Oy Vey! Isn’t a Strategy. But it’s a Darn Good Read.

I have three stacks of books by my bed: the professional reading, the personal reading (parenting books, etc.) and the ‘for fun’ reading (novels, biographies, etc). The urgency usually follows that order, to the point that my last new years’ resolution was to read more fun novels.  It’s July. The end of July.  I have read exactly 1.

So it’s a good thing I picked up Deborah’s book, Oy Vey Isn’t a Strategy.  The book was officially in the first pile: professional reading.  Though it very well could have been in the second (striving for better work/life balance, personal satisfaction, etc.).   About 2 pages in I realized it was entertaining enough to qualify for the “just for fun” pile too.  This woman is a hoot!  This book really transcends any category, or perhaps better put, it delivers value in all of them.

Deborah puts so much of herself into this book.  In some places it reads like a memoir, and knowing Deborah, I have fully enjoyed getting to know her better through her amazing personal, familial and professional stories. We can all see a bit of ourselves in her journeys and reflections.

But the real punch of the book is that Deborah uses her own entertaining stories (and delightfully funny writing style) to hold up a mirror for us to see, and understand, ourselves – personally, professionally, emotionally, strategically.

I cracked the book on an airplane that was already running hours late on a flight home from Chicago.  We were taking off at 10pm.  I’d arrive home in the wee hours of the morning.  I intended to peruse the first chapters and then sleep, but I could not but this book down.  By the time I got to chapter 8 (which begins, “Temporarily losing my left eyebrow changed me permanently…”) I had given up sleep and found myself giggling out loud (apologies to the gentleman reading a neuroscience journal in 9B next to me). 

But within a few pages in every chapter, Deborah seamlessly moves from the upturn of my smile to the depth of my heart and gut, gently and firmly holding and articulating the issues that are at the root of our happiness and success.  And just to make sure that the ideas and reflections don’t end in our heads, each chapter ends with questions and exercises to help us really knead our own experiences and apply her teachings to our own lives.

The most insightful nuggets of this book sometimes are delivered in insightful one liners.  It’s full of them.  My favorite? In chapter 14 Deborah observes that for many of her clients seeking help as ‘self diagnosed procrastinators’, “we discover that procrastination is masking perfectionism”.  BULLSEYE.  While I don’t find that I’m a serial procrastinator, this is exactly why it does occasionally happen.  And that procrastination can be costly – in time, energy, dollars, relationships, and attention wasted elsewhere.  Small lessons can have big impact.  And this book is full of them.

My ‘personal reading’ stack includes many Jewish books.  While I work with rabbis and Jewish educators everyday, I’m always wishing I could make more time for my own Jewish learning.  And, as if Oy Vey hadn’t delivered enough yet, the Jewish lessons, quotes and stories are woven throughout.  Deborah’s lessons for us are grounded in experience, training, wisdom, thoughtfulness, and tradition.  And when I was done, exhausted and travel weary, I felt grounded too.

A Skinny Book. Buy 12 Copies.

tstRabbi Hayim Herring (of STAR: Synagogues Transformation and Renewal) and the visionary behind Synaplex) has recently published a new book: Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today. You should read it, and buy a copy for the senior staff and every board member of your synagogue. Here’s the link. Go take care of business and then come back and keep reading. OK, now that the box is on its way, I’ll explain why you should read — and share — this book. First, Rabbi Herring gets it. He gets the big picture vision, the fundamental changes in society, and the risks that synagogues must take to remain a vital and vibrant center of Jewish life. But he also gets the completely practical details of synagogue change efforts. The dynamics of boards, the technology infrastructures, the values questions, and the training of Rabbis to fulfill the leadership roles. Second, he’s packed tremendous punch into a skinny little book that’s easy to follow. It’s like putting on a pair of glasses that helps you see the world through a different lens. Third, this book helps you develop a vocabulary to think about the future synagogue. And this is why it’s so important to read it together. Using the same terms, and shaping a shared vision will lubricate the discussions about change, helping everyone to move forward on a shared path. In Chapter 1 he addresses head on how the rules have changed:

  • from the age of organizations to toward the age of networks;
  • from credentialed professionals towards avocational experts;
  • from hierarchical control towards individual autonomy;from exclusivity toward inclusivity;
  • from monopolization of knowledge towards democratization of knowledge;
  • from assuming a fee-for-service economy towards expecting a free-for-service economy (at least at a basic level).

