ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Want to Innovate? Don’t Forget the Prosciutto! (It’s not just about food)

Posted by Plish on January 25, 2018

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This doesn’t look impressive does it?

But it smells and tastes delicious!!

What does this have to do with innovation?

Everything.

The Road to Innovation is Paved with Prosciutto

The other day I was poaching an egg for breakfast.  I had some baked prosciutto chips that I had made a few days earlier.  I didn’t want to throw the crunchy pieces on the finished egg so I figured I’d re-hydrate them by throwing them in the water with the egg.

A mouthwatering aroma started rising from the water…

When the egg was done I took the egg and soft prosciutto out of the water.

I ate the egg and prosciutto with a slice of flax bread, and it was tasty.  But, I was intrigued by what I was still smelling in the pot.    I took a spoon and tasted it.

…hmmmm…not bad…

I poured some into a ramekin, added salt and pepper.

…Wow! REALLY good!

I immediately recorded what I had done in Evernote, along with some ideas for how I could use this stock next time.

After cleaning up, I did some searching and found that prosciutto stocks are a known delicacy. So, while I hadn’t discovered something totally new, nonetheless it was something we would call an innovation.

How did we go from poached egg with Prosciutto (everyday thing) to Innovation (Prosciutto Stock)?

Notice that the innovation isn’t even what I was going for.  I didn’t create a crazy type  of prosciutto egg.   I made prosciutto stock.

How did this happen?

During the course of one experiment (trying to soften the prosciutto while poaching the egg) I made an observation, remember?

A mouthwatering aroma started rising from the water…

When experimenting, pay attention with all the senses – be present, be mindful.  Poaching an egg typically involves sight, touch and a sense of time.  The senses of smell and sound don’t typically come into play.  I could’ve ignored what I was smelling, but I didn’t.

I took a spoon and tasted it.

I almost threw out the cooking water, but I was curious.  I knew that if something smells good it usually tastes good.

Don’t ignore your curiosity – Follow through on it!  You will be rewarded as I was.

hmmmm…not bad…

Refine what you discovered.  Experiment with the results of your experiment.  Understand its limits.  Explore the potential of your new discovery!

Wow! REALLY good.

That’s great, but what’s the next step?

Record the discovery.  Understand its import.  Continue to build upon the discovery.

But don’t just sit on it.

See what others have done. Check if the idea is worth protecting.  Compare and continue to build upon the concept.

So there you have it.  Next time you’re experimenting or testing a prototype, don’t just rigidly perform and interpret an experiment.

Engage all the senses in the experiment. 

Be present to everything, even your feelings and how you’re responding to what you’re experiencing.  Yes,  “Why?” is an important question to ask.

What’s better when you’ve discovered something,  is to ask yourself if what you’re experiencing has the potential to be good or bad.  Don’t assume you know the answer! Be brutally honest with yourself, and if you don’t know if something is good or bad, find a way to quickly perform a test to find the answer.

You’ll be rewarded 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Food, idea generation, innovation, observation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lessons on Innovating Using Cornstraints (It’s Not a Typo)

Posted by Plish on June 6, 2016

Now that we’re in the season of barbecues and beer, let’s delve into innovating using constraints.  For this post we’ll look at innovating how we eat corn on the cob, so we should probably call them “Cornstraints” (Sorry, couldn’t resist 😉 )

Typically, eating corn on the cob is a delicious but messy process because the cob can be slathered with butter, salt, pepper, mayo, pepper sauce, etc. (Corn must be delicious! – User applied constraints).  Most people don’t want this on their fingers (Keep fingers clean –A user applied constraint).  Not to mention, corn cobs are remarkably efficient at retaining heat (an inherent constraint), so holding them at the ends can be challenge if they were recently plucked out of boiling water.

Doing a quick Google search shows people are pretty much dealing with these constraints already.

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Most innovations in this space deal with ways of holding the corn.  Inserting sticks or holding the ears of the corn seem to be the most common solutions.  Using napkins or some other intermediate device are also ways of minimizing mess, improving grip, and increasing comfort.

How else can we improve the eating experience?

