b. How does the elBulli example illustrate the difference between listening to customers and understanding customers? what does this distinction have to do with fostering continuous innovation in an organization?
The elBulli team understood the importance of implementing the changes that meet customer expectation. They understood that it was important to customers to have new recipes each year. This is what keeps the customers satisfied and returning to elBulli despite the two-year wait for a reservation. Listening to customers does not always cause an action on the part of a company. The distinction between listening and understanding customers is what brings the company to action when considering new innovative ideas.
2. What are the most salient features of the creative process (continuous innovation) at elBulli?
Chef Ferran Adria revolutionized elBulli into one of the top restaurants in the world by introducing his innovative philosophy that evolved from the simple question, What is creativity? The answer according to Chef Jacques Maximim, To create is not to copy, was simple yet had a profound impact on Adria.
Adrian continually sought new techniques and new equipment to focus on the five senses to create dishes to make people think and feel when eating. His near-scientific approaches to the transformation of food gained popularity as an international movement referred to as Molecular Gastronomy.
The innovation continued with the opening of an R&D laboratory, called El Taller. During the off season when elBulli was closed, Adria and his team devoted time to creating a full set of completely new recipes that were to be used the next year. The idea was the product of creativity; develop recipes, use them for one season and then discard them never to be used again. Adria found it to be crucial to the creative process at elBulli:
Everything at elBulli needs to be renewed for the next year. Imagine Pepsico having to renew its entire product line for next year . . . More techniques and concepts have been developed at elBulli over the past 15 years than in the world over the past century.
The creative process of developing new recipes and never using them again opened the door for one of Adrias side projects. A General Catalog was developed to document all recipes from the previous year. The catalog gave a date and number for each recipe, Adria considered this a yearly internal audit of the creative process. Publishing his catalog served three purposes. First, it ensured he received proper credit for new creations. Second, it allowed the team to track trends in innovation. Third, it generated revenue.
Overall, Chef Ferran Adria is one of the most creative minds in the restaurant business. His innovative work has revolutionized the industry and will forever be used as an example of how unique approaches to creativity can spawn international movements.