The Ultimate Bite: Collaboration or Isolation?

#IMMOOC Week 4 Challenge

Oprah Winfrey talked about the ultimate bite on her show a long time ago, and a friend of mine recently introduced the quote to me at a conference while we were eating lunch.  According to Oprah, the ultimate bite can be achieved when you make sure to include a bit of everything from your plate that goes together in one bite. One ultimate bite. I made my friend repeat it, this time into my voice recorder app, because that statement held several implications for my overactive educator’s brain.  I plan to explore this idea in several contexts, but for now, let’s see if it fits within the context of innovation.

Develop a List of Ingredients

As any cook knows, a dish is only as good as its ingredients.  In fact, creating amazing dishes involves experimenting with lots of different ingredients or combinations of them. Sometimes, a cook strikes the right note by using ingredients in new and unique ways or in unusual combinations. Innovation is not all that different. While Pixar and other companies have had success in promoting creativity through collaborative efforts, can innovation thrive in isolation?  Yes, and no.  I know, I know. Riding the fence I am (Yoda lives on), but for me, innovation works as a harmony between collaboration AND isolation.  No, one does not cancel out the other. This may not make sense to all of you, or any of you, but here’s how my brain works.

Visualize Plate Design

I surround myself with various types of people: educators, professionals, musicians, farmers, writers, factory workers, plumbers, electricians, men, women, young, old, friends, family, students, nerds, athletes, and more.  Some of us fit into more than one category. The point is, I am not always intentionally collaborating when an innovative idea strikes, but having an innovative idea does depend on this weird mix of ingredients.  If I only surround myself with the same things daily, if there’s never a variety of interactions with my colleagues, family, friends, acquaintances, and my new found tribe (thank you Twitter and Voxer!), then I find I am not as innovating as I could be. I thrive on variety. My brain takes all sorts of oddities and somehow stirs them all together sometimes to produce a masterful dinner complete with my very own locally famous mashed potatoes (so good that you don’t actually need gravy), my Aunt Barb’s fried chicken (crispy coated but delightfully juicy) and gravy (so good),  my mom’s French cut sauteed green beans (bacon, butter, oh dear), my mother-in-law’s dinner rolls (from scratch), and my Aunt Cheryl’s coconut creme pie for dessert. Wow. That seems like collaboration. It is, and it isn’t.

Prep For Tasting

I find that I can cook better when I’m allowed the freedom to experiment with the different combinations of ingredients and more importantly, with many different uses of ingredients. If you tell me a dish can’t be made that way, then watch me make it that way, successfully. I’m oppositional defiant when it comes to status quo. However, if you hover behind me in the kitchen, second guess my every step of the way, then the results are not likely to live up to anyone’s expectations, much less my own.  Imagine how students feel when we teachers sit in the back seat of their learning and constantly make suggestions or bark directions.  Or how teachers feel if their principal constantly pops in and tries to direct the instruction or questions every risk the teacher takes, and how principals feel who have to watch over their shoulders because their superintendent is waiting for them to make a mistake. If I’m cooking and someone tries to control how I do it, I’m more apt to hand over my spatula (or throw it) and walk away.  Students, teachers, and principals have the same reaction, so keep that in mind before you yank the spoon out of our hands because we are stirring when we should be folding.

Take Notes

So have I answered the question? Is innovation dependent upon relationships and collaboration, or does it thrive in isolation?  Yes. For me it takes all three. I need relationships with a wide variety of people, I need to work with others at times, and I also require some me time. My creative process requires input, input, input, then time to process, then BAM! Got it! My innovative recipe calls for one part relationships, one part collaboration, and one part isolation. Once the meal is placed before us, we can grab a bit of everything from our plate and scoop it into our mouths for the ultimate bite. Toss in a dash of open mindedness, a pinch of risk taking, and a Coke Zero (I get thirsty) and the resulting meal may be amazing indeed.

3 thoughts on “The Ultimate Bite: Collaboration or Isolation?

  1. Great metaphor! Food always keeps me interested – ha. My favorite part was your Prep for Tasting. It’s so true – we have to give each other space for innovation to occur. That includes a super safe feeling that a learning risk taken will always be okay in the end. Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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