The Masterchef formula to win.

I was watching the television show ‘Masterchef USA’ the other day. The contestants were divided into two teams and each team had to make a signature burger for the truck drivers who stopped at the truck stop. The drivers would get to taste both burgers and then vote for the burger that they thought tasted the best. The team with 51 votes would win the competition.

Both teams had 30 mins to prepare the burger before the truckers began to arrive. Usually, the winner of the previous challenge is given the opportunity of choosing his own team of 4 chefs.

The previous winner who became the leader therefore choose 4 team members and formed a very strong team – the blue team. He had previously worked as a truck driver and therefore had a fair idea of what truckers want. He was also good at cooking meat.

At the start of the challenge, the blue team organised themselves. They had a strong leader and a strong team. The duties were delegated and they were focused on the task at hand. They had decided to make an All-American burger. This helped them to have quite a few burgers ready by the time the first bunch of truckers started coming in. Everything was going well for them.

On the other hand, those who were not chosen formed the other team – the red team. They started out as the underdog. They had no leader, which meant that they had to choose their own leader or someone had to step up to the task. They also did not have any idea what sort of burger would appeal to the truckers. As they started out, they tried a recipe that ended up backfiring, and they had to redo the recipe. Therefore by the time the first trucker came in, they had prepared just one burger and had 99 more to go. The team was in mayhem!

Who would you expect to win this challenge? I am someone who loves having everything organised and therefore expected the blue team to win. They had a good start and everything seemed to be going well for them, so it was obvious to me that they would be the definite winners. However to my surprise, it was the red team that pulled through to win the competition

This got me thinking. How could the team that had the good start not win? Something was wrong. As I continued to think about it, I made a few observations. The Blue team had got into a comfort zone; they were not willing to adapt, even when they knew that the other team was winning. They felt that theirs was the better burger. They did not experiment, neither did they take risks. They were not open to change. Everyone did what they were told. They did not talk to the truckers to get their feedback. They only thought of their strengths and did not make allowances for their weaknesses.

The Red team, on the other hand, experimented, failed, learnt fast from their mistakes and each one of them kept at the challenge till the end. They interacted with the drivers at the tables and even served them more sauce (which was a winner for them).

These observations made me look at things from a work perspective. I realised that while it is good to be organized, it should not be at the cost of getting into a rut and not being open to change, risks or experiments. We, as an organization, work in a dynamic environment. It is therefore essential that as we get involved in our work, we should be willing to step up to the task at hand. If we don’t see something happening, each one of us should be willing to lead the others. We should interact with those on the field to understand the reality better and make changes accordingly. Challenges will come up in our work but we should adapt, endure and focus in order to win.

At the end of it all, I have also realised that a good beginning does not necessarily mean a successful end.

Divya Bunyan

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