This year’s Digital Leaders Community annual Conference  – Let’s get personal! – focused on personalization in the public sector. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that every participant had their own personal takeaways.  After a few weeks have passed, and the dazzle, daze and excitement (of meeting in person!) have settled down, we’ve had the opportunity to collect thoughtful comments and feedback from many participants. Here are three surprising takeaways about personalization that resonated with many in our network.

Personalization doesn’t just divide – it unites in surprising ways

One might imagine that tailoring content and services to individuals would create silos and highlight divisions. But many aspects of our conference suggested that an individualized approach can build bridges as well as divisions. Participants who are generally divided into groups along traditional lines can find that they have things in common with others who are often seen as belonging to different tribes. Whether it was through selecting simultaneous lectures through silent earphones, listening to personally tailored music playlists,  or simply through coffee mugs personalized with favorite coffee recipes, personalization was an invitation to discover new points of connection across the divides.

Personalization can’t be prepared in advance – it’s an on-the-go process

A surprising common theme of many sessions was the need for agility and being ‘in the moment’ as well, paradoxically, preparing as much as possible for the unknown, in order to respond to personalized data as and when it becomes available. The point came across at many levels, from the most serious to the more lively. Dr Sharon Alroy Preis, Head of Public Health Services at the Health Ministry, for example, emphasized that dealing with a national epidemic crisis requires a constant process of listening to and responding to changing data sets, while the brilliant Eldad Tzitrin brought the point to life in a musical performance that incorporated notes, instruments and keys shouted out by participants into his endlessly creative looped compositions.

Dr Eyal Doron shared a toolbox of practical and mind-opening methodologies on preparing for the future.  One specifically memorable method was to ‘exaggerate and maximize’ – taking a challenge and multiplying it automatically forces us to think outside the box.  “Obstacles and challenges”, explained Doron, “are inevitable – it’s the way we think about them that ultimately makes the difference”.

Sophie Taub-K, Program Director, Digitalization at Joint-Elka

Personalization is not just about the individual, it’s about the community

The more deeply we enter the world of personalization, the more we have to think about the role of the community in managing and moderating its effects. The point was made powerfully by Dr. Micha Goodman, who argued that the most effective response to ‘screen addiction’ among youngsters was at the community level, with agreed standards helping ease the pressure on children and their parents. For our alumni community, this point echoes with our own sense, as Mira Zohar Seban, director of the Digital leaders community explained, that as network members we must transform and progress from being users to shareholders with a sense of shared commitment to the community.

As we continue to think about deepening personalization in the public sector (and on the critical question whether we mean personalization or customization – do see this interesting analysis: perhaps these surprising insights can help us find the right balance between the individual and the community.

Do you have other takeaways or insights from Let’s Get Personal! Do share them with us at …