You Always Throw Out the First Pancake

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about pancakes lately. The reason pancakes are on my mind is twofold, the first is that I make them quite a bit for my girls. They like blueberry pancakes (with the small wild blueberries), banana pancakes (ala Jack Johnson) and good old-fashioned buttermilk pancakes.

The second reason pancakes are on my mind is a design problem.

If you’re like me, my first few pancakes don’t often turn out great. It turns out, this is an actual thing.

You always throw out the first pancake.

I not only fancy myself an amateur chef, but I also fancy myself as a designer and a design thinker, so let’s talk about design for a few minutes and how it relates to those first pancakes.

Design isn’t about making things pretty; it’s about making things work. Good design solves problems. This is true of graphic design, interior design, software design, product design, and the one that we’ve been working on program design.

The design process looks something like this (there are other processes and terms, but most follow this pattern):

  1. Define the problem
  2. Collect information
  3. Brainstorm and analyze ideas
  4. Develop solutions/build a model
  5. Present your ideas to others for feedback
  6. Iterate and improve your design

Like cooking pancakes, often our first ideas or first attempts don’t always work out, we have to throw them out. This is not a bad thing; this is all part of the process to get to a good solution to the defined problem. After the initial few pancakes, the pan has less butter in it, and it is now hot enough, you have knocked the rust off your flipping technique.

You are now making good pancakes. Even if the first few ended up in the trash.

From Pancakes to Programs

As we are neck deep in designing our Pathways program, we have been following this design pattern. We have had to iterate our idea as we get feedback. We have had to make sure our research is correct and that our defined problem can be solved. We have and continue to brainstorm ideas as we build our model. We will continue to look at improving our design as necessary. This might mean that we end up throwing out the first few pancakes before we’re making good ones. This is part of the process. We don’t just want to create programs for the sake of creating programs. We want to solve our defined problem(s). We’re willing to ask questions, do the research, ask for feedback and iterate as necessary.

We believe that we are going to create great programs. We also know that it’s a process to get there.

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You Always Throw Out the First Pancake

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts is the Executive Director of the Pro Deo Foundation and when he's not working, he loves to spend time with his wife and two daughters finding fun things to do in the Santa Barbara area.

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