Slowing down to speed up

Talking to someone who works in one of the most prestigious LA restaurants, I asked about how their restaurant is run. My friend says that when the executive chef is there, the kitchen does things carefully, with great attention to detail. But when the sous chefs are running the kitchen, the emphasis switched to “hurry up.” I have experienced something similar in performance contexts working with creative artistic team vs the artistic management team. In these cases, there is a way in which the fundamental operating practice in misconstrued- efficiency becomes confused with rushing. Hastiness ends up compromising desired results.

NPR aired a show recently illuminating the benefits of mise en place, which means “put in place.” This practice has to do with organizing supplies and tools in order to execute service quickly and precisely. In the program, Bill Telepan speaks succinctly about the importance taking the right amount of time to get it right: “The one minute behind you are now is going to become 6 minutes because we’re gonna have to redo the plate…”

 “Be patient. I know it’s a grilled cheese sandwich but it’s gotta be a f*ing great grilled cheese sandwich, you know what I mean?”
Bill Telepan

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of FaceBook, has integrated the value of sustainability into the company’s famous motto, which formerly emphasized innovated and speed, but with a tinge of recklessness. He has realized what many of us eventually realize: to innovate you need flexible, stable framework.

“We’ve changed our internal motto from ‘Move fast and break things’ to ‘Move fast with stable infrastructure. By building a stable infrastructure, we allow ourselves to always make sure that we’re moving forward, even if we move a little bit slower upfront. Because when you build something that you don’t have to fix it 10 times, you can move forward on top of what you’ve built.”

Watching this video of Michelle Kwon on Cathy Madden’s blog, I had a clear sense of slowing down to speed up. Michelle Kwon is known for her precision and clean execution as well as her emotionally evocative performing. As she prepares to go into a specific move (a triple lutz for example) I feel like I am in flow state with her. Time seems to stretch. A living pause to coordinate precedes clear intention and apparently seamless execution.

A single, unified performance is a series of next right movements that we have studied and rehearsed in preparation to use our skills onstage to communicate with an audience. This attention, this living pause, this is what allows us to bring quality to our performance and our lives.

NPR: Organize Like a Chef
Wired Magazine

May 9, 2016 / Alexander Technique

Kate Conklin is a performance coach and teacher of voice and the Alexander Technique. Kate specializes in helping world-class performers whose work requires excellent technique and profound artistry. She teaches in Los Angeles and remotely via Skype.

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  • Cass

    Great post, Kate! Your words remind me of my experience in jump off rounds of competitive show jumping – slower with more collection in the horses’ gait (strong foundation) actually earns more efficiency in the long run, often earning time I thought I’d have to rush for. These lessons are so true in many facets of life, and it’s so great that you teach people how to embrace and practice these philosophies!

    • Thanks Cass! I love the way you put it, “more collection”. It doesn’t take any longer to coordinate than in does to tighten- a truth that is particularly useful evident in competitive environments! 🙂

  • Good post! Interesting and diverse examples. Facebook had embraced that slogan so much, it was definitely awkward to modify it; clearly the change was that important.

  • Jeremy Chance

    Wonderful post Kate, the performance of Michelle brought me to tears. Thank you!

  • Thanks Jeremy! Of course, the video of Michelle Kwon was brought to my attention by Cathy Madden, revealer of many things wonderous. I have the same reaction to that performance, and am planning a blog about mirror neurons and some of the reasons why we find those kinds of things so stirring. Thanks for your comment!