Design of Business

Business, Culture & Entrepreneurship

Chefs & Ginger: Lessons for the Startup CEO

Gari (A japanese pickled ginger.) ???

Image via Wikipedia

One of the best kept secrets least discussed matters in the startup world is what power a CEO really wields. When you are one of the worker bees or even a vice president it seems that the CEO is this powerful fellow, who at times appears all-knowing. And even when he isn’t, he still seems to wield an unfair amount of power. It’s only when you get to be the CEO of your own startup — by accident, choice or default — you realize that the power of the CEO is all too illusory.

Sure you can TELL folks what they should do and you can mean NOW! but that doesn’t work too well nor get you too far. You’ll soon find out, what anyone who’s raised teens knows, that what you want and what you get can be two different things.

Recently as a friend and fellow entrepreneur and I discussed issues each of us were facing in our businesses, about getting things accomplished, it hit me suddenly. Ginger! There’s much leaders, especially new CEOs, can learn from good Asian chefs – especially in how they use Zingiber officinale – or ginger.

Ginger when used in small amounts, whether to flavor a favorite curry dish or to create a zing in your tea, elevates the dish and the entire culinary experience. There are few delights greater than having sushi with some finely sliced and pickled ginger – a near out-of-body experience when accompanied by wasabi. At the other end, a well made ginger ale or even a ginger chutney, despite being all ginger can be immensely enjoyable.

The trouble however arises when too much ginger is used in the tea or too little in the ginger ale, making both undrinkable and worse yet leaving a nasty aftertaste. Despite the taste risks too much or too little ginger poses, you rarely find Asian cooks using physical measures of the quantum of ginger they use. It’s all a subjective call and a visual appraisal honed through apprenticeship and experience.

It is the same expertise that leaders, especially of startups need to cultivate of when and how to use what amount of cajoling, pressure, suasion or even the occasional threat to get their work accomplished.

Of course both the chefs and chiefs can benefit from sharp knives, but that’s a story for another day!

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