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Voice of the…eater?

A few years ago I accepted my job in the Research and Innovation team at Communispace. As I moved from northern California to Boston, I was excited about living alone without roommates.

In my studio apartment I reveled in the peace, quiet, and ability to scatter my laundry wherever I pleased. I didn’t cook, which wasn’t a problem because there were plenty of take-out restaurants on my block.

A year and a half went by, pizza boxes piled up, and eventually I grew tired of my semi-fast food options. One day I was informed by my doctor that my blood pressure was too high. He told me that I should cook for myself—and I snapped back explaining that I didn’t have time for classes. He said, “You’re a researcher, just get a book!”

So I went to the nearest bookstore and began thumbing through their inventory of cookbooks. Most of them were authored by famous chefs I’ve never heard of. Finally, I found The New Best Recipe, edited by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen. It sounded scientific so I started to read the introduction. Each recipe was tested by a panel of tasters and then refined based on their feedback. This process was repeated until the panel considered each recipe to be perfect. A cookbook backed by empirical research? A cookbook with a methodology?

As a big fan of James Surowiecki’s work, I was aware of The Wisdom of Crowds. I knew that experts sometimes live in little bubbles, out of touch with the outside world, but the collective opinions of groups can be just as valuable.

I was also seeing first hand in our communities how our clients benefit from longitudinal contact with their customers. Products are continually improved based on the collective feedback of community members.

With all of this on my mind, I decided to trust the opinions of the panelists over the famous chefs—and I bought the cookbook backed by research.

Now I’m actually a decent cook! Whenever I try a new recipe I’m confident that it will turn out great because every cooking method and ingredient has been tested by people like me. I wish I could say that my blood pressure is down, but it’s not—probably because I’m drawn to recipes like fish Marnier, chicken picatta, and anything that requires a lot of butter and wine.

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