What does this mean for synagogues? A lot. While change is hard, it is necessary. We cannot keep our heads in the sand. We are living in a moment where the risk of staying the same is greater than the risk of change. Plain and simple. If we accept the change is necessary, then the question is what do we want, and how do we get there. Tomorrow’s Synagogue Today is a great step on that journey. How are thinking about the changing context of synagogue life, and its implications for your congregation? If you’ve read the book, what stood out for you, and how are taking action? And if you do read this book as a group, please share with us about your process and the discussions it provokes.

The Narrowing Orbit of Search

The New York Times Bits Blog is reporting this morning that Google will be adding social network posts from Google to its search results. Google takes its search algorithm very seriously, and any changes to the way search is analyzed or displayed has the potential to significantly influence the way that we all — really, a significant portion of the world’s population – access, identify and consume information. Today’s shift, which adds posts, photos, profiles and conversations from Google that are public or were shared privately with the person searching, is valuable for users because it brings "your world" (as Google refers to it) into search, aggregating all of the information you might be interested in seeking. It’s valuable to Google as further boosts the centrality of Google relative to other social networks (which for now are not included), and positions your search engine as the singular window into all aspects of your world. If I’m planning a trip to Paris I might find in my search hotels, reviews, discounts, maps, historical info, and now tips from friends who have been there, or even become aware that someone I know will be there at the same time. But more than the search engine as the window into the world, these changes position me as the center of the universe, with information orbiting me. Helpful, perhaps. But what are the implications? The Filter Bubble But the flip side of all of this is the narrowing of our worlds. Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble describes how because of the search algorithm (the ‘filter’), we don’t even know what is being hidden from us. What we’ve done and sought in the past strongly influence what we are exposed to in the future "leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas". Now that’s not so radically different from the way we lived prior to the internet. If I live in a particular neighborhood or my kids go to a particular school, I’m more likely to be friends with those people and remain in that orbit. But other recent research shows that young people today, while fairly technically savvy, have not been taught skills to evaluate the information they find. "Google’s a trusted web site," says one British student in a BBC segment. She used the first result Google returned and didn’t really think about it any further. While teaching a course at the high school Genesis program at Brandeis University a few years ago, I challenged my students to do a research project with limited access to resources: Only books, internet minus Wikipedia and the top 5 Google search results, or anything. As you can imagine, the results were vastly different. The students who were limited in their online search had a much deeper understanding of the material because they were exposed to many more sources and forced to evaluate and synthesize the information. The bottom line here is the difference between information and knowledge. We often confuse the two. Google’s shifts may change the way we access information, but it is our responsibility to create our own knowledge. And it is the responsibility of educators and parents to recognize that this process of knowledge creation and meaning making is different today than it has been in the past. We must teach these skills, and illustrate to students the implications of Google’s decisions, lazy searching and the conclusions we draw. Happy searching and socializing. And don’t forget to get outside of your own orbit from time to time. More on Google’s recent change: Mashable: Google Merges Search and Google Into Social Media Juggernaut Huffington Post: Google ‘Search Plus Your World’ Brings Google Into Search Results New York Times’ Bits Blog: Google’s Social Move Attracts Critics New York Times’ Bits Blog: Google Adds Posts From Its Social Network to Search Results

What Can Be Learned From The Congruence of the Dragonfly’s Wings

Do you ever feel like you are flailing when it comes to your social media strategy? Or that you do not have any coordination at all? Look at the dragonfly. In order for it to accelerate rapidly and change directions immediately, all four wings must move in congruence.

As Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith in their book The Dragonfly Effect explain four metaphorical “wings” – focus, grab attention, engage, take action – must work together to ensure social media success. Utilizing these wings can provide Jewish institutions a foundation for not just maintaining an online presence, but truly galvanizing a constituency to actively engage in Judaism and the community. 4 wings

1. Focus – prior to entering the social media arena, zero in on simple and realistic goals. As opposed to top down planning, it is vital to build personal relationships, be authentic and listen intently to the communal needs. At Temple Israel in Memphis, we organized heterogeneous focus groups to hear individual thoughts concerning the temple. Based on their insights, a vision was constructed by lay leaders, stating our congregation’s role to connect Jews more deeply to Torah, spiritual fulfillment, community, and tikkun olam. Using this as the foundation, our temple’s Facebook page, alongside my Rabbi Adam Facebook and Twitter accounts, ultimately connect to our community more deeply and, subsequently, help to drive our attendance, donations, long-term membership, and new member opportunities. While some might disregard this planning stage, successful social media approaches realize the importance of slowing down before speeding up.

2. Grab Attention – getting noticed by our audience is vital to social media success. In an online world dominated with choices, we need to move away from the predictability. Too many organizations explain events or communicate information in the exact same way as was done fifty years before – title the event, share the details, expect a crowd. In the online world, this is not acceptable. Sparking the curiosity of our constituents must be done through innovative and audience centered videos and pictures that personally connect with and elicit an emotional response from our constituency. Think of the Maccabeats, Yeshiva University’s all-male a cappella group, whose fun, entertaining and unexpected song “Candlelight” became an instant Youtube sensation and now has almost 6 million views. While by no means the same number of hits, this video from Temple Israel exceeded expectations, generated excitement, and started many conversations about the event.

3. Engage – emotionally invest the community in the organization. One of the best lines of the book is that “to engage, it’s necessary to view yourself (and your effort) as a brand.” In order to do this, we need to tell our stories, which help to define and to build our constituency’s collective memories thus connecting them more deeply to the mission of and take action for the institution. Answering questions such as what inspires the community, what makes an institutional experience meaningful, and why Jews would want to connect with us gears the online conversation to the community and makes it personal. In promoting Temple Israel’s Sukkot and Simchat Torah experiences, we redefined them for the community where music became the center. We ran a fun promotional spot and an online giveaway for autographed CD’s of the artists via Facebook and Twitter. By rethinking the marketing, we have helped our community become more engaged and excited about the experience and the artists.

4. Take action – get the community to act upon your cause by giving their time, money or both. The most important take away here is to ask for time before money. Too many Jewish institutions consistently ask for money via membership, programs, events, dinners, etc. and never truly get people vested in the experience. In order to reverse this trend, it is imperative to actively seek and encourage volunteer participation. Even though individuals are involved with so many activities, we have to rethink how we invite people to volunteer. Instead of asking them to join time intensive committees, encourage them to work on smaller and tangible projects that value their individual talents, skills and interests. When a group then becomes invested in the organization, social media then becomes a tool for reaching a greater audience and receiving much needed feedback. As one experiments with social media to motivate the community, make it fun and, as our communications director, Isti Bardos, always states, make sure to respond to every message or post for that personal touch helps the audience feel they are actually having a dialogue rather than a monologue. dragonflyeffect The Dragonfly Effect provides the tools to captivate an online audience, and then inspire them to actively participate in social change. The examples and illustrations can help Jewish institutions more fully realize the potential of social media. By experimenting, having fun and continuing to evaluate results, these four wings can provide Jewish institutions a way to further engage Jews as our world proceeds to advance technologically. How are you addressing these four wings, and more importantly, how are you getting them to work in congruence with one another?

Rabbi Adam Grossman is the Associated Rabbi of Temple Israel of Memphis. Rabbi Grossman earned his Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2008, a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from The Ohio State University and a Master of Education Administration with a Specialization in Jewish Education from Xavier University. He is an active user of social media, and contributes to Temple Israel’s effective use of online social tools for engagement and building community.

