to have planted grain, there’s a recipe to separate grain from the chaff. But when I watch him from afar, these small recipes, which happen in a particular order, seem to form a single big recipe. In the case of the farmer, the big recipe is called “running a farm”.
The King furrowed his brow and spent several minutes in deep thought before responding. “Tom, I think I see what you mean. When I think of what I do as King, there’s a certain “recipe-ness” to it. I have normal life recipe like everyone else, meaning I sleep, eat, and work at something. But I also have a recipe of being King. I order taxes, look in on the farmers, supervise you and Little John, and order various Royal Projects constructed.”
Tom went back to baking and inventing.
Until finally, after many weeks, the King summoned Tom the Baker and Little John to a meting in the castle.
“You have both done very well for me – and your new combination of ingredients have led me to some of the most delicious meals of my life – and I thank you for that. But now I want to give YOU a gift!”
Tom and Little John looked at one another, perplexed.
“I am sending you two on an adventure!” the King was beaming with delight. And with that, the King brought out the Royal White Board and sketched a simple drawing on it:
Recipes from Foods We Know
Foods We Can Discover
“You have both worked very hard for me,” the King told them,. “But your efforts have one shortfall: Your ideas are not BIG ENOUGH.”
The Bakers look confused. They had been hoping for more money or some other gift.
“In order to grow in prestige, I need to look beyond my Kingdom,” the King continued. “I need a larger view of the world. I call it the Royal worldview.”
“To do this, I constantly look into the far distance as well as around my own Kingdom. I am sharing this with you, Tom, because you will go first.”
“But where your Highness?”
“ I have heard stories of a far-away country called China and an island kingdom called The Japan where there is a sauce made from fermented soy beans and salt. Soy sauce is what it’s called. Find it, bring it back here, along with all the new ingredients you can and bring them back her so we may experiment even more!”
With the King as his teacher, Tom learned that while it’s good to have a “Local View” and command of the local situation, it is also important to have a broad “World View” as the King called it, as well.
The world is full of amazing and good ideas. But like rare animals, you don’t find them all in just one place.
You need a “world view” in order to see them as amazing and good and they are not likely to come to you.
You, like Tom, will someday need to go find them,.
For General Readers:
The fact is that just about all forms of human endeavor may be viewed as a single or series of recipes, sometimes one inside another.
It’s not something most people think consciously about. If you have a day off, need to do some running around to accomplish certain errands, you just drive the family car to whatever your destination is, and don’t view anything with a particular sense of awe or wonder.
Yet it is an amazing collection of recipes. There’s a general recipe to “Get everything done today” and under that fall any number of nested recipes, and among some of these, there is a definite sequence. You can’t do the “fill up the car with gas for the week” part of the recipe unless you have run the car enough to make it worthwhile to “fill ‘er up”.
As humanity has evolved, the complexity of the recipes we run under the heading “Get everything done today” has expanded in both scope and complexity.
Yet the recipes are different in each culture because everyone views the world just a little bit differently, People living along the arid beaches of North Africa may not be as concerned with mildew as people living on the Washington coast where rain and overcast weather prevail.
People in Africa may build a peculiar kind of high-roofed house to suck heat out while people in northern Europe will build homes to keep heat in.,
Standing in different places, they see – and experience – the world differently.
Where you’re viewing the world from will determine boundaries of thinking.
Consider our friends Uggg and Thuggg, cavemen from ancient times. These guys didn’t have a lot of nested recipe stuff going on to clutter up their minds. Theirs was a serial world. And totally local.
It didn’t matter to Uggg that he foraged for food before searching out fresh water, except at his own spirits (and thirst) moved him.
If Thuggg was hungry first thing in the morning, he could set off to find his own food right away, and if this involved clubbing Uggg and stealing his, first thing in the morning, then so be it. On the other hand Uggg might not have food first thing in the morning, but later in the day he was almost sure to have located something worth eating, and so by a process of learning about odds, Thuggg might work out a crude schedule for his day that included clubbing Uggg sometime after noon.
But for both, although one recipe (club Uggg and steal his food) is serial in nature (give Uggg time to find some food first), it’s not a nested recipe, except that both events end up being nested within a single day.
Ugg, realizing that his “worldview” involved being clubbed regularly and it was very painful, decided to invent the bow and arrow…and so killing at a distance came to be.
As human are mere collections of nerves, stimulus – response is built into us. Club as the stimulus leads to arrows as a response.
This brings us to the matter of scale. It’s the old “can’t see the forest for the trees” issue,.
