Why Not Reinvent the Wheel?
by Robert Berkovitz
URJ Congregational Finance Specialist
Imagine a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon. This is an idea that no one could have ever have imagined thirty years ago but could become a reality in the near future. Yet, one of the common questions that arises when a synagogue board or committee is working on a new project or idea is, “Has this been done already?”
Very well meaning, caring and passionate people are involved on these projects but they might not be sure where to begin. Often times, they choose to begin by seeing what others have done. But what if automakers thought of making a more fuel efficient car but decided not to pursue the idea just because it hadn’t been done before? I have been thinking about this recently and am wondering if we are perhaps stifling our creativity by not reinventing the wheel and, instead, relying on the successes of others’ ideas. I agree that many of the ideas we come up with in committees have likely been done somewhere before. We think to ourselves “Why spend so much time and energy thinking up new, untried and untested ideas when we can just use the plan someone else created? I think the reason we should reconsider is because we may be limiting ourselves by relying on what others have done and not thinking about what is really best for us. It doesn’t matter what others have done. We applaud them for their successes but it is their success, not ours.
Perhaps if we rethink the wheel we will come up with a new idea, revolutionizing something in our synagogue that will truly make it soar! For example what if a synagogue leader in the congregation found a unique way to increase revenue but after checking with other synagogues discovered no one had tried this idea before. Does it mean you shouldn’t try to implement this idea just because there is no experience with it? On the opposite side of the spectrum, there may be a really successful revenue building idea that works in other synagogues but because of the unique culture of your synagogue, it might do more harm than good. Would you still implement it just because it has been used elsewhere? After all, just because everyone is doing something doesn’t mean you should do it too! (Hmm, I hear my mother talking there.)
I don’t mean to suggest that you have to do something new, but relying only on what everyone else has done can put stumbling blocks in the way to your own unique success. We all fear the possibility of failure which is why we look to see what ideas have worked elsewhere. That possibility of failure exists, and you may find that your idea has failed many times before. However, it hasn’t failed in your synagogue and it may just be the success you need.
We need to take chances and fail occasionally in order for us to be successful. Failure allows us to build upon our experiences so that the next idea we want to implement will be that much more successful. How would you reinvent the wheel?
Rob Berkovitzis a URJ Finance Specialist who can assist member congregations withbudget-, endowment-, and financial planning-related concerns. Pleasecontact Rob (212.650.4061, email@example.com) with any additional questions.