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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: Start Up Nation - The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle

I just finished reading Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle (click the image below to jump to Amazon if you're interested in buying it). It's is a good read for those trying to become entrepreneurs and/or leaders trying to create an entrepreneurial culture. Beyond that, it's also a fascinating report on the development of the very unique Israeli culture that has emerged in the last twenty years. 

One key, according to the authors, is the informal culture. Subordinates think it normal to challenge their leaders--even asking new managers to their face why you're the one promoted and not me. Military generals are addressed with their first name only and everyone in power is given a nickname. This informality promotes ideas being shared by everyone, whereas more formal cultures restrict input to those who have the most power and experience. And if you think about it, those who built the current system and/or have grown up in it are the people least likely to offer truly disruptive creativity. 

Another key is their mandatory military service. Their young people are handed huge responsibility at a young age--and are empowered to improvise with lives hanging in the balance. Further, they all remain in the reserves, drilling about a month each year. On top of that, the network of relationships that emerges connects people from all walks of life all across the country. Many of their best entrepreneurial teams formed through connections found in their military network.

Finally, surrounded by violent enemies, they truly believe that their survival depends on being the best. For example, ignoring the maxim that small countries buy weapons from larger countries who do all the military R&D, they attempted to create the world's best fighter jet. They actually succeeded, in terms of technological breakthroughs, but couldn't make the finances of production work. But their drive to be the best anyway resulted in dozens of spin off projects based on those developments. (Think how the US space program boosted their economy similarly.)

Questions this book prompts:

How much formality do you ask from those around you? How much do experience and titles matter?

Where are you meeting people unlike you? How do you keep in touch with old friends?

And why should you bother to pursue new or different ways of working? What purpose is with all that effort?

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