In the past few years, more specific since having kids, Saturday has become synonym for pancakes. Unfortunately for my wife, it is history repeating. She’s been eating pancakes since her childhood and was finally rid of this weekly event. But then, I got in charge of meals at noon on a Saturday. What better way to satisfy kids and my own tummy with a nice pancake. But it has learnt me also that messing up the first pancake is a myth, you simply need to learn from the experience. Hello empiricism, hello Agile.
Making pancakes is easy: eggs, sugar, flour and milk are the main ingredients and after following the recipe a couple of times, you’ll get the hang of what the texture of the pancake mixture should look like: not too fluid, not too solid. To be honest, messing up the pancake mixture is quite difficult to do.
But then the tricky part starts. You need to heat the pan, add butter and wait for the right moment to put a portion of the mixture in the pan. Wait… wait … wait long enough, but not too long to flip the pancake from one side to the other and then have a perfect first pancake. It is tricky because, when I’d started to cook pancakes, I have to admit that the first one always became a mess. The small pieces of that messed-up first pancake then became little appetizers for my kids before they were actually going to eat the others at the table (like you supposed to do). Now, I have became an expert pancake cooker. I have an eye for when my pan is hot enough and I am able to assess the right amount of butter to be put in the pan to have a successful first pancake. Nevertheless, the first pancake remained an appetizer for the kids, but in stead of small failed pieces, my kids tear up a perfect first pancake. But my satisfaction in cooking the pancakes is higher now.
Ok, but what has this to do with the empirical mindset? There is this personal requirement: create the perfect first pancake. In my development process, I have all ingredients to cook a successful first pancake, but I am not 100% in control of the heat of the pan and the right temperature of the melted butter. So, I experiment with this and after every failed first pancake, I inspect and adapt. And so the next time, I wait a bit longer before putting the butter in the pan, or I wait till the butter starts to sizzle, or … I’m learning from what I am experiencing. The process is always the same: inspect and adapt.
I admit, this is knocking on an open door. We know that this is the process to learn to cook a perfect first pancake. Just like we know, it’s the same process to learn ‘how to ride a bike’. We know. We all know that we learn from experience. We know it since we were born. And yet, when we go to work, apparently we’ve learnt that we have to rely on rationalism. Well.. Dylan sang it: “the times, they are a-changin’”, and already for quite some time now. So, let’s think of Empiricism and Agile as our rediscovered old best friend, not as a new person we need to learn to love. We already know that friend, just have to learn to speak to him again.
The things is … learning from experience sometimes means that you’ll get bruised; whether that is physical or mental. And I can understand that getting bruised in a professional environment doesn’t feel comfortable. Yet “bruises make for better conversations, loses the vibe that separates”, sang Train once. And so, maybe think of your professional life as an adventure more than a day to day job: jobs might fill you pockets, but the adventures fill your soul. Restart learning from experience.
“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble,Theodore Roosevelt
you wouldn’t be able to sit for a month”
Since change is omnipresent in organisations today, we are all asked to flip from one thing to another without always knowing what that new thing is about. Stay curious and learn it by inspecting and adapting. Just like you would be curious when you want to the cook your first perfect pancake ever.