Pick the Low Hanging Fruit or Reach for the Stars?

Posted on: December 4th, 2008 by Hayim Herring No Comments

Conventional wisdom suggests that if you want to create some kind of organizational change then don’t stretch far at first– reach for the “low hanging fruit.” The “wisdom” in doing so is to create trust in the group involved in the change process and confidence in their ability to make a difference.  The “low hanging fruit” approach is group practice for the real change to come. The benefits of this approach are clear but its deficits are rarely discussed. These include:

  • frustrating people who only want to volunteer time if the issues are significant
  • being unable to measure significant differences in the b.c. (before change) and the a.c. (after change) process
  • limiting the power of imagination.

The opposite approach to change can be described as think large, move quickly and start small.  This approach focuses on practicing imaginative thinking, seeing results soon but in manageable projects. I call this the “reach for the stars” approach.  Some of its disadvantages include:

  • getting out too far and too fast in front of the majority of members of an organization
  • unsettling those who are more process oriented
  • engendering feelings of loss for the status quo without providing support for those who like it the way it was.

Clearly, the choice of the approach will be driven by many factors, including congregational culture, tolerance for risk and leadership abilities.  While there isn’t really a right or wrong approach, my experience has been that synagogues take the “low hanging fruit” approach more often. So I’d like to hear your observations on a few questions:

  1. In what situations have you successfully used the “low hanging fruit” approach over the “reach for the stars” approach?
  2. Have you ever been in situations where you felt that one approach was preferable to the other, but you went against your gut feeling for other reasons?
  3. Given some urgent issues facing the Jewish community, do you think that we need to engage more frequently in the “reach for the stars” method of change?

I’m looking forward to a lively discussion—thanks in advance for contributing to it!

Rabbi Hayim Herring

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