What “The Great British Baking Show” teaches us about teamwork in software development

November 24, 2021

By: Adam Sockel, Pluralsight Content Strategist

In the ten-plus years that “The Great British Baking Show” has been on-air, it’s inspired millions of people around the globe. Regardless of whether you bake bread daily or if you don’t even want to risk following a recipe from Nestle Tollhouse, the show will happily welcome you to their famed tent for an hour of good times and soothing vibes. At its core, the show is hardly revolutionary. Talented cooks come together in a competition and their creations are judged across various metrics like taste and presentation.

“The Great British Baking Show” didn’t invent competitive cooking shows, but it might be the best example of them. What sets it apart isn’t the quality of the food made—although the results are often stunning—but rather the spirit of the show itself that constantly inspires me. And it’s left me thinking a lot about software development and creating a healthy environment. I’ll explain.


Bake Off’s baked-in teamwork

The secret ingredient (yes, I’ll be doing puns in this post) of “Bake Off,” as it’s lovingly known, is the feeling of camaraderie and teamwork that is peppered throughout. It’s a competition show, so there will always be a winner at the end, and one baker ends up going home after each week, but in every episode you’ll see the bakers helping each other if they need extra hands or offering constant encouragement to one another. 

The hosts and judges walk around the tent where the competition occurs, breaking the tension with jokes, compliments and lighthearted quips. The show takes place over several months so the bakers end up building close relationships and frequently shedding tears of sadness every time someone has to leave at the end of an episode. 

Despite the fact that the bakers are all trying to win this competition, they’re rooting for each other and are willing to lend a helping hand when it’s needed. Competitive shows like this, where your success is determined by your self-reliance and preparation, can create a feeling of isolation or coldness. Cooking shows tend to feed into that with music drops and dramatic pauses. 

“Bake Off” goes the other direction, creating a warm, loving environment. The final episode of the season always brings back every competitor from that year’s competition and reminds the viewer of all the many parts that made up the whole of the show that we love so much.

Great British Baking Show


A recipe for a healthy tech team

The software development world can feel a lot like those other shows. Technologists need to spend a lot of time by themselves in order to write code. It can feel isolating and competitive, and it can be challenging to see the big picture of what the project will become. It can be easy for technologists to focus on just their own bake, as it were, and feel disconnected from their team and org. 

Two major aspects of productivity are employee wellbeing and team collaboration, which is why it’s important for team leads to foster healthy and welcoming environments that encourage teamwork and communication. 


GBBO and teamwork


Just like there are countless ways to make a perfect tarte, there are also endless ways to build a thriving tech team:

  • Much like the hosts of “Bake Off” stop by each baker’s station to check in, leaders should connect with their employees to see how they’re feeling and make sure they have everything they need to thrive. This is especially important in the world of work-from-home. 

  • Provide cross-team collaboration opportunities to strengthen bonds and allow unique ideas to form by pairing unexpected team members together on projects. 

  • Set up a Coffee and Tea slack channel where two random people get paired up every week for a fifteen-minute chat. 

  • Schedule frequent hack-a-thons and brainstorming sessions where new project ideas have time to proof. 

In the lightning-paced world we work in, it might feel challenging to take time to do these things, but they are key to creating happy employees who feel connected to their work and the organization.

As technologists, we know that culture isn’t a singular thing you can simply fold into an organization in one day. It takes patience and practice, but it’s worth it. By showing your team members you care about their wellbeing as well as their work, you create a space for richer communication. Adding compassion to your spice rack of leadership tools can only help improve the satisfaction of your team. 

By being mindful of the way your teams work and blending in some of the above ingredients into your team's work experience, you can help assure your end result is a good bake, or, um, product. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a cake to pull out of the oven.


Looking for tools to improve your visibility into the DevOps process, create healthier communication amongst team members and improve the way you track productivity? Schedule a demo to learn about Pluralsight Flow today