by Aaron Katler
Recently, I was invited to join a Clubhouse chat discussing a critical question in the field of innovation: What is a bold idea? And why do we need them?
UpStart’s tagline is Bring Bold Jewish Ideas to Light. We created that tagline four years ago as a call to action and as a reflection of our core purpose: To accelerate the success of bold solutions to vexing Jewish communal problems. Our goal was to bring those ideas out of the margins and into greater light.
Reflecting on what makes a bold idea, I only had to look as far as our network of program participants and alumni. What emerged for me were four consistent similarities.
A bold idea:
- Comes from bold individuals.
Ideas don’t emerge on their own. Ideas come from people. People who see an unmet need. People who have the instincts and knowledge to make some element of Jewish life better. People who know they can’t do it alone, but know it can’t happen without them.
- Contains multiple elements of risk.
Saying you have an idea that can make something that’s existed for thousands of years better takes courage! It’s risky to step up and say you have that idea. What will people think? What will the existing power structure say or do? Will you, personally, be seen as a threat? And what happens if you fail?
- Is a compulsion, not a hobby.
A bold leader with a bold idea can’t eat or sleep without doing something to make their vision a reality. It’s not a question of viability or feasibility. Bringing a bold idea to light takes hard work and lots of support structures, but the ultimate fire comes from a leader and an idea that just has to get its shot at daylight.
- Has the potential to be enduring, and requires endurance.
A bold idea is not an idea that will make an incremental or temporary difference. There are lots of good ideas, even disruptive ideas. Bold ideas, however, have the potential to fundamentally change the way things have been done. Leaders with bold ideas understand that for their ideas to endure, they also must build their own personal endurance. To break through barriers and bring ideas to light means hitting a wall almost every day. These leaders have a unique ability to hit a wall, tap into their internal and external resources, take a breath and keep going.
The question of why we need these bold ideas requires only a brief moment of reflection. If the pandemic taught us anything it was the need to continually create and renew Jewish experiences that expand access to Jewish life in a way that enriches individuals, communities, and the world. The solutions of the past solved the problems of the past. The solutions of today must solve the problems of tomorrow.
People who wake up with a bold idea to enhance Jewish life don’t do it for fame, money, or even credit. The best and boldest ideas and leaders don’t always succeed or even have a chance. After four years of what never could have been predicted, our core purpose holds up. Our job is to bring bold ideas to light. With a bias towards action and a commitment to centering voices that have been systematically marginalized, I have no doubt about the brightness that will emerge.
UpStart’s Change Accelerator launches Tuesday, October 5. Join a national network of bold intrapreneurs making meaningful change within our community’s Jewish institutions. Gain a set of lifelong entrepreneurial skills, tools, and support to adapt to any challenge and meet your constituents’ evolving needs. Learn more.