Last week the Executive team of Rude Health, an award winning food company in London, worked with Virtuousbread.com to bake bread as part of their usual monthly team meeting. For the occasion, they had a specific strategic issue they needed to resolve and they wanted to bake and break bread together. To that end, the day’s agenda was structured around the bread and the goals included team building, problem solving, learning a new skill, and preparing lunch. The great thing about bread is that it only requires you to interact with it for about 30 minutes. The rest of the time it is hanging out, doing it’s own thing and requires no input for you. A perfect activity to undertake if you are a busy person – or a group of busy people.
During what would ordinarily be the “coffee/tea/loo/blackberry” breaks the team members baked six loaves of beautiful spelt and rye bread following the usual Virtuousbread.com basic bread recipe:
300 grams of flour (in this case 100 grams of light rye and 200 grams of whole spelt from Michael Stoat at Cann Mills)
5 grams of sea salt (from Halen Mon)
14 grams of dried yeast (from Allinsons)
200 (or so) grams of water tap water (filtered through a brita filter)
On arrival, we had coffee, chatted about bread and confirmed the problem statement that would be the focus of the meeting. Shortly after arriving, the team were all given the ingredients and set to work kneading by hand for ten minutes in silence during which time they were free to contemplate whatever they wanted: the problem statement, the state of the roads, the weather, a personal issue – whatever. Just them and the bread and their thoughts.
Bread has a rhythm. You knead it for 10 minutes and then leave alone it for 1-2 hours. You then spend 10 minutes shaping it and leave it alone for a further 1-2 hours. You then bake it (45 minutes), let it cool a bit (45 minutes if you can wait that long and then eat it.
Within reason, bread fits into your day (or your meeting) extremely well. Further, baking bread mirrors the team building process. Flour, water, salt, and yeast on their own are nothing special. Together, however, they are bread and bread, like the highest performing team, is so much more than the sum of its parts.
At the end of the day the team had achieved the following:
– clarified the decision they were trying to make
– externalised the background to the issue and and agreed what data was needed to move forward
– developed hypotheses about the “answer” and began to develop a detailed way forward
– identified next steps
– baked and shared six loaves of bread
– learned a new skill and learned more about the individuals on the team
If you are interested in talking directly to the folk at Rude Health and/or would like to discuss a similar event with your executive team please contact us.