Networked Nonprofit Book Club

I pre-ordered The Networked Nonprofit and cracked it open the day I received it last summer. Authors Beth Kanter and Allison Fine are gurus of nonprofit social media and the implications for organizations, and I was eager to continue to learn from them. What I didn’t realize is that the book would provide both conceptual and tactical frameworks for advancing any organization’s work, regardless of where you are starting from. While I’ve recommended the book to many, here at Darim we were eager to really engage with others about what this means for Jewish organizations, their leaders, and the community as a whole. On Monday, we’re launching Darim’s Networked Nonprofit Book Club. Based in the new Facebook Groups, we’ll be posing discussion questions from one or two chapters each week. We hope to learn what you’re thinking, doing, learning, and struggling with. And we hope to learn from each other, help each other solve problems, and also get a sense of where Darim’s efforts could make an important difference for you and others. We’re also learning, as this is our first book club adventure and our first large scale experiment with the updated version of Facebook Groups. So far, 137 people have joined — which has far exceeded our expectations! Even authors Beth Kanter and Allison Fine are on board. We hope the opportunity will help participants learn the “ins and outs” of this new tool along with us, and consider how it can be useful in their communities too. We welcome your input, suggestions and reflections on it — leave a comment here, in the group, or email us at learningnetwork@darimonline.org to share your thoughts. Want to join us? No cost – just swing on by: http://on.fb.me/netnonbookclub We have posted some initial info and guidelines for the Book Club. In the interest of sharing and encouraging others to experiment with Groups, book clubs, and online community facilitation, we’re posting the information here (see below) and will be sharing updates in future blog posts. Everything on this blog will be tagged "bookclub" and "#netnon". Tweeting? Use #darim and #netnon (which is the hashtag for the book in general). Hope to see you there! It kicks off Monday, though you’re welcome to swing by and join the conversation anytime. How We’ll Work Together We will focus on one or two chapters each week beginning January 10. Each week, Darim staff will kick off the conversation with one or two questions per week that relates to themes in that chapter and implications for Jewish organizations. Together, we will reflect on what that means for our work as Jewish professionals and lay leaders. Respond to our discussion questions by commenting on that post. You can also pose questions to the group, or share links or other information by posting your own status updates to the group. We encourage you to participate in ways that are most meaningful to you. Feel free to jump into – and even initiate – conversations, and to post relevant links and resources to share with the group. If you prefer to dip in and out of the discussions, that’s cool too! There are no preconceived expectations — we want you to learn, experiment, share and connect with others. Tips for Using Facebook Groups Notification settings: BY DEFAULT, You will receive any status that is posted to the group. If you comment on it, you will also receive notifications of any additional comments on that posting. If you’d prefer NOT to receive these notifications, you can click “unsubscribe” next to that specific posting. If you’d like to receive notification about a posting that you haven’t commented on, you can click “subscribe” next to it. To change your default settings, please visit “edit settings” in the top right corner of the group. Adding members: You probably noticed that you can add your Facebook friends to the group if they are on Facebook. Please feel free to add anyone who would like to join – we only ask that you check with them first to see if they are interested. You will find the “Add Friends to Group” link under the Members photos on the right hand column. You can also email them the link to our Group so they can opt in if they’d like. http://on.fb.me/netnonbookclub Group Chat: You can chat with group members who are online in real time by clicking on the “Chat with Group” link under the Members photos on the right hand column or by clicking the tab at bottom of the page. This is a fun way to make a personal connection with others in the group. When the chat box opens, you’ll see photos of group members — those with a green box are currently online. You can elect to have group chat messages sent to you going to “edit settings” and selecting that option. Living Room Policy: While we have very few rules, we do want to make the Book Club experience as fun, useful and efficient as possible for everyone. Thus, we ask you to abide by the Living Room Policy, which is basically this: If I were to invite you into my living room, I would expect you to be courteous and sociable. You are welcome to disagree or challenge me or anyone else, but you must do so respectfully. Also, vibrant discussions require good listening and asking questions or others, not only talking about yourself. Finally, please refrain from using this as a platform for marketing unrelated products or programs. And if you have any questions, please feel free to ask us at learningnetwork@darimonline.org. It may take a little time for you to determine your personal preferences and customize them to fit your needs. Don’t be afraid to take them out for a test ride, tweak as needed, and/or ask us if you need help. Interested in more technical details? You can learn more about Facebook Groups here: http://bit.ly/fvSAor Resources for the Book Club If you have not already done so, please be sure to order your copy of The Networked NonProfit by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine. Here is a link to Amazon: http://bit.ly/aOa6nX And please feel free to view the recording of the recent Darim webinar with Allison Fine and Lisa Colton in which they discussed networked nonprofits and Jewish organizations: http://bit.ly/c8Iudm Are you tweeting? #netnon is the hashtag for the book, and #darim is for our community. Want to learn even more?! Join us at NTC in DC! Join us at NTEN’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC). And by “us” we mean a whole bunch of Jewish leaders like you – in addition to the fabulous NTC program (where top notch thinkers like authors Beth Kanter and Allison Fine regularly speak), the Schusterman Family Foundation and Darim Online are hosting a series of events for our members. Click here to learn more about it: http://bit.ly/igDAzB – we hope to see you there!

