Master Chefs Don’t Require Recipes


Have you ever worked with an agency that claimed to have a secret recipe? You know, some secret and mysterious means of gaining customer insights or crafting a great business strategy that is simply too powerful to reveal to the general public. There are plenty of them out there. Most have a scientific sounding name followed by a “TM” mark.

Much like great food, however, great research and strategy does not require a secret recipe. Instead, technique is the true differentiator between practitioners.

The advantage of a recipe is predictability and repeatability – oftentimes with the associated mediocrity.  And while one can certainly enjoy the Colonel’s secret blend of herbs and spices, few would consider KFC, for example, an elevated culinary experience. Great food takes great technique, and great chefs do not rely on formulas.

The mark of a great chef is exactly the ability to extemporize, not follow a script, and work with a set of ingredients to craft something novel. The same is true for a great researcher or business strategist, and recipes – so to speak – may actually confine an expert practitioner. Instead a great researcher or strategist analyzes the unique challenges associated with the problem at hand.  Deftly applying their experience, knowledge of client tastes and allergies, available ingredients, and tools at their disposal, they can craft a far more palatable (delicious even) dish.

Greg VanderPol