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Incubator Session 5: Keeping Your Entrepreneurial Edge Sharp

On April 27, 2017, the fifth in a series of six sessions of the Reconstructionist Learning Networks Innovators Incubator took place. In this session, guest facilitator Rabbi Hayim Herring guided a discussion on “Keeping Your Entrepreneurial Edge Sharp.” Below are highlights from the session, with links to resources discussed.

Be sure to check out Rabbi Hayim Herring’s book, co-authored with Terri Elton, Leading Congregations and Non-Profits in a Connected World

Leading Congregations book cover

Attributes of successful entrepreneurs

Woman smiling with arms in the air at laptop

  • Take calculated risks
  • Embrace ambiguity
  • Optimism bias
  • Expect noble failure
  • Anticipatory
  • Extremely disciplined
  • Fanatically focused
  • Internal locus of control
  • Very resilient
  • Systematically organized


Careless vs. noble failure

Yes to the Mess book cover image

“Leaders need to create a culture that doesn’t rebuke people for admitting mistakes. This doesn’t mean all failures are somehow ultimately good, but you need to acknowledge and distinguish thoughtful experimentation from carelessness. Errors are a chance to look at the assumptions behind the original action; failures can provide data and insight that are unavailable by any other means. The challenge is to distinguish between mistakes that are a failure of genuine, thoughtful effort and mistakes that are a failure of thoughtful experimentation.”

Barrett, Frank J. Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz (pp. 171-172). Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition.

Hayim describes how jazz musicians can teach us about the concept of noble failure in the following audio clip.

Audio titled Incubator 5_Noble failure by Jewishrecon


Investing in you

In the following audio clip, Hayim discusses why it’s important to choose the right people to work with, people who trust you and are invested in you.

Audio titled Incubator 5_investing_in_you by Jewishrecon


How to focus

Writing in a calendar

“A leader tuned out of his internal world will be rudderless; one blind to the world of others will be clueless; those indifferent to the larger systems within which they operate will be blindsided.” ~Daniel Goleman

Tips on how to focus:

  • Focus list, Ignore list (things that are easier, quicker, yet distracting) – (Peter Bregman)
  • 3 Box Solution (Vijay Govindarajan)
  • Managing the present
  • Selectively abandoning the past
  • Creating the future

How do you remain focused? Advice from the group:

  • Make a lot of lists, schedule important work, stay accountable to others
  • Front load the higher-level, creative work → better to do in the morning
  • Focus on your team
  • Creativity log

Staying focused while being humble

  • The best leaders have humility
  • Respect your team’s contributions and feelings



Friends stacking hands
  • Awareness that we are part of many larger systems that can have unanticipated, significant impact
  • Posture of engagement with the broader world → the Jewish community is too small a system


Learning from other fields

Hayim suggests that entrepreneurs should learn from other fields and pay attention to changes happening in realms outside of our particular area of focus. Where do you look to find examples that could shape your own start-up?


Innovation Torah

From Elliott

Vitruvian man

Biblical priests were concerned with maintaining balance and order (not unlike the Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci). The idea of be’tzelem Elohim (in the image of God) could mean that humanity is a microcosm of the universe. When something is out of sync in the human body, it implies that something is out of sync in the universe. In this Torah portion (Tazria-Metzora), the priest engages in the sacrificial ritual to restore order to the community. In verse 11, the priest stands with the person undergoing the purification rite at the entrance of the tent, side by side: this shows the entire community that balance will be restored. Rabbis today, like the biblical priests, are called upon to maintain order and balance in our communities. We, too, can stand at the entrance to the “tent” with our communities to share this message. Not unlike Hayim’s emphasis on hyper-connectedness, the more broadly we connect to what is happening in our communities and the world the better our businesses will be.

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