Need A Hanukkah Gift For Your Boss?

YScreen shot 2010-11-19 at 3.34.26 PMou’re looking for the gift that keeps on giving, right? I’ve got just the thing for you. Pick up a copy of Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s book The Networked Nonprofit. A fun read with great stories and case studies, this book will help any nonprofit leader better understand the impact and opportunities of working in a networked world. THEN SIGN UP FOR OUR ONLINE BOOK GROUP! That’s right. Starting in January, we’ll be hosting a free online book group to discuss the concepts and their application to our work in the Jewish community. Bonus: experience the joys of the new Facebook Groups feature while you’re at it. You can join the book group now, and we’ll kick off discussion in January. That gives you just enough time to get copies for your co-workers, plus one for yourself, and read it in mid-December while everyone else is still scrambling for that other holiday, or by a cozy fire, or on the beach in Hawaii or where ever you might take a winter vacation… Have you read the book yet? What are you interested in discussing? What ideas grabbed your attention?

The “New Normal” is Change. Deal With It.

At the Jewish Communal Service Association’s annual program today, change was the name of the game. Jerry Silverman, CEO of Jewish Federations of North America in particular spoke about two kinds of change that we need to embrace: First, accepting that constant change is the “new normal” (the theme of the JCSA conference), and second, the need to confidently lead through change, whether that be changing economic times, new technologies, and evolving cultures.

On the first, we need to learn how to be more nimble — learning new skills, evolving our decision making processes to be able to move more swiftly, and being able to adjust structures to keep the machine humming when the outside world shifts.

But all of this is only possible when we are successful with the second. Leading through change is a great challenge, that involves not only good business strategy, but excellent communication, team building, listening, and attention to the psychology of change, not only the logistics of change. If the Jewish community needs one thing, it’s people who are superb leaders in times of change.

Several years ago, when Darim was shifting from our original work of building web sites to a focus on training, coaching and consulting, I read a powerful book, Managing Transitions, by William Bridges. The take home message: Change is situational (like a light switch), but transition is psychological (a process). We need leaders who know what change needs to be made to thrive in the “new normal”, but those same leaders also need to facilitate a transition, which requires a whole different set of skills.

If you haven’t noticed, the Jewish community isn’t the only one recognizing this need. (It’s comforting to know we’re not behind the curve on this one!) A flurry of new books are hitting the shelves focused on change strategy and management in today’s world:

  • Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath (from Amazon.com): In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counterintuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.
  • The Power of Pull, by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, Lang Davison (from Amazon.com): In a radical break with the past, information now flows like water, and we must learn how to tap into its stream. But many of us remain stuck in old practicespractices that could undermine us as we search for success and meaning. Drawing on pioneering research, The Power of Pull shows how to apply its principles to unlock the hidden potential of individuals and organizations, and how to use it as a force for social change and the development of creative talent.

