The Great British Bake Off – Performance Basics


The latest series of the Great British Bake-Off has been filling our TV screens and the column inches of our national newspapers over the last week or so.

Now in series 5, it’s strangely compelling mixture of comedy, drama, cooking and competition, and has consistently captured the public’s imagination as essential TV viewing since it’s first series. We’ve been watching ‘Bake-Off’ avidly (well, some of us have), and inevitably we’ve been viewing it through a performance lens (which might seem odd but then again we’re a pretty strange bunch of people).

Here are our top 3 insights on what Bake Off reinforces about performance:

1)   Get the basics right first.

Contestants who are consistently brilliant at the basics are getting the best results. They’re the ones who get the cake/pastry/bread fundamentals right as a priority before thinking about the icing. ‘Style over substance’ is a consistent criticism that Paul and Mary deliver to contestants who don’t get their bake right! Winners of previous series (and top performers so far in this series) are those who attend to the basics first (their bake, tried and tested flavour pairings, etc) before they spend time on ‘1%ers’ (elaborate decoration or risky taste sensations!)

2)   Remain focused on the process

The better performing contestants have consistently focused on their performance – i.e. their bakes. They’ve not concerned themselves with what others are doing (unless there’s some information to be gained from it) or wasted time and energy on uncontrollables (e.g., conditions in the tent!). Consistent successful bakers through all the series have done this – helped by retaining a firm self-belief in their skills, abilities and strengths as a baker.

3)   Resilience wins

Bouncing back after a poor result is key. Resilient contestants are the ones who have been able to quickly and honestly review outcomes, extract lessons for future performances and then move on to focus on their next performance. Those who have appeared to dwell on their failures and worry about their next outcome are not delivering consistent high quality performances.

What lessons can you take from Bake-Off and apply to your performance in your role? Do you know what your performance basics are (the really critical things you need to do that get you the things you want), ensure you get these right consistently, and attend to these before worrying about the ‘icing on the cake’? Under pressure, how well do you keep focused on the process or the task in hand, and only on things that you can control? And how do you deal with setbacks – do you choose to wallow in your defeats or learn, apply and move on quickly?

If you want to be a top performer in any area – in the kitchen, on the sports field or in the workplace, ensuring that you’re brilliant at the basics, keep focused on the performance process and bounce back quickly after setbacks are all critical characteristics to consistently being the best performer you can be – and to deliver the results you want.