Jim's Blog

What I've Learned from Baking Bread

December 2016

I’ve been baking bread for 20+ years. It’s gotten to the point where my neighbors tell me when they’re dieting, and the go-to gift for me is yet another (and much appreciated) book of bread recipes!

In all that time, I’ve never used a machine. I’m a hand mixer / hand kneader kind of guy. That method gives me one point of solitude in an otherwise hectic day in the Silicon Valley.

Beyond my personal belief that hands are best for this type of hobby, there are three other lessons I’ve learned from baking that help shape my perspectives on business:

  1. The right yeast is critical. Obviously, yeast is not always required, but for the majority of breads you gotta have it. It’s also true that every ingredient is needed, but the yeast makes the bread. It’s the tiniest ingredient and it has the biggest impact. It bonds other ingredients together and makes the dough grow exponentially. And, you have to take care of it or nothing else works. In your organization, what is the yeast?
  2. Adding extra flavors reduces the audience. A loaf of white bread, a baguette, or a challah will have near universal appeal. When I start adding ingredients or making special loaves, the appeal narrows. In product development, what’s our core product and what’s out of our lane?
  3. It’s best when the results are shared. ‘Nuff said.


About Jim Hill

Jim is the founder and CEO of Organizational Performance Systems.

Previously, Jim was a Marine Corps officer and an executive with Sun Microsystems. He is a past president of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).

He holds degrees from The Ohio State University, Webster University, and Averett College, and he received his doctorate in human and organizational performance from the University of Southern California.

His book, Giving Away Power, was published in 2013.

He is the 2016 recipient of ISPI’s Distinguished Service Award.

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