Collaborative cooking ventures known as underground or secret supper clubs are a fairly  recent phenomenon. I am not sure if there are any in Australia.

You book online, and are sent a confirmation email with address. You dine with maybe six to twenty guests and, at the end, pay a contribution for your food and wine.

The meal is served in a private establishment, probably someone’s house, but what you eat is restaurant quality.

While I am sure the food and the experience for the guests is outstanding, it seem to me that the experience for the chefs is what prompted the movement in the first place.

From this article in the Atlantic:

But it’s my time in the kitchen that had stuck with me. I can’t imagine living with three roommates, let alone operating a business together to boot. And yet on Saturday I saw none of the shouting and contretemps that propel reality cooking shows and bedevil professional kitchens. Bonhomie may be amateurism’s greatest virtue.

The writer is excited by the casual and playful atmosphere that this form of collaborative cooking creates. Another article in the NY Times says:

They are not in it for the money or for Buddha Bar-size crowds; instead, they say, they are in it for the community and the creative freedom. It’s hard to imagine even the most adventurous legitimate restaurant encouraging customers to hack the hindquarters off a boar’s carcass. And underground restaurants have found their niche. Stringing together the farm-to-table movement and a bloggy kind of interactivity, they have gained a following among food lovers, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who have an opinion on local versus organic, prefer intimate and casual to grand and ceremonial, and are open to meeting people and building connections in new ways.

Wouldn’t this be most people’s preferred environment for creativity? Pat Kane, author of The Play Ethic, talks about work as play. He asks:

What would organisations be like which encouraged creativity, open-ended learning and experiment – the essence of play – as preferred characteristics for their employees or colleagues? What kinds of products, services and actions would these “players” generate?

Since reading his book a few years ago, I’ve been on the lookout for organisations who have the values of play as a foundation of their operation.

Underground supper clubs seem to be one example of this. People are interested in working in playful collaborative environments. If they can’t play in their workplaces, then they create their own spaces, in their own time, out of virtually nothing, for some serious after-hours fun.

I am reading a book from the library about a Collective based in Berkeley that was set-up in the 60’s. What is so extraordinary about The Cheese Board Collective is that they are still alive and well today.

Based on the kibbutz model, all the workers are paid equally. They have no hierarchy, and every member of the collective has equal power. Important business decisions are made by consensus.

As Olivia says in the book “I actually enjoy coming to work…I feel that I have a luxury of time that somebody earning six figures doesn’t have. Its very precious to me. Only in a place like this could I have that.”

This extraordinary worker-owned business grew organically, starting as a cheese shop. Soon they expanded to making their own bread, then started making pizzas in the 80’s. The pizza shop is actually run as an independent business alongside the original cheese and bread shop. Each day the collective makes a “Pizza of the Day” –

(Friday’s pizza (03.05.2010):

Asparagus, Shitake mushrooms, mozzarella and Montalban manchego cheese, garlic olive oil, fresh herbs.

Saturday’s pizza (03.06.2010):

Roma tomatoes, onions, mozzarella cheese, pinenuts, garlic olive oil, basil parmesan cheese.

Their website states that:

For tax and liability purposes it has been incorporated, with each collective member an equal shareholder and member of the board of directors. Upon joining each member is given ten shares worth $100/share. When a member leaves these shares are sold back to the corporation. All members are paid an equal hourly wage. Profits go to buy new equipment, raise wages, or are placed into our retirement fund. Moneys placed into this fund are distributed based on hours worked.

Pam: “Making food is both an art and a craft. To me, it’s life. My mom was a good cook. She had a wok in the fifties, a nice Jewish lady with a wok. I love shopping. I love to watch food grow. I love to play with it. I love eating.”

These workers feel that they are contributing to something important and nourishing of life. How satisfying.


Some simple tips for going green

Many of us are doing what we can in our own homes to reduce our footprints and be sustainable. What about the workplace?

Turning off lights, reducing paper-use, recycling office consumables and using public transport or car-sharing are all easily implementable options.

I love Friends of the Earth’s approach, but unfortunately the suggestions are UK based. Here’s some Australian links:

ecobuy

econatural

Flexicar

Carpool

CarbonMarket

REAP ecopaper guide

For more practical suggestions to go green at your workplace try these links:

Planet Green

Sierra Club

Spiral image

Is this the future for Knowledge Management?

In 2025, every individual in every organization uses their own personal computer for both personal and work applications. Almost all information is Web-based, with organizations’ proprietary information only accessible through authorization software. E-mail has disappeared, replaced by a virtual presence application that includes instant messaging, screensharing, voice/videoconferencing, filesharing, calendaring, tasklists.

The KM department still manages the purchase of external information, though almost all information in 2025 is free; information producers have realized that their business model is to apply that information to specific customers’ business environment, in consulting assignments, rather than trying to sell publications. Most of the mainstream media were nationalized after they went bankrupt using their traditional business models, and now operate as public services.

Most of what the KM department does now is trying to facilitate more effective conversations among people within the organization and with people outside the organization, including customers. They facilitate many meetings that use the virtual presence application, especially those that involve more than five people. That facilitation includes organizing the meeting, distributing advance materials, facilitating the discussion (conflict resolution, staying on schedule etc.), and even recording, editing and publishing the meeting as appropriate. They run courses in effective conversation, meeting and presentation skills.

I am a great admirer of Dave Pollard’s thought provoking posts, so I really don’t have anything to add to this one.

Read Dave Pollard’s post

A fog of fear

The fog of fear

If we are coming to a crisis point on this planet, (and I believe that we are, but I also believe that crisis can be a catalyst for change), then reductive, linear ways of thinking are not going to deliver the transformation we need (Well, have they, yet?). For transformation on a planetary scale we may be required to create a bigger context than just you, just me, just your workplace.

A social network is non-linear. But is it an ecology?

The ‘ecologies’ of networks

Network Citizens (available as a pdf download from Demos) reports on the shift of power created by social networking and the rise of ‘network citizens’, who no longer respect hierarchical and bureaucratic structures.

The Network of Public Sector Communicators (NZ) blog has this to say about networks and public sector agencies:

Many public sector agencies view access to social networks, the likes of Facebook, Twitter and – incomprehensibly – LinkedIn, with what can only be described as either fear or deep suspicion. Some of them even go so far as to block access …As if, in the minds of the people that think blocking access to these sites will make people more productive (or protect them from themselves…), there is some sort of impermeable divide between what we do at work and who we are.

The message is clear. Understand the change that is happening inside your agencies. Ensure that you provide people the sorts of tools that will allow them to develop professionally and to invest and grow their social capital. Attempts to restrict the ability of your staff to build their networks (online or off) will only result in a disengaged workforce. (Networked Citizens)

An interesting article by Matthew Hodgson over at the AppGap about adoption models for social media and collaborative computing in the workplace.

Did you know that the top-down model is the least successful in organisations that are unused to change? No suprises there.

The Future of Work’s Newsletter just arrived in my inbox. Interesting article about Social Networking’s maturity as a form of collaborative communication: Read it here – http://www.thefutureofwork.net/newsletter_1108_Notes_Social_Networking.html