Dining Room Tables
Know your people
During brainstorming sessions, I think often of dining room tables. Early in the 2000s, a real estate company in Detroit, fresh off developing and building brand spanking new condos was trying to figure out why their new properties weren’t selling. They had outfitted them with the finest appliances. They targeted the perfect clientele in the right location. Their marketing and staffing infrastructure was impeccable, but still, not many purchases.
They brought in Bob Moesta, an innovation consultant who ran focus groups and interviewed tons of prospective buyers. It was in these conversations that the dining room table kept popping up. Because the condos were being marketed to those downsizing, there was a constant worry about either fitting in or finding a home for well used dining room tables. The dining room table was THE gathering spot for people: meals, work, games, conversations, and so much more.
When people were moving, they need reassurance that the dining room table would either be able to be in the new place or would have a new home with a willing family member.
Armed with this new data dozens of small but important changes were made to the offering. For example, the architect managed to create space in the units for a dining room table by reducing the size of the second bedroom. The company also focused on easing the anxiety of the move itself: It provided moving services, two years’ worth of storage, and a sorting room within the condo development where new owners could take their time making decisions about what to discard.
So much of the work that I do at the synagogue can often feel like a guessing game. What program should we run? How should we innovate in our prayer system? How can we revitalize “x”? When you’re in the middle of it, trying to “throw pasta on the wall,” as one of my mentors used to say, it’s easy to forget about who you are trying to serve and what job there is to be done.
We get lost and panicked amid the pressure of the moment but sometimes we just need to slow down and ask our people what’s on their mind. What’s happening in your life right now? Not only does it get you the data you need but people feel seen and relationships can be formed.
I am, in part, writing this for myself because it’s hard to put into practice. It’s easy to default and build it on your own. Yet, these simple conversations can produce so much more than even the best uninformed brainstorming session. Know your people first. Ideate and envision later. What we are trying to do is solve one problem at a time, building it around one job to be done.
And yes, I did write this at my dining room table.
Shabbat Shalom-Happy Weekend!