May 27, 2022

Why cooking makes you a better strategist

Melinda Beyer

Strategy Intern

When I started my internship with the Curiosity Strategy Team, the work already felt like second nature. Even though I was new to the industry, it felt familiar, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Then, one night while making dinner, I realized what it was: growing up in the kitchen with a chef dad. I got curious about how this impacted my upbringing, my work, and the different departments at Curiosity work together. So, like any curious person, I took to Google.

When you Google what makes someone a good chef, you’ll find they are creative, curious multitaskers who are willing to learn and are genuinely passionate about their work. Similar things come to mind when you think about what makes someone a successful strategist. Strategists are constantly curious. They’re also willing to learn, challenge, and collaborate. A strategist's and a chef’s job never stop, because they’re always thinking about what’s next. 

I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by amazing chefs my whole life. My father, now a culinary arts professor, worked at my grandfather's restaurant since he was a teenager. Getting a front-row seat to the drive, creativity, and perseverance they displayed on a daily basis showed me early on that there’s always room for experimentation.

As I got older, and they sold the restaurant, the cooking continued. Every time my Dad would cook, he would talk me through what he was doing, why he was doing it, and his creative process. He also taught me how to turn a mistake into a masterpiece, often in such a way that we’d fool diners into thinking it was a part of the plan. I have applied these lessons not only in the kitchen but in my everyday life – both as a professional and as a person.

Let’s get this out of the way: you don’t have to be raised by a chef to be a good cook; however, cooking did teach me the basics of strategy such as rolling with change and trusting your gut. 

Cultural intelligence consultancy sparks & honey described cultural strategy as the insatiable curiosity about human beings paired with a desire to learn, find patterns, and formulate hypotheses.

At Curiosity, that is what we’re all about. I mean come on, it’s in the name! At the core of everything, every person is constantly asking questions and challenging assumptions that are made, wondering why, and figuring out how. 

I, being curious myself, wanted to see if I was the only person in the “office” who liked to cook, so I sent out a survey asking which my coworkers liked better; cooking or baking, and what departments they were in. 

To no surprise, a large majority of us liked to cook and we like it for similar reasons that make people good strategists. We like to go with our gut, have more freedom to make mistakes, and have the ability to be more creative. We love to cook for the same reasons we love what we do at Curiosity. 

It was also interesting to see which departments everyone is in and to see which kitchen pastime they enjoy the most. For example, those in HR and New Business preferred to bake, as they are more inclined to follow a process rather than test things and potentially make an error. Because let's face it, these are definitely two sections of the business where we want 100% certainty. 

This passion and chef-like mentality we share is what keeps Curiosity on the cutting edge of what we do. As a diverse group of innately curious people from all around the country, we are able to find different perspectives that we wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. Everyone has a passion that drives them and helps them bring insights to the table. 

When you cook, you have the ability to feed into the “what would happen if”-kind of curiosity. One that opens new gateways when you follow your gut. By creating in the kitchen, you are practicing and mastering the skills that make you a better strategist in all aspects of your life.

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