Coming out soon:

  • Open Leadership, by Charlene Li (co-author of Groundswell) (from Amazon.com): “Be Open, Be Transparent, Be Authentic” are the current leadership mantras-but companies often push back. Business is premised on the concept of control and yet the new world order demands openness-leaders do not know how to be open and be in control. This must-have resource will help the modern leader understand how to lead in the new open world-where blogging, twittering, facebooking, and digging are becoming the norm. the author lays out the steps that leaders must take to transform their organizations and themselves into being “open” -and exactly what that will mean.
  • Empowered, by Josh Bernoff (co-author of Groundswell) (from Amazon.com): Fueled by data from Forrester Research, Empowered is packed with the business tools and information necessary to move your organization several steps ahead … and lead … your people (who are) armed with cheap, accessible technology, and are connecting with customers and building innovative new solutions.

What are your strategies for managing change? Where have you been successful? What’s hard? Do you have advice or other resources to add to the conversation? Onward!

Tips from Switch on Clarity and Directed-Giving

Guest blog post by Anna Rosenblum Palmer, Founder of winwinapps

switchbookI am currently re-reading Switch: How to change things when change is hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. Amongst the many dog-eared, and underlined sections is a brief line on page 17: What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.

The authors example is a public health campaign in West Virginia that specifically directed residents to switch their milk drinking from whole to 1% or skim. Instead of the valuable but diffuse and difficult goal of simply acting healthier, the campaign gave clear instructions.

What can this mean for non-profits? Quite a bit.

At a recent fundraising auction checkout, one of our cashiers requested an additional donation to support the work of the beneficiary. Her line had a smaller than 5% donation rate. Our other checkout line asked winning bidders to round up their purchase by 2, 5, 10, or 18 dollars (whatever brought them to the nearest $100 figure). This money would go to purchase a new pick up truck to be used by members. This second line had a 37% round up rate. For a small non-profit that was the difference between $10 dollars in the first line and $475 in the second. Neither was enough to buy a pickup, but with clear instructions the actual dollars in the bank increased by 40 times.

What about you? How specific are you with your asks? Do you tie gifts to specific programs, ask for discrete amounts at particular times, or take advantage of triggers in the environment of your supporters?

Other take home messages from Switch for fundraising:

  1. Follow your bright spots. If a campaign, donor, or programming is exceeding your goals, try to determine why and replicate it.
  2. Marry long term goals with short term critical moves. Your mission is critical, but showing your staff and supporters how you will get there shrinks the change, and energizes giving.
  3. Script the moves. For an organization that fights homelessness, linking a monthly gift to equal to 1% of a donors mortgage payments can keep your mission front of mind and the amount and timing of donation clear.
  4. Grow your people. Increase their role and identity within your organization. Donors who support a public health campaign might become messengers with their donation receipt you can arm them with support materials and task them to teach 10 friends the importance of breast self exams.
  5. Act more like a coach and less like a scorekeeper. Everything looks like a failure in the middle. Focus on the valleys of a program as learning opportunities rather than failures. There should be no never only not yet.
  6. Use the score when it can help you. The herd mentality can work for you. If the majority of your board members have exceeded last years gift, use that fact. People tend to fall in line with their peers.

What is your favorite take home from Switch?

Anna Rosenblum Palmer founded winwinapps after years of board and staff service with small non-profits. She’s always interested in improving efficiency to have more time for mission based work. She welcomes comments, suggestion or answer questions atanna@winwinapps.com, @winwinapps, cell: (617) 800-4607

winwinapps is a VT-based, internet toolkit that takes the hassle out of running a nonprofit, freeing you up to do the work that really matters. We help you. You help them. That’s a winwin.

The Networked Nonprofit

Last week I dove into the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Conference, commonly known at #10NTC. (I dare you, search for that on Twitter and see how active is STILL is, days after the conference wrapped up. Us NPtechies are an enthusiastic, passionate and smart bunch. You can also find 58 Powerpoints from the conference on Slideshare, 870 photos on Flickr, videos on Youtube … need I go on?)

