Unique, break-through inventions are very difficult to achieve. Most innovations are not completely “innovative.” Rather, they build upon and incorporate prior efforts, while adding some new features. In a recent article in Fast Company Magazine by Farhad Manjoo, entitled The Invincible Apple, the author notes that Apple’s claim about making revolutionary projects is somewhat overstated. Manjoo writes,
“To use a musical analogy, Apple’s specialty is the remix. It curates the best ideas bubbling up around the tech world and makes them its own. It’s also a great fixer, improving on everything that’s wrong with other similar products on the shelves.”
Think of some the great big Jewish programs that seem to have burst upon the scene: Taglit-Birthright Israel, The PJ Library, Moishe House and most recently, Hebrew Charter Schools. The quote above about “remix” can just as easily apply to these initiatives. Taking young adults to Israel, parents reading books to children, young adults who share something in common living together and acting on their values, charter schools—none of these are completely unique. But, they are conceptually brilliant because they are simple, powerful, elegant and well-executed. (Full disclosure: I have worked and continue to consult for some of the philanthropists behind these ideas.)
Now, consider some of the work that your congregation does: adult learning, youth work, prayer. Without new resources, is there some area of congregational life that lends itself to a “remix?” Have a discussion with your staff and volunteer leaders, and see what emerges. Remember—“big ideas” can start with a series of small changes that don’t involve new funding! Please share your thinking with readers of Tools for Shuls. I’m eager to hear from you.
Rabbi Hayim Herring