premise being that one powerful idea that all of us contribute to is more dangerous, even if it’s not perfect, than a lot of help- ful suggestions. And then four is, the reason these people are in the room
is because they’re successful, and the reason they’re successful is because they deliver, and the reason they deliver is because they’re good at tactics. But for the purposes of this three-hour conversation, we’re not about tactics. I say in my setup, “For those of you who are in 12-step groups about tactics, we’ll get to that in the last half-hour, but for two-and-a-half hours you gotta stay with me up here.” And I will tell you, we almost never get to the last half-hour. Once people get comfortable up there at that altitude, they tend to want to stay there.
How do you decide on what organizations to help? We can do about 20 sessions a year. The groups that we choose have about three or four criteria. The first is that the leader- ship of the organization has to fundamentally understand that what’s at hand here is a problem related to the model and not an operational challenge. This is not about Margaret in Account- ing. This is, something about the model is being challenged by the environment in which it now operates; or in other cases [it] has to do with, we were successful and now what do we do? Number two, it has to have the means by which to do some-
thing about it. While local food pantries could absolutely use our help, if we blow up the model of food pantries — they need to spend all their time, effort, and energy keeping the lights on. That’s what we need them to do. The third is, the problem has to be interesting to us. That
INSIGHT AT WORK: “We don’t brainstorm a thousand ideas and narrow it to a hundred and then vote down to three and choose a favorite,” Jeff Leitner said. “We follow one strong idea that every- body adds onto, and anybody is allowed to pull the emergency brake — our premise being that one powerful idea that all of us contribute to is more dangerous than a lot of helpful suggestions.”
is not pure hubris on our part; it is helpful that it is interesting to us, because we have to spend many months with the prob- lem in preparation, through the session, and then all the work that we do afterward. What we’re trying to do is improve or strengthen organizations that serve the greater good. We need to do so in a way that will allow us to take the learnings from that session and get them out to as broad an audience as pos- sible. We have to be really interested in it in order to carry it forward. That’s just the way it works.
What are some sessions you’ve done that you think have gone particularly well? I’m our worst critic, so I don’t think we’ve cracked this code at all yet. So I don’t think I could tell you what went particu- larly well. The next one we’re doing is in D.C. with the U.S. National Holocaust Memorial Museum. They opened on the [National] Mall in D.C. in ’93. It has been by all accounts ex- traordinarily successful; not only is it a remarkable place, but since its founding there are now a hundred Holocaust centers and museums across the United States. And the Holocaust is