Greetings. This week marks the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, a harvest festival of sorts filled with interesting traditions. One of them is the building of a "sukkah" or booth in one's yard where prayers are said and meals are enjoyed with family, friends and ancestors. These booths, simple walled structures covered with tree branches and other plants, are intended to represent the fragile dwellings that the Israelites built during their forty years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. And my guess is that some of you might have either built sukkahs or seen them in neighbor's yards or on their porches and balconies.
But wait a minute.
Did he say pray and dine with "ancestors" (i.e., people from earlier generations who are no longer with us)? Yes. In fact, one of the most remarkable traditions of Sukkot is to visit with sages from the past and to presumably gain their wisdom so that we can be more thoughtful today and in the future. It's kind of a cool idea that we invite some really smart folks to join us and modern Jews have often expanded this notion beyond a core group of Biblical figures and prophets of ancient times to include more contemporary thinkers as well as dear and departed relatives for an evening of conversation…and as a way of remembering and continuing to honor the special qualities and knowledge they shared while they were alive.
But why stop there? Why not invite anyone from the past who might have insight to share in helping us to address the key challenges we face in our personal, work and civic lives. To do this, all we would have to do is think of the remarkable men and women we would love to connect with then do a bit of homework on them and their thinking and wisdom. Then use this research to spark a "conversation" with them and allow their ideas to intersect with our lives.
In a business sense, this is a wonderful idea. To think about who in the course of history knew something that might really help our company or organization reach the next level. Then imagine having them visit us as honored guests with whom we could communicate, ask questions, have a lively discussion and seek counsel from–tied to the body of knowledge and insight they developed while they were alive. Great leaders. Great thinkers. Great communicators. Great innovators and inventors from all walks of life. Anyone whose "being" could spark our ability to think in new ways.
So why not build your own corporate sukkah or booth (or special meeting room) as a place to invite and connect with your company or organization's ancestors and others with wisdom to share? And don't feel trapped by having to make it happen in eight days. Our ability to learn from those who have come before us shouldn't be constrained by time.
We win in business and in life when we find wisdom in the traditions of others. And when we take the time to hang out with our ancestors and a history of very clever folks.