Debra Swersky
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Everybody Loves Cake

“I don’t discriminate.” That’s what I say when someone asks me, “What’s your favorite dessert?” It’s simple: dessert is delicious. There are so many different varieties of it. Plus, you can eat it (without shame) with a little spoon. And what food doesn’t taste better with a little spoon? On the other hand, the answer to the question, “Do you bake?” is (un)surprisingly, “Absolutely not.” I do not bake. In fact, I’m not much for cooking either. But, I understand what foods you should and should not be eating and for the most part err on the side of a “healthy” eater… but do love dessert. (Meaning I actually like kale and apples and quinoa and grapefruit and all of that other “healthy” stuff but do a really good job of eating dessert… on weekends.)

What I’ve come to understand is that good ingredients make for better foods. (Leave it to my sister to tell you that “it’s a crime to eat tomatoes in the middle of winter…” and she will. She is a great chef and bakes a delicious chocolate cake…. and scones!)

When I was reading The Effortless Experience by the authors of one of my favorite business books, The Challenger Sale, I came across their cake comparison from the frontlines of American Express: 

Don’t just focus on individual ingredients. Focus on baking the cake.

This is to say that quantitative metrics should not be the be-all-and-end-all of your business focus… it is the outcome that matters. What is the customer experience? Was the outcome of the situation easy or difficult for the customer to achieve?

There is a ton more super interesting research and data to support focus on The Effortless Experience of the customer (including the shocking morsel that “customer service is four times more likely to drive disloyalty instead of creating positive gains in customer loyalty.”), but even more interesting is where this delicious cake speak showed up:

Genius is not enough; we need to get the job done.

I’ve written about this concept before when poking into the research from Ray, Hicks and Hidgley in What To Do When You’re New, but now I’m reading the book Mindset and it’s all Carol Dweck writes about. In fact this line came from her findings at IBM in researching Lou Gerstner and his thoughts on hierarchy. (Hint: He didn’t care much for it. He’s more about Toss[ing] The Titles and bringing people together of all experience levels to solve problems.) Boiled down, the takeaway from Mindset is that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you focus on being the top performer versus growing/learning/improving. 

It sounds contradictory. On the one hand I’m saying “eat delicious cake made with great ingredients” and on the other I’m saying “screw the ingredients, just eat cake.” But the reality is that too much focus on just the cake (the end result) and too much focus on just the ingredients (the metrics or people) will lead you down the same path: dissatisfaction. I’m working on the little spoon approach… it makes the cake last longer. At least that’s what I tell myself…

Debra Swersky