I can say without any hesitation that every school leader, guidance counselor, technology developer, and soccer mom needs to spend a marathon weekend watching nothing but Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay.
I have watched probably 125 episodes of Kitchen Nightmares. I did so originally because my brother said watching Ramsay beat down restaurant owners was awesome. And he was right. Then I stayed a fan because I love cooking, and I realized that if most of the people on the show could cook the recommended food, I probably could too. So I learned more about cooking without being bored. But then I went further. I started to ask myself, “What patterns emerge in the show?” .
At first it was all the surface stuff. Obviously being an Italian, Greek, or any Mediterranean family meant you had to have epic battles in order to decided anything. Also people would cry.
Then I asked another question, “Is there a common issues among all these places which vary ethnically, economically, geographically, educationally, etc? ” And I say, “educationally”, because some places are staffed with proper chefs and others with line cooks who have life experience.
As I was in deep thought about this, I was talking with my brother, who said, “The problem with all these places is that their food is horrible and they are in denial.” He was 100% correct.
I started reviewing episodes. I found that only 2 episodes I had were outliers. In these two cases the restaurant had good food, but the personelle were literally running the place down. So it was 123 out of 125 episodes that fit the common problem of having bad food and being in denial. Being in denial is a very important thing to add, because the majority of the places had at one time had good food.
TV magic aside the Ramsay formula works like this:
1. He shows-up and eats food.
2. He honestly and aggressively says the food is bad, if it is, and then beats the person over the head with this fact continuously. He sometimes vomits for dramatic effect.
3. Then he watches a service, checks the facilities, and talks to people. Mostly this is to buy time because he needs to be able to come-up with a menu the employees can manage in about 24 hours. Also he tries to find various tasks for people to do to further break down their will power. This usually includes steam cleaning refrigerators etc.
4. The next step is to make people cry or explode in anger, and do some type of exercise that forces them to admit the food sucks.
5. After they admit the food sucks, he gives them the new menu and then helps with other details such as restaurant management and personal skills they may not have. Basically he will not give-up the menu until they admit their food is horrible.
If you look at the problems all of these places face, the problems fall into a few categories:
- personality conflicts
- poor professionalism
- re-occurring errors
- business mismangement
- making food and services that no one will buy
All of these problems begin when the food starts to become bad. The food is the content. Not the building. Not the customers. Not anything else. Good food means a good business and bad food means a bad business. Good food also means when a new customer comes in the first time they have good food, and not food that is “not ready yet” and “will be good eventually”.
If that customer has an initial bad experience they probably will not return. If they are forced to return, due to a social commitment, they will likely focus on the cheapest option and wait until the event if over. Then they will eat some where else.
Think about that. They are in a restaurant with the means and opportunity to eat, but they choose not to. They choose to use their own time to find another source, instead of one that is provided.
I find that we often get hung-up on talking about platforms and brands – Should we use Moodle? Should we use Edmodo? Should we be an Apple school?
It goes on and on.
What we should be asking is: is our content good? , is it deliverable? , and how can we get better content and use it?
I find that most people invest in the platform and then have little resources left over to buy in content. This would be ok if they had a method to assist people in their community in developing content and then sharing it. Usually, they do not have that either.
If you look at the problems that commonly occur in learning, educational technology, and teaching you will find most things go back to a lack of content or a lack of deliverable content.
People think spending more money on things, space, and brands can solve these problems, but the fact is that the content of the curriculum and the supporting resources of the curriculum can either strengthen or weaken every aspect of the community.
The other underlying issue is that the content needs to evolve over time. It may have been relavent and good at one time, but over time it becomes like the bad food that is wading in a sea of denial.
School leadership has to assume that human nature will strive to not make changes to resources that required effort to develop. Administrators must make it a requirement for teachers to review not only the content but the way it is delivered.
This is especially true in private schools where students are supposedly paying for an all inclusive education. The content is suppose to be what the students need to achieve and be competitive. If students occasionally need an outside resource, that is totally acceptable. However, if students look at the major platforms, software solutions, and collaborative tools a school has invested in and find that those resources are not useful; then the school has failed to meet the contractual needs of the student.
The point to take from all this, and from any episode from Kitch Nightmares, is that you can always change the menu. Of all the things you can do, it is the one thing you can usually do within the existing cost and framework of the business.
I have often read that revolution starts in the middle. Or another way to say that is to remember that change needs to take place at the center. In a restaurant that means with the food and in a learning environment that means with the content.