Entrepreneurs know something daydreamers don’t, and I’m determined to discover what that is.
I asked serial entrepreneur Aliza Kline, “What’s the magic ingredient?” She answered instantly. Hesitation is not her strong suit.
In 2001, Aliza co-founded Mayyim Hayyim, Boston’s modern mikveh for spiritual and creative experiences. Today, as founding Executive Director of OneTable, she’s creating an online and in-person hub supporting Millennials who want to “Shabbat Together.”
“People call me a doer. I’m impatient,” she confesses proudly. “I get a lot done quickly. There really is no voice in my head saying, ‘This won’t work.’”
She advises caution, though. A hurry-up risk-taking attitude is essential to her work, but her team always balances this approach with people who see every avenue, "analyzers," who provide data she might miss.
In addition to hiring staff with complementary skills, Aliza applies innovation tools that impose a period of slowing down. One of her favorite tools: Design Thinking. This multi-phased problem solving approach originated in the business world and is now widely used by social, cultural and educational entrepreneurs.
Design Thinkers begin by uncovering what clients are really doing, saying, thinking and feeling. In a phase called Immersion, designers discover clients’ pains (their fears, frustrations and obstacles), and their gains (their wants and needs, and their measures of success).
“You can’t just use your intuition to guess what people want.” Aliza explains. “To build something relevant you have to truly understand what people need and value.” By immersing, Aliza learned that “Millennials are overwhelmed and exhausted. They use a URL…the Internet, to connect IRL...In Real Life. Millennials truly value IRL because it is so infrequent.”
While Immersion slows you down, the next phase of Design Thinking, Prototyping, speeds you up. Prototyping turns newly gained understanding of clients’ pains and gains to quick action. Solutions that cost little or nothing are tested.
“We try a solution. Learn from it, and try another, as often as every three weeks,” says Aliza.
She contrasts the rapid-fire cycle of prototyping with the long planning processes the Jewish community often uses, which can last as long as a year. “Too much time, money, and information is lost when you’ve invested months in creating a plan that may not work.”
For example, OneTable needed a web-based dining platform to connect with Millennials, something akin to Airbnb for food. Instead of spending a year creating it, Aliza partnered with an existing platform to test out solutions. After hundreds of hits and misses, Aliza is confident they are ready to build a platform that works.
I learned from Aliza that there is no single magic ingredient. Effective entrepreneurs like Aliza put their natural inclinations to work. They also insist on including people and tools to counterbalance their strengths and weaknesses. Aliza’s gear shifting, her hurrying up and her slowing down have enabled more than 10,000 people to “Shabbat Together.”
Okay, that’s magical.