A few years ago, social scientist Francesca Gino was browsing the shelves at a bookstore when she came across an unusual-looking book in the cooking section: Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura.
The recipes in it were playful, quirky — and improbable. Snails were paired with coffee sauce, veal tongue with charcoal powder. Francesca, who is Italian, says remixing classic recipes like this is a kind of heresy in Italian cooking.
“We really cherish the old way,” she says.
But Bottura — one of the most influential chefs in the world — couldn’t resist circling back to one, big question: Why do we have to follow these rules?
It’s the kind of question Gino loves. A professor at Harvard Business School, she has spent much of her career studying non-conformists; specifically, people who break the rules, and end up in trouble. But now, standing in the bookstore, she wondered whether letting go of norms and traditions can sometimes lead to the most sublime examples of creative thinking.
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