Everyone Wants to Feel Kneaded

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to enhance your humanity on the job. Reading time: 3:23.

        It’s Saturday morning. The pounding in the kitchen gets louder and louder and LOUDER!  The vice president of a large corporation is at home working in his kitchen. With a rolling-pin. Pounding, pushing, pulling, pummeling-–KNEADING  the dough–  into a delicious bread.

Kneading dough to bake bread from scratch.

      Baking bread from scratch is a therapy as much as a hobby to this corporate vice president. Of course,  it would be so much easier and more efficient to bake bread in a machine.  Less mess and fuss.

       But not as much pure fun and joy. After all, making bread from scratch feels so much more satisfying, much more productive, much more creative.

     Baking break from scratch you’re like a sculptor, shaping the dough, filling in air holes  and adding value overall to lifeless wad of flour and water that suddenly comes alive,  seeming to rise from something more than just the yeast.

     Indeed the dough at your fingertips seems to rise as if the baker is performing CPR on the chest of the Pillsbury Doughboy and kneading him back to life.

 Your Friends Compliment You

Not a machine.

       The Making-Bread-From-Scratch metaphor of leadership has resonated with me ever since I read Cliff Stoll’s book Silicon Snake Oil on the perils of too much technology invading our personal lives. Predictable, you say, until you realize that Stoll, is an astrophysicist.

     When you surrender  manual work to a machine,  you lose what Stoll calls “the ritual, the sense of accomplishment, the feeling of being a part of the process.” Oh sure, the bread will taste just fine–if a bit too refined . Stoll continues:

      “Still, you’ve missed the best parts, the feeling of flour between your fingers, kneading the dough, punching the air bubbles, finding a warm place for it to rise, you’re connected to your meal as well as to generations of bakers before you. Your friends’ grins at the dinner table compliment you, not a machine.”

 There’s a Human Imbedded In The Technology

            Yet it takes a lot of effort to bake from scratch, to lead from scratch, to roll out the bumps and humps into a smoother surface. Fight off the urge to surrender to the technology around you, no matter how tired you are. You have something more powerful to call on than that machine. At least that’s the way President Abraham Lincoln saw the difference between man and machine. Consider this story that Lincoln used to tell to pay homage to the ingenuity of a human over the consistency of a machine. Lincoln would tell this story whenever he was asked what he thought of the prospects for the army in The Civil War under General Ulysses S. Grant’s leadership.

          The story is about a robot, an automaton that could beat everybody in chess. This automaton, a forerunner of Jeopardy champion Watson, irked a celebrated chess player when he lost to the machine twice.  At the end of the second game, the celebrated chess player cries foul at the machine,wagging his finger at the automaton and exclaiming in a very decided tone: ‘There ‘s a man in it.’ ”

         Exactly. There’s a man or a woman in it.  The technology only works because there is a human in it or behind it– kneading it into a more supple performance that is more filling than any bread and more fulfilling  than any machine.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Knead Others to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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