I love eggs, but I’m not an egg snob. I used to scramble them by whisking them with a fork and cooking them quickly over medium heat. Often, I didn’t even bother with the fork. I simply cracked them whole in a cold pan, and stirred them up vigorously with a spatula as the pan warmed.
I had tried all the other best practices — using a whisk, adding milk or cream, folding them slowly over low heat — but, up until recently, I hadn’t found the results worth the extra effort. Then, a few weeks ago, I met a colleague at Boulette’s Larder for breakfast, where I had the best damn scrambled eggs I have ever eaten. They were tender, unctuous, and tasty, and they inspired me to revisit how I cook my eggs.
In my usual, OCD way, I’ve used every breakfast since as an opportunity to experiment. I haven’t quite replicated the Boulette’s Larder version, but my scrambled eggs are now significantly tastier than they ever used to be — enough so that I have permanently shelved my good-enough approach to cooking them.
I didn’t do any research, and I’m not using any new ingredients or techniques. The only thing that changed was that I had an experience that inspired me. That experience led to a renewed focus and a shift in how I applied techniques and ingredients that I already understood.
In my work as a collaboration practitioner, one of my mottos is, “Chefs, not recipes.” I believe this so strongly, I had it engraved on my phone. My insight three years ago was that practice was more important than tools for becoming a great chef, and I’ve been experimenting with ways to support and encourage collaboration practice ever since.
What I’ve come to realize this past year is that practice alone does not make great chefs. You also need to experience great meals. You need to understand what’s possible, a standard toward which you’re driving.
“Great meals” in collaboration are out there, but they’re in short supply, and they’re often not in the places most people are looking. I was lucky to have tasted the collaboration equivalent of some amazing meals early in my career, and those experiences continue to inspire me. I also see groups after groups that have not experienced great meals stop practicing after achieving minor gains. They settle, because they don’t understand what’s possible or what’s necessary for true high-performance. Their minor gains feel good enough, just like my fork-scrambled eggs.
Three years ago, I started with the premise that we needed an ecosystem of “gyms” where people could practice collaboration. I’m now realizing we also need an ecosystem of top-notch “restaurants” where people can experience great collaboration. It’s why I’m partially returning to my former practice of creating my own “great meals” and writing about them. However, this alone will not be enough. I don’t have any answers yet, but I’m looking forward to experimenting with possibilities in the coming year, and I’d love to hear your ideas!