Let me introduce you to a concept I call “viewscale”. Viewscale means placing your mind at a particular place for observing a problem or situation. Viewscale is most easily thought of as defining the period of time considered as you look at a situation.
Let me show you how it works.
If we look at Uggg hunting food over a five-minute period of time, then we have a “close-up viewscale”.
On the other hand, if we “zoom out” so that the viewscale encompasses several days we see patterns. Uggg beat-downs then become predictable nested events within the larger context of an entire day.
One of the great lessons of life that I got out of my second divorce what that I didn’t do a very good job of communicating my “viewscale”. At the time of the divorce, I was busy building a vocational college and life was wonderfully complex. I had a first class facility, great faculty, and lived in the world of glitz and hype. I was able to take my then-wife to Hawaii as a guest of the local television station because I was a significant advertiser. People who I knew from my earlier years in broadcasting had grown in stature in the broadcast community.
On some occasions a limo would pull up in front of the school and people would drop by my office in downtown Seattle just to say “hello”. My Porsche was running great and I was really “making it” in terms of “success” by the modern consumptive society definitions. On top of it, I was busy completing my bachelor’s degree in business and working incredibly long hours. I was pretty much oblivious to everything, except the two major recipes that seemed important at the time, making money and finishing school. I was totally localized in my worldview
Yet while all of this was going on, my then-wife was living a different series of recipes. Her main recipe was raising a family. Working for a department store was recipe #2, such that she was experiencing an incredibly different kind of life than the one I was leading.
Because our worlds and “viewscales” didn’t match, we agreed to seek counseling, but it didn’t work out. We liked the worldviews we’d evolved and our places in them.
I was too locked into the “making it” paradigm, and while I can’t speak for her, I expect that from her viewscale, I wasn’t making the right decisions she wanted to support her running the recipes she felt were priorities. We weren’t able to negotiate a peaceful arrangement. That experience didn’t make either one of us “bad” – but it did cost one of us about half a million after-tax 2000 chained-dollars.
If there’s one thing I want Millennial’s to learn from this book, it’s the notion of considering other worldviews, perceptual viewscals, and negotiation to arrive at common recipes with others in a coordinated and mutually supportive manner. It’s not something taught in school unless you plan a degree in Marriage Repair, ooops! I mean as a professional counselor.
This problem of “viewscale” is what allows us to spot how recipes are nested and how they are serial, and therefore dependent on the outcomes of preceding events. Worldview reminds us that views are not always local. There is the ground at our feet in addition to those horizons that beckon.
Since that experience – and in fact for 11-years after – I did a lot of thinking, dating, and trying to figure out what I could do better in order to win as much in the human relations side of life as I had won on the financial management side.
It all came down to learning to appreciate both worldviews and viewscales of people.
Some people hold worldly views, but are out of touch with the local reality of the ground they are standing on. Others, though feel the coolness of the earth and become so entranced with the local – almost overwhelming tactile inputs – that they fail to look up to the horizon once in a while.
People also think in ways they’ve been raised with.
Sometimes, people will tell you how they think when they use words like “look” or “see” a lot in conversation. Those are picture-thinkers. They think with visuals. Thus, communicating with them about a viewscale and worldview needs to be done with finesse and in graphical terms.
Other people will use hint words like “listen” or “hear” and thus indicate that they are auditory learners. To capture a connection with them, losing the graphics and going with interesting auditory inputs might offer a better connection.
Then there are the tactiles. “Touch” “hold” “hand me” and other such phrases tell how they are to be addressed.
At last, when there’s been enough social chit-chat to work out how their thinking is “wired” – it’s time to begin the conversation tracks that will help you determine what their worldview is: local, stare at feet, or blue-sky and staring at distant mountains or horizons. If you’re lucky, you’ll find people who are mixed – a bit local, a bit longer-term in their thinking. After that, viewscaling determines where they are – how close to the forest and “Say, how big are those trees you see?”
When engaged in this kind of conversation, it’s also a dandy time to be on the lookout for political jingoisms that have been preprogrammed into people’s thinking because it “sounds good” but in reality is gibberish.
One of my favorites is the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child…” A liberal pantload. But it’s a widely spread pantload because it evolves from a Tavistok-like social agenda.
The real truth is that it doesn’t take a village.
It does, however, take a parent.
The unstated message (and subliminal sales pitch of the “takes a village) is that We can get rid of responsible parenting…
But no, we can’t. Unless we’re willing to bank on runaway government. And that sounds from my worldview like a very poor bet, indeed.
