The Uncertainty Mindset
Innovation Insights from the Frontiers of Food
available in Spring 2020 from Columbia University Press

Innovation is how businesses stay ahead of the competition and adapt to market conditions that change in unpredictable and uncertain ways. Around the early 2000s, high-end cuisine underwent a profound transformation. Once an industry prioritizing consistency and reliability, it turned into one where constant change was a competitive necessity. A top restaurant’s reputation and success have become so closely bound up with its ability to innovate that a new organizational form, the culinary research and development (R&D) team, has emerged. The best of these R&D teams continually expand the frontiers of food—they invent a constant stream of new dishes, new cooking processes and methods, and even new ways of experiencing food. How do they achieve this nonstop novelty? And what can culinary research and development teach us about how organizations innovate?

The Uncertainty Mindset opens up the black box of elite culinary R&D to provide essential innovation insights. Drawing on years of unprecedented access to the best and most influential culinary R&D teams in the world, it reveals how they exemplify 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. A revelatory look at the R&D kitchen, The Uncertainty Mindset upends conventional wisdom about how to organize for innovation and offers practical insights for businesses trying to become innovative and adaptable.


I write a weekly newsletter called The Uncertainty Mindset—it investigates what uncertainty is, how it affects us, and how we can respond to it. You could sign up for the newsletter here.