The Uncertainty Mindset
Innovation Insights from the Frontiers of Food
Vaughn Tan

“a new, more subtle way of thinking about hiring, managing, and trusting innovators in leading-edge technology companies.”

Jerry Neumann, founder of Neu Venture Capital

About the book and author

How can people and businesses become more innovative and more adaptable in highly uncertain situations? In The Uncertainty Mindset, I provide an answer based on years of unprecedented access to the best and most influential culinary R&D teams in the world, including The Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, ThinkFoodTank, and The Cooking Lab (creators of Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Bread).

These teams exemplify what I call the uncertainty mindset. Such a mindset intentionally incorporates uncertainty into organization design, rather than simply trying to reduce risk. It changes how organizations hire, set goals, and motivate team members and leads organizations to work in highly unconventional ways.

This book explains how the uncertainty mindset makes these cutting-edge culinary teams better at adapting to change and coming up with good problems to solve—and offer people and businesses in other sectors these innovation insights from the frontiers of food.

Vaughn Tan is an assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship and one of the founding faculty at University College London’s School of Management. He previously worked for Google in California.

Reviews

“Vaughn Tan spent long periods observing some of the world’s most famous chefs at work in their prize-winning restaurants and tells his readers what they do and how they do it. A real contribution to our understanding of how experts combine artistic creation and business success.”

Howard S. Becker; author of Art Worlds.

The Uncertainty Mindset takes a close look at the secret inner workings of some of the most innovative food R&D teams worldwide. It shows organizations in other industries how to redesign themselves to become more resilient, innovative, and adaptable—by simply changing how they think about the future.”

Amy C. Edmondson; Harvard Business School; author of The Fearless Organization.

“Vaughn Tan has written a fascinating, well-researched account of how some of the world’s top chefs and their teams approach culinary innovation. This book is full of valuable insights for forward-thinking, innovation-minded organizations and teams in any sector.”

Nathan Myhrvold, coauthor of Modernist Bread, Modernist Cuisine, and Modernist Cuisine at Home, author of The Photography of Modernist Cuisine.

“This is one of the best books to appear in the last several decades about how to design organizations for continual innovation in high-pressure environments. It offers explanations for why some companies work and others don’t, and made me embrace a new, more subtle way of thinking about hiring, managing, and trusting innovators in leading-edge technology companies.”

Jerry Neumann; founder of Neu Venture Capital.

“Chefs are responsible for some of today’s most novel innovations. Vaughn Tan goes behind the scenes to show how R&D is organized inside the world’s most famous kitchens, uncovering surprising lessons that have wide application. This is a provocative contribution to studies of culture and R&D.”

Walter W. Powell; Stanford University.

And finally:

“I expected this book to be about food and its future in today's world. It was more about management and creating a modern, resourceful, restaurant kitchen that will succeed in today's world. If you are going to run to are running [sic] a commercial kitchen this is the book for you - if you are interested in the future of food, it is not. As a librarian, if I do not learn something new or get engaged in the book, I am admitting thatI [sic] did not truly read/finish the book (I skimmed through it) as there are too many good ones out there to read and review.”

Janet; Goodreads librarian.

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Email Meredith Howard at Columbia University Press.