This past week I had the wonderful experience of attending my first NATA (National Association for Temple Administration) Board Meeting in Los Angeles. I am so grateful to Temple Beth-El for allowing me to take an active role in conducting important business with my colleagues, as well as having the opportunity to learn together.
I attended a session with Abby Fifer Mandell, Executive Director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at USC Marshall School of Business. The subject of her inspiring presentation was Human-Centered Design. Three hours of learning only left me wanting more!
I would like to briefly summarize what I took away from Ms. Mandell’s presentation and why it is so important to TBE’s future. According to Wikipedia, design is defined as “the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object, system or measurable human interaction (as in architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit diagrams, and sewing patterns).” One thing you can be certain of when envisioning any consumer product, is that it went through a design phase before being brought to market.
People trained in design are taught to probe deeply into the hearts and minds of their target consumers, to ensure that they truly understand their needs. Who are they? What do they value? What would make their lives better? What are they looking for?
So, what does any of this have to do with synagogue life?
A design-focused approach, based on authentic curiosity and empathic listening, followed by collaborative problem solving, experimentation, prototyping and testing, could be a real game changer in the synagogue world, with potentially transformative results. It has the capacity to create innovative models in every aspect of synagogue life, and the process itself can help to build more relational communities. This is Human-Centered Design and, actually, its implementation is what helped transform our Religious School so successfully.
I am excited to continue learning more about this method and sharing it with our staff and leadership in helping to plan our future growth.