  1. Who says we have to hold it?  It’s a choice – a user applied constraint.  We can, as some people with dental work do, cut off the corn and eat it with a fork.  We can also use a power drill (as has been done by some folks on YouTube)  but this brings up whether we should ignore another  user applied constraint: All the kernels need to end up in the mouth .  We could also design a corn stand that holds the cob for us; or for that matter, we could ask a friend to hold it for us so we don’t get our own hands gummed up.  This then brings up a possible constraint: Eating Corn on the Cob shouldn’t cause us to lose friends.
  2. Since the center of the cob is often hot, what if we cook the corn without heating the core?  Think of ways to do this and have fun with solar heaters or blow torches!  For that matter, let’s work with the reverse of the constraint (Corn needs to be served hot) and create a delicious COLD corn dish!  What about chemically ‘cooking’ the corn?  We can use enzymes or chemicals to convert the corn into something delectable and yet cool.   Or what if we slice the corn cob into 1/4″ slices so that corn chips takes on a new meaning? 😉  Since they’re thinner, the centers will cool faster and be easier to hold.  Plus, the corn can now be dipped into whatever sauce we want!  We ignore one user constraint (Corn cob must be whole) and turn another on its head (The entire cob must be slathered with the same substance)
  3.  The center of the cob is typically not edible (Inherent Constraint).  So let’s make it edible!  Can we inject it with something prior to cooking it so that it softens and tastes good?

I could go on, but let’s take a look at what I’ve done.

At the heart of all the above ideas is a questioning of the constraint.  Why do we have to buy in to the constraint?  Let’s change it.  Who cares if it’s inherent in the product – work around it!   Personally I like looking at the opposite of what the constraint implies and then find a way to make that reality.  What’s very interesting (and fruitful!) is that as one starts playing with the alteration of constraints, new constraints inevitably pop up.  This makes sense because once constraints get changed, the whole context can change.  This change in context demands that we ask new questions and probe the new constraints that are formed.

So, the next time you’re eating corn on the cob, think about ways of changing the eating experience.  It might make for a great discussion at a party!  I’d love to hear your ideas for changing the experience by experimenting with cornstraints. 🙂

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, design thinking, Disruptive Innovation, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools, Service Design, Social Innovation, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Acclaimed Author and Home Chef, Anupy Singla, on Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 15, 2014

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I had the great pleasure of chatting with Anupy Singla.  While her website says she is a ‘journalist turned foodie turned author,’ she could not have written the books she had if she wasn’t a chef.  Anupy’s book, “The Indian Slow Cooker” is also part of the distinguished “Beyond Bollywood, Indian Americans Shape the Nation” at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History! (You can read an interview with the curator here.)

Her response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

 

Anupy highlights a facet of innovation that’s one of my favorites.  The process is simple.  Take a product that is useful in one context and use it in  similar context where the product is unknown.  This principle is basically what underlies the creative problem solving process called, TRIZ.  She has applied it and combined multiple technologies to create an improved, stackable and patented, Spice Tiffin with spice levelers built into each bowl.

What are your thoughts on Anupy Singla’s view of innovation?

Posted in Books, creativity, Creativity Videos, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Interviews, problem solving, TRIZ | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts on Innovation From Chef Aaron Sanchez

Posted by Plish on March 27, 2014

 

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I was able to watch Chef Aarón Sanchez at work, and then chat briefly with him.  His response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

Chef Aarón was true to his Buddhist beliefs.  His short and sweet answer hit on a theme that I’ve heard from other chefs, namely, going back to the roots, understanding where you are and where you can go.    There is both constraint and open-ended-ness to “understanding where (your roots) take you.”  Inherently the roots have a potential energy. They provide the foundation from which innovations can grow.   At its core, this statement is about understanding your raw materials, about their potential, about how they can be manipulated to get the results you want. This doesn’t just mean actual brick and mortar substances.  It also applies to philosophies and ideas.  This is especially true if you want an innovation to fit in your portfolio.  If you want your innovation to be recognized as having ties to certain roots, you need to understand those roots.

At first when he said, “Always use the best ingredients,” I was stumped.  Was this supposed to be a koan?  What do good ingredients have to do with innovation?  And then it hit me.

The questions isn’t “what?”, it’s “why?”

Why are the best ingredients important?

It’s a question of fidelity.  If ingredients are poor, if the raw materials are poor, people experiencing the innovation may not get what the innovation is trying to say.  A milk  flavored with a gentle herbal blend will not convey subtle flavors if the milk is old and sour.   That innovation will be rejected.  It’s not that the innovation is a bad idea.  On the contrary, it may be a great idea, but because I didn’t use the best ingredients, the innovation in the glass doesn’t resemble the innovation in my head.  Something was lost in the translation from idea to reality.

It’s important then for innovations to have a level of fidelity that is appropriate for what needs to be communicated/experienced.  This can only occur if the ‘ingredients’ in your innovation are the best.  My maternal grandmother used to say with regards to cooking: “Put good things together and it’ll be good.”  This doesn’t mean that if you take 2000 of the best ingredients and stir them in a pot they’ll taste good.  No, it is about context.  Combine good things, in the appropriate way, and the flavors in your mind will be faithfully reproduced in the eating experience.

