UCL School of Management

18 November 2020

Vaughn Tan speaks to Marcus Kirsch and Troy Norcross on Wicked Podcast

Professor Vaughn Tan appeared on the Wicked Podcast to discuss his latest book—The Uncertainty Mindset: Innovation Insights from the Frontiers of Food – which explains how people and businesses can design themselves to be more innovative and more adaptable in highly uncertain situations.

Vaughn has spent years observing some of the world’s top chefs and their teams, and has had unprecedented access to some of the most influential culinary R&D teams in the world, including The Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, ThinkFoodTank and The Cooking Lab at Intellectual Ventures—just to name a few.

In the podcast, they explored the ways in which managers and leaders can overcome the challenges they face in building a mixed and varied team to work together and help drive innovation within an organisation, and why having such a dynamic and integrated team is necessary.

Vaughn suggested that one way managers and leaders can strike this balance is by simply changing the way they bring people into these teams in the first place. 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. This will allow and incentivise employees to shape their roles in potentially unexpected ways that make sense both for them and for the organisations they work for. This naturally drives learning and innovation and helps organisations become adaptable.

Of course, leaders must strike a balance between hiring employees who are organisational ‘anchors’ (who have a high level of certainty in their job description) and employees who want to be constantly challenged (whose roles are more malleable).

Marcus Kirsch, host of the Wicked Podcast, said it was “one of the most dense and richest conversations” they have had on the podcast to date.

Listen to the full episode here.

Last updated Thursday, 19 November 2020