Several weeks ago my daughter and I were looking for a family friendly show on Netflix. We decided to step outside of what we might normally choose and landed on “The Great British Baking Show.” Each episode is built around three ridiculously difficult baking challenges the contestants must ace in order to become Britain’s Best Baker. The judges are the Mary Berry (yes, her real name) and Paul Hollywood (yes, his real name), the good cop/bad cop of the baking world.
I have no idea what the contestants go through to be on the show. I imagine it must be pretty stringent. I imagine they have to prove that they have more than a little basic baking skills in order to get a place on the show. I envision flour flying, butter whipping and tears flowing in front of closed oven doors, which is actually much of what happens on the show.
What I’ve learned watching the show is that ingredients play differently depending on how they’re combined. Certain types of flour react to specific rising agents. Flavors you never thought would go together are shockingly delicious, and butter is necessary in pretty much everything.
In a particularly sticky episode, the task was to bake a cookie. This was to be a “signature” item - one of the baker’s own recipes. The cookie crumbled when one of the contestants, we’ll call him “Bob,” inadvertently used salt where sugar was required. When Paul Hollywood took a bite, he knew instantly what happened and said that it “…failed as a cookie.” I began to think a lot about that comment, particularly in the context of teamwork.
Cookies, like organizations, are created and sustained around individual components coming together to create a whole. It’s that whole that is the purpose and function of the organization. Or, in this case, the cookie. If you make a cookie that is not edible, then you haven’t actually made a cookie. You’ve made a delicious looking paperweight, and that’s not the purpose of a cookie.
Organizations are built on teams, which are comprised of individuals. If those individuals are not executing the goals of the team, then the organization itself is not functioning to it’s purpose. That’s why creating cohesive, productive teams is imperative to the success of any organization. Granted, humans are not sugar and spice, so there are bound to be personality conflicts and style issues. The key is to find individuals and build teams whose flavors compliment and complete each other and set aside the ingredients (individuals) that don’t work in this particular mix. These are the teams that are successful, and in turn, make the organization successful. These are the teams that fulfill the purpose of an organization.
There may well be a market for cookie-shaped paperweights. There may even be a segment of the population that wants to eat salt cookies, but I can tell you that Bob did not win the title of Britain’s Best Baker. Bob got kicked off the show that week.
LB Adams is the Founder of Practical Dramatics headquartered in Charleston, SC. Her company produces training events utilizing theatre strategies to help humans grow more profitable conversations with other humans. She is an avid fan of cookies and baking puns.