Earlier this year we instituted what we call, Inspiration Day — a day for our team members to go do something, anything, that may spark creativity that can be used for our clients. I chose to use my Inspiration Day for a cooking class in Charleston, SC. My wife and I both love everything about food and cooking. For me, it's a stress reliever and something I can do that is creative, but is also so immediate. In our field, we often create things where we may not see the definitive end of the idea before we're already iterating it. Metaphorically, we don't get to sit down around a table and enjoy the idea. With food, we do. And, as much as I love food, I equally love how food brings people together. My wife and I love sitting around a table with our kids and the food we've made and talk about the day. Or, one of those dinner parties where everyone gathers around the kitchen island for drinks and appetizers while we finish making dinner ,then sit around a table covered with dishes, and wine bottles, and talk all evening. Wendy and I joke that our next house will just have one huge area for a kitchen and a big table — it's where we spend all our time at home.
Before I left for Charleston, a bunch of team members said, "take lots of pictures of the cooking class for the blog…" I intended to. But, the truth is I took very few — just two. I took a lot of pictures of Charleston and our time there. I loved it — it is a magnificent city. But once we started the cooking class, the chef instructor started talking about the importance of our senses when it comes to cooking: sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. And I decided to put my phone away to be fully present. We didn't focus on any one recipe, but rather techniques. There were two in particular that I made note of and thought to apply to my work: the importance of mise en place, and the need to work toward balance in the dish.
Mis en place translates to "everything in its place." If you've ever watched a chef demo a dish being made, you notice the small bowls of all the components needed for the dish already cut, washed, measured out and placed meticulously at the chef's station. It makes cooking look easy. But it's the attention and work the chef puts in before you ever see them making the dish that makes it look so effortless. I find my thinking for a campaign can be sloppy or unnecessarily complex when I haven't put in the work to think through every element of the campaign in advance. I have to start over to get to a clean idea. If I'm indulging myself I can call it the process of reaching an idea. But, if I'm being honest, it would best be described as time wasted because I rushed in. Mise en place applies to our world in creative communications. I enjoyed the article by @ronfriedman in the Harvard Business Review Blog called, 'How to Spend the First 10 Minutes of Your Day.' It uses the concept of mise en place in relation to productivity and drives home the same point. I'll be working toward applying the creative version of PR mis en place moving forward.
And lastly, I enjoyed how the chef showed the importance of understanding balance in a dish and where it comes from. And once you do, you can cook — not bake —without a recipe because you know how to create balance. If the dish has too much acid, add fat; if it is a soft textured ingredient, look for places to add a bit of crunch, etc. My wife makes the most amazing dressings and sauces and whenever I say, "please make that again!" she says she can't because she was just playing with whatever she had available — just creating balance until it worked. The reminder I wrote down was to continue to seek out the balanced thinking that comes from talented people other than yourself. Because, like anyone who creates for a living, at some point you run into the danger of becoming "one-note." Our world in PR is changing so fast that if we just rely on our own thinking — even if you've been told your whole career how wonderfully, strategically, creative you are — you run the risk of losing balance in the idea. At Curator, we seek out team members who bring different components to our thinking — we are definitely not one-note when it comes to our team.
I was also reminded while participating in the class why we designed Curator around working with lifestyle brands. It's a passion and a joy to be able to spend our days working with brands that make people happy. And of the continual growth and work needed to be great.