Professor Vaughn Tan spoke to Mimi Nguyen Co-Founder of the FinTech focused Podcast, Searching for Mana. He shared his experience working on product and business innovation projects for Google and now in the luxury culinary sector.
As a Sociology Graduate Vaughn’s career in innovation and product development on projects such at tech giant Google was not necessarily a planned, however working at the iconic company in 2005 when it was just starting out gave Vaughn the opportunity to experiment in product innovation and organisational structure and team interaction.
Since making the move to the culinary world, Vaughn has worked with the most influential culinary R&D teams including The Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, ThinkFoodTank and The Cooking Lab at Intellectual Ventures. Vaughn shared why he believes that the food sector is an interesting industry to help us understands how to deal with uncertainty. These teams exemplify the uncertainty mindset. Such a mindset intentionally incorporates uncertainty into organisation design, rather than simply trying to reduce risk. It changes how organisations hire, set goals, and motivate team members and leads organizations to work in highly unconventional ways.
In his latest book —The Uncertainty Mindset: Innovation Insights from the Frontiers of Food – Vaughn explains how people and businesses can design themselves to be more innovative and more adaptable in highly uncertain situations.
Vaughn shares why he believes companies can learn from Messenger R&A and use it to stimulate new ideas. Within any organisation, various different silos exist holding key information but the issue is the silos are not connected in a deep enough way to share their information and exchange ideas. Applying Messenger RNA and connecting individuals from different and not necessarily connected teams allows bottom-up bubbling ideas rather than top-down ideas. It permits weird and unexpected outcomes that are key to innovation.
How we keep this collaborative mindset whilst working remotely
While working remotely Vaughn believes we must maintain this collaborative mindset. It relies on micro-interactions via WhatsApp groups, Zoom sessions and even just shorter emails to stimulate conversation. These are extremely valuable for people across an organisation to find people and interact with professional context and generate new ideas and innovations.
Vaughn also discussed the concept of embracing a level of uncertainty when hiring and to consider the outliers when reviewing CVs. Instead of following the traditional recruitment path and hiring people based on their ability to meet a rigid job description, leaders can adopt a ‘negotiated joining approach’ in the context of open-ended roles. He suggests only giving someone a partly defined role and making rest of the role malleable so the individual can develop the role and in turn, bring a fresh insight and approach to the way the company works.