Innovating in an Uncertain World

A conversation with Vaughn Tan about uncertainty, innovation and cuisine

  
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For this new episode of the Building Bridges podcast, I’m happy to share the conversation I had with Vaughn Tan, author of the book The Uncertainty Mindset.

Vaughn is one of the people I met “miraculously” online during the pandemic. I found out about his book in a newsletter this summer, and thought, “a book about cuisine and uncertainty? I have to read it!” And I did. I loved the book and started chatting with Vaughn via Twitter. Sometimes, there’s some magic left in social networks 🎁

Vaughn couldn’t have picked a better year to publish a book about the uncertainty mindset. We ended up talking also about the particular uncertainty of the period and what it changed for him.

An assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship in London, he used to work for Google in California. In short, he knows a lot about innovation and management—both from experience and academic studies.

For his book, he observed the inner workings of R&D labs in high-end cuisine and wrote a captivating account of how top chefs and their teams approach innovation. And for sure these insights can also be relevant for companies in different fields.

At the frontiers of food, I discovered a fundamentally different approach to innovation that I became increasingly convinced was relevant beyond cuisine. Cutting-edge cuisine is a model system for understanding the uncertainty mindset and its consequences for organizations in other industries.

Innovation is inherently truly uncertain. With innovation work, you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it or create it. Uncertainty is an inescapable part of trying to do something that has not been done or even imagined before.

The lived reality of innovation work is that it is therefore messy and chaotic, filled with ambiguity and friction. Innovation arises out of creative dissonance between different worldviews, different domains of work, and different ideas of value.

Effective innovation management involves training people and designing teams to be willing and able to discard what they have become good at and become good at something else.

I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast! Please share it with someone else who you believe might like it too 🤗

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(Credit: Franz Liszt, Angelus ! Prière Aux Anges Gardiens—extrait du disque Miroirs de Jonas Vitaud, NoMadMusic.)