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Creating the Right Environment

July 10, 2013

Several weeks ago, I learned a vital life and business lesson in my very own kitchen.

After reading about the naturally occurring, wild yeasts that make sourdough bread, I thought I would give it a try for myself. I combined equal parts (by weight) unbleached flour with warm water and mixed them until there were no lumps and I had a thin, but smooth batter; then I placed it in a warm area of my apartment. For the next several days, I fed my little starter with a small dose of the same water and flour mixture every evening, and stirred it randomly throughout the day.

I will admit that I was surprised to see a couple bubbles one afternoon that roared into action within an hour after their next feeding. I kept feeding my starter only for the next several days, as my intent was to serve the loaf of bread for dinner that weekend.

As the yeasts were dining on the starches, my brain was dining on the whole experience of it all.

Though I controlled many aspects that lead to the successful loaf of sourdough bread – the frequency of feeding, time of feeding, the stirring, ambient temperature, and so on – I can claim no control, whatsoever, over the selection of the wild yeasts that graced me with their presence.

In my first attempt, I aligned all the proper circumstances and attracted the yeasts needed to make a tasty loaf. Two other attempts, however, were not successful. My feedings were spaced out too far, not enough oxygenating, and/or wrong air or water temperature.

Though the yeast did not show up to dine; it didn’t prevent my brain from digesting the experience. I realized there were business lessons right in front of me.

Whether we apply it to attracting customers or talent, it is crucial to first create the conditions for them to thrive. This represents a larger commitment than simply dangling a piece of bait like a special purchase price, corner office, or signing bonus.

You don’t need to search extensively to get great talent or customers. Wild yeasts can be found in almost every area populated by talented humans. Secondly, they will thrive and colonize where there are ample food sources.

When growing the culture, it is crucial that we actively maintain those ideal conditions. Maintenance includes feeding it often and continuously incorporating fresh ideas, as well as using what the culture produces on a regular basis. It also helps to offer your gratitude and appreciation for a job well done.

Being single-celled microorganisms, yeasts are more delicate than people. They cannot thrive if all conditions are not within a tight range. But this experience can go much deeper as we will explore in my next article.

I encourage you to begin this practice yourself. Please share your experiences.

Here are a couple links to help get you started.

http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/sourdough-bread

http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/sourdough-bread-0

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