"Hey everyone, I'm Claire, and I'm in the B.A. (Bon​ Appétit) test kitchen, and today I'm making..."

These aren't the opening lines of every one of pastry chef Claire Saffitz's super popular cooking videos, but she does include it (or slight variations) in every video. Claire (how she refers to herself--I had to Google to find out her last name), takes some popular food, and makes a gourmet version of it. 

It's good, clean fun, and has made me consider possibly making my own Krispy Kreme donuts (too much work--I'd rather watch Claire), but it's about far more than cooking; it's about problem-solving. I don't think Claire intended to make a management guide to problem-solving, but she did. Here's how she does it.

Identifies the problem

This is easy for Claire--Krispy Kreme, Pizza Rolls, or Instant Ramen, she knows what she's solving and stays on that. Sometimes we set about to solve a problem without first identifying what problem we're trying to solve. "We don't have enough revenue!" we say. Okay, but what problem are we solving? Lack of clients? Client retention? Employee retention? Solving where the money that does come in goes? It's hard to solve the problem if we don't know what it is. 

Sticks with the problem

Once you've identified the problem, you need to stick with it to solve the problem. She doesn't say halfway through PopTarts that perhaps Hostess Fruit pies would be a better problem to solve. She sticks with it.

This isn't to say you should never walk away--sometimes that is the solution--but acknowledge that's what you're doing.

Research

Claire is an expert. She knows more about pastry than I ever will. She could take each challenge and say, "okay, let's get going!" and start dumping ingredients into mixing bowls. But, no, she reads ingredients. She watches YouTube videos. She talks to other experts about the best way to approach a sticky problem. 

Don't fall into the "I'm an expert" trap. You may know a lot. You may be the foremost expert in the world. It doesn't mean you know everything there is to know about a problem. Networking isn't just about job hunting--it's about problem-solving as well. 

Feedback

Claire does almost all the work. She mixes and measures and adjusts amounts and ingredients. But, she also asks for help. She has a whole team who can step in and offer an opinion or a suggestion. She gets feedback at all stages of the process, and she makes changes based on that feedback.

Claire considers her coworkers' ideas. She asks because she wants an opinion, and she values those opinions. She's not looking for praise--she's looking for suggestions and insight.

Her coworkers are happy to give their feedback as well, which tells me that they all have a good working relationship. They know they'll be taken seriously, and Claire won't get defensive on them. They want her to succeed, as well.

Problem-solving really can be a team effort, even if there's only one person in charge of solving the problem.

Time

Claire never says, "I need to figure out how to make gourmet Twizzlers by 2:00 pm for an investor meeting!" Her boss doesn't make that demand either. 

While some problems are easy fixes, most require time. Yes, she's making a YouTube series and has some time, but you can also build in time for problem-solving. Don't expect miracles in short amounts of time if you want real solutions.

Sharing the results

At the end of each video, Claire shares the recipe and instructions. She doesn't hide her solutions, and neither should you. Sure, there's proprietary knowledge that you don't want your competitor to know, but don't keep your information siloed within your own department. 

So, don't feel guilty about watching cooking videos when you should be solving problems--you're watching a how-to for making your life and business function better. Plus, if you ever get the urge to make your Cheetos, you're set.

Published on: Jan 6, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.