Tim's Takeaways: Clear Communication Takes the Cake


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An amazing thing happened just a few days ago, but before I go into detail about it, let me give you a little context to better explain it. First, let me be blunt; I am not a chef. Yes, I did spend time flipping burgers professionally as a teenager, but other than that, my repertoire of culinary delights is pretty limited. A lot of this has to do with my lack of patience. Let’s face it; when it is time to eat, I hate trying to figure out how to cook it.

Coincidently, this lack of patience has made me very popular with the fast food industry. Aside from some breakfast items (including a really cool breakfast sandwich), minute rice, and exploding chicken on the barbecue, I’m kind of a dunce in the kitchen. If it’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or microwaving leftovers, I’m your guy. But for everything else, I am way out of my league.

That is why I have to honestly wonder what in the world I was thinking a couple of days ago when I decided to make a cake for my wife on her birthday. I had already ordered a store-bought cake for the occasion (it was a chocolate-chocolate chip Bundt cake, if you wanted to know), but then she mentioned that poppy seed was her most favorite cake flavor ever.

You can never have too much cake for your birthday, I reasoned, so I declared that this was going to be the year of the over-abundant birthday desserts. After a little research, though, I found out that there wasn’t a bakery close enough that could provide me with a poppy seed cake, so I decided to make it myself. “What could go wrong?” I thought, forgetting for the moment about the exploding chicken on the barbecue incident, which caused the backyard neighbors to nearly call the fire department. It should also be noted that I had never baked a cake before—not even from a box mix. Realistically, my chances of success were not good.

haagcake.jpgThe amazing thing that I first mentioned that was a real shocker was that the cake turned out perfectly. It rose like it was supposed to and tasted delicious. My wife absolutely loved it, and all of the neighbors celebrating with us were equally impressed. As much as I would love to pat myself on the back and take a bow on center stage, the truth is I owe this success to one thing and one thing only: I had a great set of instructions and an easy-to-follow recipe for making this cake.

No matter if you are baking a cake or building a circuit board, it’s all about clear communication. If the person writing the recipe had not made the choice to clearly communicate what their intentions were for baking that cake, I would have been lost. A missing ingredient here or an incorrect oven temperature there and my birthday surprise would have ended up in the garbage in the same way a successfully built circuit board starts with clear communication from the designer. Circuit board manufacturers want to create a perfect PCB for you, but they can only do so to the extent of the instructions that you give them. Everything truly does start with design, and whether you have success or not is up to you and how you communicate it.

To read this entire column, which appeared in the June 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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