Screen shot 2010-04-09 at 4.18.20 PMOne of the best sessions I attended was where Beth Kanter and Allison Fine (among the gurus of nonprofit technology) presented their upcoming book, The Networked Nonprofit (due out in June, but you can preorder here). These two women completely understand the future of nonprofit organizations in the digital age, and I could listen to their wisdom, humor and case studies for days.

One element from their presentation keeps knocking around in my head, the idea of three stages of organizational development in this networked era.

  1. Fortress – an organization where there are insiders and outsiders, and the two rarely meet or interact;
  2. Transactional – an organization that is engaged with their community, but with the sole focus of transactions, such as getting people to sign up for an event or make a donation;
  3. Transparent – an organization that fully engages and empowers their community to accomplished shared goals.

I love the simplicity of these three stages, and the acknowledgment that getting on social media platforms is not the ultimate goal. Plenty of people are promoting events on Facebook and measuring success by the number of tushes in the seats. But the real paths to accomplishing our mission and goals, and the more accurate measurements of success go far beyond this. They also require a leap of faith, and the ability to take that first leap.

Remember the first time you climbed to the top of a high dive as a kid, your heart beating so hard you thought it would leap out of your chest, and that moment when you finally hurled yourself into the air? It’s the same moment really. And remember when you went back again and again and again to do it over and over? Yeah, it’s like that too.

So tell us — what stage are you at? What do you need to move from one stage to the next? Where do you see examples of “transparent” organizations or activities?

Get Over Your Fear of Critics, and Learn To Appreciate Them

For some, social media is a bit scary because it empowers the public to voice their thoughts. While hopefully in the vast majority of circumstances this means engaging in more meaningful conversations, learning about new supports, and amplifying your message through valuable networks, it also means that critics can make their rants public. This is scary, and threatening. Partially because of the potential content of those rants, and largely because it represents a loss of control.

I often remind those concerned that control is largely an illusion — those rants and conversations happen in the parking lot, the dinner table, via email and on Facebook. The companies that have done a great job of turning around their brands (Comcast, Dell) have done so not be trying to shut down the conversation or ignoring it, but by listening, acknowledging, and learning from it. (For stories about what they’ve done, read Twitterville.)

Chris Brogan, a widely known and well respects new media marketing specialist, writes a very prolific (and insightful) blog and weekly e-newsletter. This week he talks about critics, and offers some advice :

If you are fortunate enough to have critics, you’re doing something right … I want to share with you how I deal with critics, and what you might learn from the gifts they give you.

Thank them. No matter what a critic says, say “Thanks for your thoughts,” or a variation. They have taken the time to offer their opinions, however invalid or unhelpful, with you. Say thanks. It’s the only good response to a criticism.
Don’t defend yourself. The person giving you the opinion probably doesn’t care what you have to say about it. They just wanted to share their take. You can reply and reflect back what they’ve said, but try not to defend. It only comes off as making you look defensive and it just goes nowhere fast.
Decide for yourself, in private, if you agree. You don’t have to take every critic’s opinion, but listen to whether there’s any grain of truth in what they say. I learn when my critics are my friends, but I learn LOTS when they are people who don’t much like me. Sometimes, I’m able to adapt their mean words into something of great value to myself.
Don’t just throw it out, is my point. Criticism can be helpful, even non-constructive criticism, if you are willing to hear a bit of it and throw away the junk. Thing is, don’t necessarily run around seeking it, either. It can build up like toxin in our veins, and if we’re only hearing a stream of icky things, that doesn’t help us at all.

… It took me a long while to believe in myself enough to not believe in critics. There’s a great bit from an interview (and I forget who the subject was), where she said something about really loving her positive reviews, but then her agent said, if you believe all the positive reviews, you have to believe all the negative critics. That’s stuck with me.

Personally, I’ve found most of the criticism we receive on the JewPoint0.org blog is really helpful — it teaches me where I can improve, adds value to the conversation, and often helps me identify knowledgeable folks who are invested in our mission.

How do you think about critics and criticism, whether it be on or offline? How do you use it as a productive feedback loop? How to you respond to critics? What have you learned?