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Nov 12, 2014
by James

The Intersection of Sushi and High Performing Employees

Posted in Hiring Best Practices

A couple months ago I was flipping through my Netflix account putting some movies in my queue when I stumbled across a Japanese film called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”.

Now, I’m not a big fan of eating raw fish but I do like documentaries about chefs and food so I decided to give it a try.   The title alone was worth at least a 15 minute investment.

As I watched the opening few scenes, I was leaning heavily toward shutting it off and switching to something with more explosives, car chases and bad acting, but I hung in there.

And then something cool happened.   A really strong message appeared as a thread through the movie and I connected with it on a really deep level.

(Bear with me here as I attempt to connect work and sushi)

On the surface, JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is a sleepy, subtitled documentary about an 85 year old sushi chef who owns a 10 seat restaurant in the basement of an office building in a Tokyo subway.   Seems pretty standard, right?  There’s probably a few hundred of those in Tokyo but what makes Jiro different is that he’s the only sushi chef ever to receive a 3-Star Michelin review and, subsequently, he’s widely regarded as the top sushi chef in the world year-after-year.

So I won’t give the entire movie away because I think you should all watch it (see the teaser above), but what made me think about “work” as I was watching the film were two key take-aways:

# 1 –   Jiro’s passion for making just one thing (sushi) and how it lead to his success.

# 2 –   How his passion gets in the way of other people’s success.

The movie shows Jiro’s maniacal focus on his profession, his superhuman work ethic, his intense scrutiny during training, and his unwavering bond with his suppliers…all of which leads to flawless execution and a sublime experience for diners.

But it also tells a more subtle story of how micro-managing and being a control freak can create unsustainable success.

I’ve watched the movie about 3 or 4 times now and each time I learn something new.  I highly recommend you watch it.

Now…in my attempt to make this post interactive, I’ll leave two discussion questions for whoever was crazy enough to click on this blog post (and read this far down)….

  1.   What is your sushi?     

For me, I want to be the best in the world at “interview process management”.

  1.   Is it okay to be a highly specialized professional?

There is a lot of pressure in most organizations to grow laterally in order to grow vertically.  Is there a place for “world class specialists” in your company?   Sometimes we call those people “blockers” and we force them to move.    What is the right balance of specialists-to-generalists in a department?

Interested in your thoughts, philosophies and other movie suggestions that, at first, appear to have nothing to do with work, but if you think hard enough you can make a case or a blog post.


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