I know. If you’re a traditionalist, you probably can’t believe I just wrote that. But I did. Why? Because, while traditions bring a sense of security, they don’t create WOWs. Yes, if every dish is cooked the same way it’s been cooked since your relatives landed at Plymouth Rock (or wherever they landed), it will make you feel connected to your lineage. But when you return to work next week will you remark to your co-workers and/or employees, "You should have been with us on Thanksgiving day. My mother (or whoever does the cooking), blew us away with some new twists on a classic Thanksgiving. It was unbelievable!"
Probably not. Why? Because whenever we do anything the same way, it always moves from remarkable to ordinary to death–and that even includes Thanksgiving dinner. So, what can you do to change that? My answer: Mess with the menu by working the Make it Remarkable process.
1. Ask the Picasso Question ("How can I/we do this differently?"). For example, with the stuffing, can you change the bread from store bought croutons (yuck) to fresh ciabatta or fresh cornbread or fresh foccacia? Can you add sausage or apples or wild mushrooms or chestnuts? Can you change the seasonings from a packet (yuck) to fresh rosemary or fresh sage or fresh thyme or fresh cilantro or fresh basil? Note: the frequent use of the word "fresh." If you tend to use herbs from a spice rack, you can easily make almost any dish better by using fresh herbs. It really is worth the money! Trust me on this one!
2. Do Research Like DaVinci. Go online to recipe sites like foodnetwork.com or cookinglight.com or epicurious.com or americastestkitchen.com. Type in a basic dish like "sweet potatoes," and then peruse the options. Make notes of any dishes that seem interesting to you.
3. Generate Options Like Edison. Combine your ideas with those you’ve researched and generate your top three or four options. For example, Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Marshmellow Streusel, Sweet Potatoes with Bananas and Maple Syrup, Sweet Potato Mash with Pineapple or Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Milk and Cilantro.
4. Decide Like Churchill. Determine your criteria for deciding. Does this item fit with the rest of the meal? Will it fit the Thanksgiving theme? WIll it negatively affect someone’s food allergies? Will it taste phenomenal? Will it fit in the budget? Will it be different? Will it be a WOW? Etc. You pick the criteria–just make sure one of them is, "Will it be remarkable?"
5. Implement Like Michelangelo. Start by following the recipe, but don’t trust it completely. Great chefs taste as they go along. Add and adapt along the way to make sure the end product tastes great (forget the "less filling" thing on Thanksgiving :-). Trust your palate, your senses and your gut. Keep adjusting a dish until you know it’s a WOW! Never ever let your first taste be the one when you’re sitting at the table, it’s too late.
Now, can you do this? Absolutely. It’s just five steps. But those five steps can easily help you’ll transform an ordinary Thanksgiving into a culinary delight. But don’t stop there. When you get back to work, use the same five steps to play with your "menu" of services and products. Why? Because anything done the same way, will always move from remarkable to ordinary to death–which is something you and your company can’t afford to let happen.
So, if you want to WOW your customers (or clients or members), something has to change. It doesn’t have to be the whole menu (just like it doesn’t have to be the whole menu at Thanksgiving). Start with a side dish. Work the process and gain some confidence. As you begin to see people’s eyes light up with your, "little experiment," you’ll get hooked on remarkability and never want to go back to doing the "same ‘o some ‘o." Remarkable is always better than ordinary!