Review of Start-Up Nation by Senior and Singer

Start-Up Nation; The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Dan Senor and Saul Singer is about how Israel’s success has become a reality.  Against many odds too – no natural resources and often un-neighborly neighbors, if anyone had an excuse for failure perhaps they warrant it?   Instead, the 244 pages (followed by 47 pages of notes/references) reveal evidence of entrepreneurial resilience from consistent innovation and a desire to ultimately fulfil their role in the world we live.

Although the book Start-Up Nation includes many very compelling facts – where I see potential for organizational value seemed to come from the discussion around culture (entrepreneurial, determined and diligent) and particularly their investment in technology. Israelis “ability to turn adversity into a renewable source of creative energy – much of which goes into high-tech, but that is also evident in social entrepreneurship, medicine, the sciences and the arts.” p.242.

In the clip I talk about culture, the role of the army and leadership – some of the themes I valued.

Their young nation has had to be pioneering from the beginning. A ‘higher calling’ of Israel to that specific location may be evident? Because who on earth would choose to fight for a piece of land with no natural resources? They have had to be resourceful and outcome (commercially) focused from the beginning. Their society is very nurturing of entrepreneurial activities. Certainly there is no negativity associated with failure. The only thing they are interested in – what did you learn? They understand all experiences contribute critically to future adapting and rebuilding. It will lead to an optimized outcome in the long-run. They aren’t interested in matching economic competitors, their relentless vision: want to be among the top – to be exceptional. Their commitment seems to be at an individual level. They (Israelis) are individually fueled by a similar level of focused ambition. Organizations need to nurture environments like those described in Start-Up Nation to see economic growth.

There are many aspects that seemed replaceable and desirable in organizations. Discipline from their 2-3 years in the army means they know how to apply themselves with a results focus. Ex-army employees also have the benefit of a broad background on which to base decisions. Another influence that an Israeli will apply into business from their army experience is debriefing. They debrief absolutely everything. They believe there is always room for improvement, encourage questioning and discussion – regardless of their role or length of time with the organization. In the army they know this means they can innovate even through victory! How many organizations do you know that really only innovate after a disaster?  And even then, they really only look at ensuring that the ‘incident’ is never repeated…

Organizations need to consider how they will collect and action critical independent thinking. Collecting this applied data from multiple perspectives is critical for R&D. How do you reward this behavior in your organization? Israeli culture would not accept lip-service, and especially not in this area. Although the army breeds leaders who aren’t intimidated, they are also humble and ready to listen and act (based on critique and discussion). In the army, failing to make the best decisions could result in your role changing. The opinions of those below you matter. They believe leadership must be ethical and transparent. Moral and professional behavior at all times. There is no place for personal agendas; instead there is an expectation of individuals to have an unswerving focus on the organizational mission. A drive to creatively solve problems exceptionally well. Israelis have the connections to make discussed innovations a reality with connections nationally and internationally. I believe organizations globally would experience success if they were to implement pilot/trials more quickly and base ongoing investment on results.

* The facts were also compelling! For example: Israel has as many listed companies as Europe, Korea, Japan, Singapore, China and India COMBINED!

I would recommend this book to anyone who really wants to look at changing to improve success. Start-Up Nation has many examples. They have already tested the concepts many times. What you glean is ready to be implemented into your organization today.

You may be interested to follow Start-Up Nation on Facebook page or watch a clip from CNBC entitled “Israel: Leader in Business Innovation” where one of the authors is interviewed about this book.

Start-Up Nation gift from Ambassador Yosef LivneDisclosure: initially I choose to listen to Start-Up Nation. I was 70% through when I received the copy pictured as a ‘thank you’ from Ambassador Yosef Livne. I was one of three finalists (each received a copy for our involvement) in Start-Up Tel Aviv New Zealand Ambassador 2014. This competition was led by the Embassy of Israel with support from Wellington City Council, Grow Wellington, Creative HQ, ATEED and Callaghan Innovation.

Keen to hear how others have found Start-Up Nation and views on how it could be implemented in organizations globally – please comment below or make contact through social media.

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