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I read the article “Employees are faster and more creative when solving other people’s problems” by Daniel Pink with fascination. It turns out that we think more creatively and abstractly for others than for ourselves.
The solutions are more concrete when working on things that affect us personally.
What does this have to do with Jewish education?
Plenty, it turns out. I’d like to share just two experiences with you:
1. Recently, a group of four synagogues wanted to brainstorm solutions for their Hebrew schools’ declining enrollment. Among them, there are about 30 students in the 6th grade (daled) class. The brief summary is that after several meetings they were unable to generate any alternatives. Why? Because each one did not want students to go to another location. While discussions are still taking place, they did agree to joint programming several times a year (locations to be determined).
2. Two synagogues down the road from each other recently joined efforts to create a ‘collaborative’ Hebrew High school, which sounds like a very good solution. Because each one did not want students to ‘leave the building’ they alternate locations every six months. The programming definitely seems creative. At the outset this seems like a terrific compromise between two ‘competing’ synagogues. Except for the fact that less than 500 yards down the road sits a Jewish community high school. The school was never brought into the conversation, and the conversations leading to this change were facilitated by the community’s Jewish education agency.
Based on the study Pink quotes, he recommends disassociating ourselves from the problem when trying to solve it. How would this work in the Jewish community? How would the scenarios above play out differently? What if we could really think creatively?