Monday, November 23, 2015

Student chefs and cooks

I love it when a professional whose ideas I respect says something that I have been saying for years.  I have mentioned before that I don’t need the approval of others to enjoy my own ideas.  But the external validation does help me overcome the sneaking suspicion that my own self-delusion will make my ideas seem better than they really are.

Jay Acunzo, in his Sorry for Marketing blog, contrasted two approaches to the practice of content marketing: chefs and cooks. A cook is someone who is really good at following a set of instructions exactly as stated so that the outcome is exactly the same every time. This is great for quality and consistency, but not creativity or innovation.

A chef is someone who learns the fundamental principles of the domain so they can invent their own processes. They can develop new approaches for new situations or when the world changes.

Jay applies this to content marketing, but I see the same thing in my students’ approaches to school. Even when their career ambitions are to reach the highest levels, they still prefer when professors give them the recipe and expect only for them to become cooks. 

The world needs cooks, but cooks get stuck at middle management. They can never reach the elevation that a chef can. And so it breaks my heart when students start out with this in mind.  I spend all semester trying to convince them why being a chef is better.

But by spending so much time on this sales pitch, I have less time to teach them the fundamental principles that will get them there. Maybe sous chef.