Crossbreeding Creativity. Insights From The World’s Best.
Ferran Adrià is arguably one of the most creative chefs in the world. His restaurant, elBulli off the Catalonian coast in Spain is like a pilgrimage centre for those wanting to worship at the altar of good food.
The restaurant has a limited season from April to September; bookings are taken on a single day the previous October. It accommodates only 8,000 diners a season, with 800,000 people calling to try and book places — around 400 requests for every table.
In his new book, A day at elBulli, Ferran Adrià: an insight into the ideas, methods and creativity of Ferran Adrià. Genuine creativity, according to this master chef, comes from not looking at what one knows, but from unusual sources and acts as an unlikely source of inspiration for the corporate world.
Adrià says his inspiration is as likely to come from visits to local hardware shops, museums and walks in the countryside as from visits to restaurants and food markets. His renowned chocolate powder dessert, Earth, was inspired by the colours and textures of the Australian bush. “My inspiration isn’t exceptional or strange — it’s from everyday life. But a strong inspiration is from Japan — the feeling and sentiment the Japanese have for food,” he says. Every year Adrià and his team create an entirely new menu of more than 100 dishes.
“To stay creative you have to have the best creative team possible, and the most important thing is not about the way we cook but about the way people receive what we do” he says.
The creativity that Adrià has achieved in the world of gourmet cuisine may seem far removed from the lives of most business people, but there are lessons to be learned. Paul Bennett, chief creative officer of innovation and design consultancy Ideo, thinks one of the key lessons is the way in which storytelling is used. “We tell our clients to look at the edges for examples of great storytelling, which is where people such as Ferran Adrià come in. Adrià sees food as a piece of narrative. Creativity is often at the edge of jobs but elBulli puts creativity at the centre of the business,” says Bennett.
Being prepared to dedicate time and money to creativity is clearly one lesson but Adrià’s ability to look beyond the world in which he works is crucial. Teamwork is a recurring theme and both Adrià and Great Ormond Street Hospital have been inspired by the seamless operation of the Formula One pitstop team.
Dr Allan Goldman is head of paediatric cardiac intensive care at the hospital, and it was while watching a race with his colleague Martin Elliot that they saw they could learn from the pitstop team’s smooth functioning. For the doctors, the critical post-op handover from the theatre to the intensive care team was an area of concern.
“We spoke to the F1 teams about the processes and safety culture, and designed a simple process we could use,” says Goldman. By compartmentalising the handover it became less haphazard and errors were reduced by around 35%.
“In medicine, who is in charge is often not defined, but it became clear the anaesthetist was the most suitable person, so they head the process now. Talking to people outside made a big difference.”
This story appeared in Guardian under a series called inspire and innovate, co-produced un association with Ideo.