Archive for February 2010

Why I Love Jewish L.A.

Noah Alper, Business Mensch, Jewlicious

Noah and Rabbi Yonah at Jewlicious 6.0

Alright so it was Long Beach, but it’s all L.A. to me…I was invited to present my book, Business Mensch, at the Jewlicious 6.0 Festival in Long Beach.  Probably very few Jews over 30 have heard of this event, but for the upwards of 1000 college and post-college Jewish kids of all denominations and orientations who attended this festival,  this was hip, happenin’ and over the top Jewish. The Festival  included a raucous Friday night Carlebach minyan with the skimpiest mehitzah (divider between men and women) I have ever seen at a traditional service, but with a more than traditional quantity of joy and exhilaration…not to mention dancing! There was also a musical “camp style” reform service replete with instruments. After the services 500+  attended a fabulous catered kosher dinner, which was not only tasty, but served with style and professionalism (not to mention nice wine), and mostly prepared and served by volunteers, in conjunction with professional staff.  The enthusiasm was electric.  After dinner there were myriads of classes, dramatic presentations, gatherings, etc., including a conversation with Yuri Foreman, the welterweight champion of the world, who will be defending his title in June at Yankee Stadium and happens to be studying to be a Rabbi!

Shabbat day there was more of the same, and after Shabbat there was a comedy club skit, a late night Mexican food extravaganza that was tremendous, and as a capper there was a major concert with Kosha Dillz, Diwon, Electro Morocco, Rinat Gutman,  Moshav and a surprise appearance by Matisyahu, who was attending the festival with his family.

The continuous and rebounding theme of the event was Judaism is cool, let’s all learn more about it, celebrate it, and have fun with it, we are allowed to “own it” and as such can enter and engage it where we are and go with it where WE want to go.

Local leaders included Festival Founder, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, and leaders from the Happy Minyan, J-Connect, local Hillel directors, L.A. Jewish Journal staff, and many many more. Local So Cal “regulars” greeted visitors from virtually every state and region of the country.

A long time ago there was a book written called Jews: the Ever Dying People, which chronicled the near total demise of our people, and the road back after each one of these “near misses.”  In today’s world many of us in the organized Jewish community are worried sick about intermarriage, assimilation, and the resultant loss of our tribal identity.  If Jewlicious could be bottled and force fed to every young Jew in America, we would make a rebound higher than Kobe Bryant could jump.

It’s a known fact that many major trends in the U.S. in the last 50 years have been gestated on the West Coast, and Jewishly, L.A. leads the way.  Kol Ha Kavod to Jewlicious and the Greater L.A. community that brought this experience directly and indirectly to many thousands of young Jews all across the U.S. and to many, many more in the future, as news of this event spreads and gives birth to similar initiatives targeting young Jews, and hitting them “where they live.”

When Google Grows Up

Noah Alper visits Google to speak about Business MenschInnovative, cutting edge, cooperative culture, commitment to excellence, aggressively seeking to increase market share…all these attributes have defined the Toyota Motor Company for the 45 years since they first entered the US marketplace in 1965. And then the headline in the NY Times yesterday, “Toyota’s Slow Awakening to a Deadly Problem.”

An accelerator defect has caused deaths and near deaths since 2002, and resulted in over 2000 complaints, and yet it was not until last Friday that the Chairman and grandson of the founder,  Akio Toyoda, finally publicly stated that he was “deeply sorry” for the problem and resulting recalls. Other senior management formally apologized and expressed confidence that the solution to the problem is imminent. But as of today there is still no conclusive evidence that a solution has been found. Remember, this is eight years since the problem was first identified. How can an industry leader permit this lax attitude, especially since Toyota’s reputation was built on quality? For that matter how could General Motors allow Toyota to out-do them in their own back yard in the first place?

My answer?  Act as if you have competition breathing down your back despite how well the business is doing, and make sure to stay true to core values. ”Watch your back” should be emblazoned on every company’s walls, because sooner or later in a free market economy, a competitor will be there to challenge a successful enterprise, and only a “hungry” company will be able to hold their own.

Fast forward to this afternoon. I was invited to give a talk at Google’s main campus in Mountain View, California. Campus is an apt term for the facility. Lap pools, beach volleyball, high-end food courts, and 24-hour access only begin to describe the experience. All they needed was a raucous fraternity house to really feel like a college campus!

The employees who worked there were even more exciting than the physical plant. They were universally “up,” stimulated, and excited about their work and their workplace. I was told that engineers are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time on something independent, new and exciting. Working collaboratively, not being satisfied with “good” but working for “great,” constantly staying ahead of the game (think Google phones), and thus maintaining superiority.

So when does Google turn into Toyota?

When they take their eye off the ball, rest on their laurels, and not want to publicly admit when they screw up, and take full charge of the situation.

Just like people, there are lifecycles to businesses. With the wide-eyed youthful energy and excitement that the 20-somethings bring to the 10 year-old Google enterprise, presumably there are many years to go before approaching the complacency of a middle age “success” story.

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