Versatilism and English Mustard…

My ears pricked-up over the Easter break when I heard the Colman story on the BBC 2 Our Food programme.  The series that is looking at the roots of some of the foods that we consume today.

It would seem that the founder of Colman’s Mustard, Jeremiah Colman (1777–1851), was also a versatilist!

Jeremiah Colman started out as a flour miller, owning a water mill in 1803.  But he saw an emerging market for mustard flour – until then mustard was generally sold as seeds and ground at the table or in the kitchen.  By the 1880’s there was a purpose built factory that employed over 2000 people and another 4000 people earning their living directly through the Colman Company.

Colman did two ‘versatilist’ moves:

  1. he realised that the technology of the day, water mills and wind mills, used for flour and paper milling, could be applied to    milling mustard seeds – creating a new ‘product’ that the had appeal to a mass market;
  2. he  created a product that promoted itself: by combining the flour from milled brown and white mustard seeds he produced the uniquely flavoured and coloured yellow mustard flour that we know today.

I was inspired by this story, as I realized that the activity of versatilism that we are exploring through this blog may well be an inherent human characteristic that we all possess.

I have a feeling that it would be fun to explore our own inherent versatilism through Colman’s approach.

So, I’ve created a simple game – lets a call it the Colman Game (:-)) – where we apply Colman’s approach to our own areas of interest… here is the principle:

The Colman Game – An approach for turning ideas into reality

  1. Choose an idea that you are currently working with.
  2. Set aside 10 minutes.
  3. Take a piece of blank paper and some coloured pens.
  4. Start timing 10 minutes.
  5. At the centre illustrate the idea that you are working with (can be with words or graphically).
  6. Then around the idea capture all the technology that could be used to deliver your idea today.  Be creative with the meaning of the word ‘technology’; technology can also be processes, systems of thinking, as well as tangible ‘things’.
  7. At the end of the ten minutes – review – is there anything that you could take forward today?

Will you give this a try? If so, I invite you to add some comments to the blog letting us know about your experience – is there any inherent versatilism shinning through?  I’ll do the same with my next idea.

Thank you.

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