This, interestingly enough, closes the loop and brings us back full circle to understanding one’s roots.  You can’t be true to your understanding of your roots, and communicate innovations that come from them, if you don’t use the best ingredients.

What do you think about Chef Aarón’s philosophy on innovation?

~~~

I want to thank you, Chef Sanchez, for putting up with me and taking the time to chat.  You were most gracious and considerate, even with multiple people and commitments pulling you in myriad directions.  You were being true to your roots, and you only used the best ingredients.  Thank you!

 

Posted in creativity, Creativity Videos, Design, Food, innovation, Interviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation, Design, Beauty and More From the International Home + Housewares Show

Posted by Plish on March 5, 2013

I went to the Home + Housewares Show today.  I love this show – the new ideas, the color, the food and cooking, it’s a veritable smorgasbord of design. Because of an impending snowstorm I was only able to attend today and as a result, there is one hall that I did not fully check out. Below are pictures of approaches to products that are beautiful, or sometimes, just different enough to make one say, hmmm… Without further ado, and in no particular order (actually they are in the order I took the pics):

Made from hemp, I really dug the Twist.  (It got a great review here) Even the writing on the back was fun: “Some raviolis are filled with meat. Others with cheese. Ours are full of clean. If you want to get technical, they’re actually a pastry of hemp burlap, stuffed full of biodegradable sponge. And they’re shaped like a jumbo ravioli. Perfect for baked-on food like, well, ravioli. Sorry. We couldn’t resist the perfect symmetry of this design story.”

Biodegradable scrubby

Biodegradable scrubby

Silicone Glasses and cups were actually all over.  The use of silicone keeps becoming more ubiquitous (if that’s possible!) every year. I like the fact that this particular cup went the extra step of providing Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in creativity, Design, Experience, innovation, Sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation Occurs With L.E.F.T.O.V.E.R.S

Posted by Plish on November 25, 2010

After Thanksgiving we often have to deal with the leftovers.  While we view the Thursday meal as the culinary focus, it’s the leftovers that result in innovation.  So, I created an acronym for the innovation process from the word “leftovers”.  It can apply to cooking a meal from leftovers or designing a new product.

L ook at the situation and define the problem (I’ve got a few people over for a party, leftovers in the fridge and beer chilling and people will be hungry.  In what ways can I feed them?)

E ntertain possible combinations of solutions (I could order pizza…hmm, looks like an awful lot of turkey left, some stuffing, stuffing croquettes maybe?, gravy and a lot of cranberry sauce, a little pumpkin pie,  some spicy  hot mustard looks lonely in the fridge…hmm…I yell out some possible food combos to get feedback)

ocus on the best solutions  (…turkey sandwiches with cranberry mustard sauce – sweet!)

T est the best (throw together some cranberries and mustard in a shotglass and dip my finger in…niiiiice…grab some bread and start toasting it, try nuking a little turkey…)

O bserve and learn what works and what doesn’t  (The microwave dries out the turkey too much, I heat up the oven and warm the turkey in there. Noticed that there’s too much juice in the bottom of the cranberry container- it’s making the mustard too watery…)

V alidate the results with more testing and feedback (Finished mixing the bigger batch of cranberry mustard and let my wife try it – she dunks in a piece of warm turkey from the oven and bites a piece of bread- amazing!!)

E scalate the scale of the implementation of the solution (Slice the bread, call the friends into the kitchen and have them build their sandwiches)

R eflect on what worked and what didn’t (Sandwiches were a hit, but the beer might have been too hoppy for that dish.  Red meat only may actually have worked better, maybe chipotle pepper in the mustard for some smoke…)

S avor the Successes…

So there you have it – innovation from the leftovers!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in creativity, Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, Food, idea generation, imagination, innovation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fifteen Seconds on Innovation from Iron Chef, Jose Garces

Posted by Plish on March 15, 2010

While at the Housewares show today in Chicago I was able to speak to Iron Chef Jose Garces .  The question I put to him was simple, “What is your take on innovation?”  His answer is simple and  profound.  He expounds on this answer in the introduction to his new book, Latin Evolution:

“As a chef, my constant challenge is to find the possibilities that new ingredients and techniques offer, while honoring what has come before. My mantra is simple: ‘authentic’ and ‘innovative’ are not contradictory. This recipe collection is a highly personal mix of my family history, culinary training and personal creativity. That’s how my cuisine evolved.”

What do you think of this definition?

(By the way, Chef Garces is one of the most approachable, congenial men you will ever meet.  I’m looking forward to sampling more of his innovation at his restaurant Mercat a la Planxa here in Chicago. :))

Posted in Authenticity, creativity, Food, innovation, Interviews, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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