Cooking Up Creativity in the Kids’ Baking Championship Kitchen, Part 2

This post is part 2 in a series about the ways Kids Baking Championship embodies the creative process. Catch up on part 1 here.

Last week, we explored a lot of the external principles of creativity that I’ve seen in action through my recent TV culinary obsession, Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship. This week, I want to dig into some of the more individualistic traits that drive a person toward creative tendencies—and why I’m so pleased to see these traits being cultivated in kids.

All good traits to move into the “grown up” world with. IMAGE CREDIT: GIPHY

Principle 4: Determination
“Of course they don’t quit after an hour,” you might say as I bring up this point. But in a high-pressure situation, with twists baked in, and even the threat of injury, it’s actually an important trait to spotlight.

When I talk to people about creativity, I often have to drive home the principle of sticking with an idea, especially when it’s hard or doesn’t match the vision you had for your path. Cooking, baking, and other visual art competitions make this “vision” incredibly easy to see. Time and again, the young bakers will acknowledge that what they’re making doesn’t match how it looks in their head. But they keep going. They might realize that the time allotted doesn’t allow them to make it as perfect as they’d hope. But they keep going. And occasionally, they’re thwarted by a spill of essential ingredients, an overdone or underdone component, or even individual injury. But they keep going. That’s what determination in creativity is.

A NOTE FOR YOUR PLAYBOOK: Some of the more planning oriented contestants will have lists or checklists denoting what they have to do, and “tick” off their progress as they go. When they’re overwhelmed, they can look back on what they’ve done and what is left to do. This can be a valuable strategy for your large-scale creative project. In the tougher or more overwhelming moments, look back on the progress you’ve made to buoy the efforts to come.

Principle 5: Execution
Put simply, execution is the inclination to take an idea and put it into action. It’s the belief that what you’re thinking, has value. And it’s the drive you have to voice that idea, perhaps in the face of opposition or skepticism.

Kids Baking Championship has its fair share of execution-based moments, and serves as a great exercise for those hoping to build creative capacity. Do all the ideas the young bakers share, work? Nope. Do the judges know they’ll present challenges for the contestants if pursued? Oh yeah. But they often let them work through it anyway…and that matters. They don’t do so without a proverbial net- as I mentioned in part one, Duff and Valerie use their capacity as allies, advocates, and activators to help them course correct if something will prove dangerous or catastrophic.

But the important part of this principle, is feeling empowered to act on an idea. It is the principle, in my opinion, that’s most sensitive to the environment and culture of where an individual is creating. Judges greeting questionable ideas with “oh, that won’t work,” or “that’s not how we do things here” would affect the projects contestants were willing to take on. In considering their ideas in earnest, Duff and Valerie are helping to shape individuals who are prepared to share their thoughts and wishes in groups. We need more of that, from people who have good ideas to share.

A NOTE FOR YOUR PLAYBOOK: Culture doesn’t exist independently of the people in an organization; people create culture. That means the way you receive new ideas, can impact whether or not (and how often) individuals feel comfortable sharing them. Take note of how you respond to ideas when they’re shared—especially when they differ from the status quo. Could your response deter others from sharing? How can you rethink your response, and perhaps adapt if needed to make more space for this essential way of thinking?

Principle 6: Flexibility
There’s always a point during a challenge where a baker or two realizes their original plan isn’t going to work. It may be a time-related challenge, or it may be because they need to rebake a cake or remake a batch of frosting. Whatever the cause, they’ve reached a moment where flexibility is essential. And occasionally, the product they had to “settle” on ends up working…at times, even better than what their original plan would have had them doing!

Creativity needs flexibility. Any pursuit with a previously unseen final product benefits from such a mindset. I often liken it to the challenge of getting lost (something I do, often). I treat it as a given that I could get lost every time I leave the house. When that happens, I use the information at hand to get myself back on track- sometimes by retracing my steps, sometimes by recalculating my path based on where I’ve wandered off to. For me, that need is normal. The path may not be a straight one, but I’ll get there.

“I swear I didn’t pass that left turn…” IMAGE CREDIT: GIPHY

We should all treat creativity the same way. Finding ourselves off the path we intended or expected isn’t a sign that something’s gone wrong or that we shouldn’t have departed in the first place. It’s a likely byproduct of trying at all. It’s normal. And we have what it takes to move toward our intended destination.

A NOTE FOR YOUR PLAYBOOK: If a need for flexibility is normal, those of us in the position to empower creators have to treat it as normal. When mistakes, missteps, or other unexpected results present themselves, treat them as learning opportunities—and not as omens that mean the status quo was right all along. And if you’re the creator who finds yourself off the path you expected for yourself: take heart, there’s nothing wrong with you or the journey you’ve mapped out for yourself. Keep looking for new routes to your imagined destination; if all else fails, pave your own.

Have you watched Kids Baking Championship yet? What has it inspired you to do? (And if the answer is “bake,” would love to trade recipes!)