For the Business Reader
Once you’ve got the notion that most of any business can be defined as a sequence of serial and nested recipes, you’re about half way to running almost any company.
And that Bigger Half is always people.
It starts with the worldview of the boss – the HPIC – head person in charge.
As we’ve discussed before, as you change the arrangement of recipes in a company, their ordering and so on, you change the operating efficiency of the business.
Sometimes the business is very simple: a man plowing a field with a tractor in return for $100 seems simple enough on the face of it, yet there are at least two nested recipes that come to mind when even this simple example is brought to life.
The recipe begins at the moment of agreement as to terms. In this sense, you can look at any contract in the business world as a “recipe” that both parties agree to follow. If there is a difference of opinion about the recipe, there are “recipe interpreters” known variously as lawyers, accountants, judges, and juries that figure out what a particular recipe meant in a particular business situation.
Our fellow driving the tractor needs to know how to run a tractor. Now it should be obvious to anyone that he shouldn’t be hiring himself out to plow a field unless he has at least some mastery of his tractor-driving recipe, but it sometimes happens that businesses run into trouble on precisely this point. There’s an assumption that the tractor owner can drive a tractor although it “tain’t necessarily so”. How many instances have you seen in small business of disappointment due to assumptions being made about a contractor’s capabilities?
This is the “implied worldview” trap.
You see this all the time in the areas of software and hardware development. An engineering team will be given a product specification by a marketing department with the expectation that they get to solve the problem in as graceful and cost-effective manner as possible. But what happens with a two-foot cube is rolled out as a printer? It doesn’t make it past a marketing department that believed it the engineering deliverable would be a printer that was one cubic foot – not some monstrosity that is eight cubic feet.
The engineering group might have built a marvelous answer to the 8-cubic foot printer problem, but they missed the worldview that was poorly articulated in the Marketing specification.
This brings into focus the need for specificity when dealing not just with serial events in a company, but especially documenting the nested events in a business. It’s where each manager needs to sit down and figure out a personal philosophy of control and make some estimates about what will work in the present business situation.
“Are we communicating a reasonable worldview effectively internally? Does this worldview encompass our next generation of product?”
If the degree of specificity is too high, you get phenomena known as micro-management. 500-page marketing specs. Yet if the degree of control is to loose, you don’t get the desired results.
The man driving the tractor around our field not only needs to know about driving a tractor, but we might also require him to know something about contour plowing for control of erosion. Again, this is a nested recipe and our business relationship with the tractor-driver is about as simple as you’ll find. How do we communicate contour ploughing to the tractor-driver?
Working up the hierarchy of most companies, professional managers spend an increasing fraction of their time making decisions and communicating effectively.
Most managers have one of two worldviews: They either a) make a decision and then find facts to justify it, or b) find the facts and let them drive the decision.
In the first case, the gathering of facts is the nested subordinated function, while in the latter the it’s a serial (find facts, decide) action path.
Either approach will work some of the time, but statistics usually suggest a better batting average when it’s the second course; discover facts, then make a fact-fitting decision.
When inexperienced managers who lack clear understanding of how a business operates try the gut approach, the odds of them “getting it right” drop below 50-50, usually to the region of chance.
I think this is why I’ve seen incompetent managers in key positions; the odds just haven’t caught up with them yet, they married into the business owner’s family, or they are expert BS’ers.
Driving business process re-engineering (a complicated way of saying “business recipes” is implementing quality standards of the International Standards Organization (ISO). Not only does the ISO 9000 series declare that all business processes be written down, it also requires that the way changes happen within the organization be documented as well. The ISO 9000 movement can be somewhat confusing, if you don’t conceptualize the documentation as laying out sequential, parallel, and nested recipes.
Easily done, though, with an algorithmic mindset, proper document organization, and proper management accounting methods.
A final note about management understanding of worldviews and how to use them effectively:
I’ve found in my business career that people love money, but they also crave recognition. It validate their worldview aspect of work and when properly nurtured – by aligning personal success with company success – people will work their asses off going way above and beyond the call of duty.
This happens with the interests of the company and the employee overlap, and when the company can be depended upon to recognize and reward in meaningful ways that reinforce the employee’s personal agenda.
Toss in a few B-school phrases like “Praise publicly, punish privately” and next thing you know, flourishing worldviews and shared agendas will move everyone closer to the top.
Next Thursday: [keyword: Travel]
Write when you get rich,