The THINKerry

Let Them Eat Cake

A delicious metaphor for "deciding on the right deliverable."


By Tracey Castle
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We often get asked, “Can we see an example of what the report will look like?” when people are just getting to know us and our work. And we get it. It’s like wanting to see the picture of what the Bananas Foster dessert should look like when you’re setting out to make it from scratch.


(This is what Bananas Foster looks like. You’re getting hungry, aren’t you?)


For those not familiar with Bananas Foster, it is a spectacular dish created in the early 1950s by famed Chef Paul of Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans, after Chef Paul was challenged by the restaurant’s owner to make a new dessert using newly imported bananas from Central and South America.

The dessert is served tableside and includes a few sophisticated steps before serving – bananas are sautéed in butter, sugar and cinnamon and then the bananas are soaked in rum and set aflame to leave a smokey rum taste. The bananas are then served over vanilla ice cream.


(Flambé! And you thought this was just a research blog.)


Imagine that you experienced this lovely dish, as I did, at the famous Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans and thought to yourself, as I did, “This is so good! I bet everyone will love this. I must make Bananas Foster next time I have the opportunity.” So, you download the recipe and even practice a few times for your spouse. You make a mean Bananas Foster. You’re ready to share it with the public.

But rather than make it for an intimate dinner party, you are now showing off the delightful dish for several of your neighbors at your neighbor’s barbecue instead.



At the BBQ, you now find yourself igniting the rum on a flame on your neighbor’s stovetop using her cookware instead of the flambé pan that you really should be using. You forge ahead using the less than ideal kitchen burner. But the kitchen is crowded with guests who continue to file in from the backyard to grab another beer from the fridge or to get more ice for their drinks.

By the time you have seared the bananas and assembled the dessert into the individual dishes for the masses at the barbeque, the vanilla ice-cream has begun to melt. And in the end, your brilliant vision is reduced to melted ice-cream and bananas.

So, you clean up the mess and go home. And worse than no one getting to enjoy the dish outside, nobody got to ask you about it. No one is seeking your expertise: “How does one make Bananas Foster?” And certainly no one is asking about the origin story of how Bananas Foster came to be.



You see, Bananas Foster (though scrumptious and highly recommended when at Brennan’s in New Orleans) simply wasn’t the right dessert for the occasion. It would have been better achieved – and received – in an intimate dinner setting versus the neighborhood barbeque where attendees would have been just as happy to have had brownies or a piece of cake.

Requesting an “example of your deliverables” suggests that research deliverables are one-size-fits-all. But we believe that deliverables, much like dessert, need to fit the setting, audience, and situation at hand.



So, what should you be asking instead of “Can you show me an example of your deliverables?

We believe that the more important questions to be asking are, “What deliverables will help my team understand the learnings, best activate insights, and motivate people to take action? Which will inspire and have the most impact?

So, think to yourself:

  • Who is my audience?
  • How do they prefer to receive insights?
  • Will we need to facilitate conversation, and if so, with whom and in what setting?
  • How much reinforcement will this research require, in order to inculcate it into our business?


In addition to thinking about choosing the right deliverable that would be best for you and your team, it’s also equally as important to think about how you can facilitate conversations. You shouldn’t simply be presenting your findings and walking away. The research needs to be digested, understood, socialized and TALKED ABOUT before it can be acted upon.

So, choosing the right deliverable (Bananas Foster) and the right setting (intimate dinner party) is part of the art of having impact. We encourage you to think: If my setting is a BBQ and the audience is my entire neighborhood, is Bananas Foster the right dish? Or would Bananas Fosters better at fostering a conversation at the intimate dinner party? Or should I just bake a chocolate cake?



Here’s a handy guide to think about all of these questions, as well as get a sense of the deliverables that we offer:

Click here to download your own copy of our Deliverables Guide.

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