Dr. Domenico Lepore
Domenico Lepore is an anomaly. Like many Jews, he studies the weekly Torah reading, often with commentaries that range from the Maimonidean to the mystical. Like many Chabad Chasidic Jews, he adheres to the daily study regimen of Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya (Chitas). His mornings begin with the Hayom Yom—the “thought for the day” compiled by Rabbi Menachem M.Schneerson, culled from the talks of his predecessor, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn.
The works of the Rebbe have particular resonance for Domenico. In conversation, he will make easy reference to the Rebbe’s ideas, and his personal calendar marks every date of significance in the history of Chabad. He will even spar with others over a fine point in interpreting a statement by the Rebbe.
But Domenico is not Jewish. The 51 year-old Italian was raised a Catholic in Italy where he and his wife Angela Montgomery, a writer and business partner with her husband, lived and worked. When they moved to Brooklyn Heights they encountered Chabad, and have made its teachings the fulcrum of their academic and professional lives.
In his new book, SECHEL: Logic, Language and Tools to Manage any Organization as a Network, Lepore, the founder of Intelligent Management Inc., introduces readers to an organizational model that considers economics and politics from the perspective of cooperation rather than competition, symbiosis instead of survival of the fittest.
Based largely on the work of W. Edwards Deming and Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, it is a model that demands a change in cognitive patterns. While most businesses continue to adhere to old structures, they do so ignoring the new reality—the shift to a network dynamic of interdependencies and interrelations. The individual climbing the corporate ladder while crushing his colleagues or "the competition" underfoot is, argues Lepore, a poor, irrelevant model for organizational management and even individual growth.
But change demands discipline—first and foremost—intellectual discipline. Specifically, it requires a new intelligence, the three faculties of the intellect: intuition, understanding and knowledge.
In other words, ChaBaD.
REBBE'S THOUGHT AND NEW ECONOMICS
“The first time I read the work of the Rebbe, I discerned a reasoning pattern that he develops that follows a precise thought process,” says Lepore, who translated this process into a diagram that conveys the Rebbe’s ideas in a graphic way—“like a logical photograph, called ‘conflict clouds,’ which can then be applied to almost any situation.”
With his own background in systems-based approaches to management, Lepore recognized the relevance of the Rebbe’s ideas to his work and wants to help realize their application to organizational structures, and to integrate them in his professional career as a consultant to businesses.
Specifically, he is interested in developing a new paradigm in the decision making process, namely, recognizing assumptions that constrain and limit possibilities for no other reason than that they are taken as givens. He draws on his own research on superconductivity in explaining the ideal: “When physical matter exists where there is no friction, you have unlimited energy.”
Applied to organizational management, the idea is to break barriers (a familiar term in the Chabad lexicon) and old constraints that make it harder for the organization to produce its maximum outflow.
As an example he points to a notion widely accepted in a market economy: “The market is limited so only if I get a bigger share and beat you, can I win.” Lepore demolishes this as a defeating fallacy, and illuminates a new perspective that to most competitive capitalists will seem like a utopian vision out of a Thomas Moore essay. But Lepore is very much the 21st century capitalist. Instead of competing in a man-eat-man world, he argues for a wholesome economics that supports growth and gain for the benefit of all.
In Sechel, he writes: “The new economics must also be based on the founding assumption that no win can be based on somebody losing; that we are all interdependent and the wellbeing of individuals is critical for the wellbeing of society; that wealth must be created in order for it to be distributed and any form of imbalance will soon turn into a global loss; that individual success to the detriment of others cannot be sustained. The new economics is founded on the assumption that individuals, organizations, large systems and networks and, ultimately countries are vessels for the creation and distribution of ideas, products, services that help everyone to live better, more intelligently and harmoniously with our environment.
The new economics will strive to provide not just mathematical platforms but also the practical means to achieve a meaningful life.”
To Lepore, these ideas jump off of the pages of anything he’s read or studied by the Rebbe. “The Rebbe taught us to eliminate assumptions that hamper the decision-making process and constrain possibilities for greater achievements. He addressed all the basic, fundamental issues of human existence by crafting them into core conflicts, and from that he delivered personalized solutions to his people.”
NEW PARADIGM FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION
In Chabad Chasidic thought, the ultimate conflict is the one between body and soul, both of which must be satisfied.
“We all have our personal core conflicts. The first step is to identify them, articulate them and then it becomes possible to resolve them, to achieve a unity where you had conflict.”
The Rebbe, who addressed some of his teachings to non-Jews as well, did indeed urge people to “open their eyes” and perceive a more desirable vision of society—the first, necessary step to making it, in fact, more desirable.
How to move it along the process, from a changed perception to a change in language, and finally in behavior, is the part that takes hard work. Domenico Lepore, who calls himself the “Italian, Lubavitcher goy,” and will be speaking about his work at an event honoring the Rebbe, has staked his role in realizing that part.
“The Rebbe opens up a new realm of understanding that technically makes your mind work better. Like a positive addiction to intelligence and innovation that anyone who minimally respects intelligence can enjoy.”
Lepore appreciates this especially because of how it diverges from his own tradition. “In Christianity, the idea of elevation of mind is not present. You elevate yourself through spirituality and asceticism.”
“But Judaism is about bringing heaven down to earth. This is what is so exciting about Chabad—the Rebbe presents possibilities for your mind to be limitless. Of course, as finite beings we have limitations, but the idea is that we can insert infinite elements into our finiteness.”