Showing posts with label innovation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label innovation. Show all posts

Friday, February 25, 2011

Money, Industry, Innovation: What Counts in the Israeli Economy


Lots of people have written about the "amazing Israeli economy". Just recently the two books Start-up Nation and The Israel Test (Guilder) are examples of how Israel amazes people around the world. The reality is a little different than just simple amazement. Some things are truly amazing, and people coming to Israel the first time really see us as unique. Some are not amazing at all, but are still different. Israel, like many small countries, does a few things very well. There are great engineering companies here and some of the best international engineering teams for companies like: Intel, IBM, Motorola and Microsoft. Some things like drip irrigation and solar water heating are simple and amazing and made a huge difference in how Israelis live. But the most unique factor here is how people have focused on the economy like very few other countries. The countries who have done similar things also succeeded: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Brazil, Chile and recently China. They achieved just as much as Israel. The one big difference between Israel and other countries is our geographic location. Some it tied to natural resources: Israel has none! People do not expect Israel, amongst so many Arab countries, to be so successful. They also do not expect a new country, with very little to start with, not even a base population. Essentially the country started out with fresh immigrants all coming from a distressed environment. European Jews came from that horrible experience in the holocaust. Middle-Eastern Jews coming from discrimination in Arab countries.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Building, Inventing and Innovating: Positive Attitude Under Stress, Israel's Culture

How do you describe a country's personality? How do you explain to someone how things are done in a different culture? or business environment? Israelis have been doing things their own way for such a long time, it is hard to most people to understand a unique and very different culture. Israelis are not at all like their American Jewish cousins, also they are not like their European Ashkenazi ancestors and certainly not like the Arabs surrounding cultures (and the Arab countries from where the Israeli Sephradi population came from.)

Israeli culture of creating is unique and can help others in becoming more creative, productive and constructive. Israelis have an 120 year record of building, inventing and innovating intensely. That attitude of doing the "hard-fun work" or what here is considered the "important work" gives Israelis pride and confidence. Some say over-confidence (or false bravado) at extreme cases. Israelis are known to be overly optimistic about their abilities. For most Israelis culture and history also gives a sense of reality and a "can do" attitude. I think this is the most crucial difference between Israeli and people in other countries. In some countries, like the US after World War II this was the case. American won the biggest world war so now Americans felt like they could do anything. For a generation, this attitude propelled the American economy and society which became the envy of the world. Attitudes are developed in Israelis as a cultural element from early age. It makes sense when you are here and you see and experience how Israelis think and work. It is very strange for foreigners with different cultural attributes to understand (or even believe) Israelis describe this attitude. A combination of historical success and strong personality gives the country a truly unique behavior.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Start-Up Nation, Start-Up Mania, Start-Up Fever?

The recent book about Israel: "Start-Up Nation" [Amazon] [B&N] [Borders] brought for the first time the amazing story of Israel's technology start-up world out in the open. In Israel, high-tech entrepreneur success is a 20 year phenomena. The dream of many engineers is to develop an innovative product, sell a few units to show how great the product is... AND sell the venture to a US company. What a simple recipe for a get rich quick dream? The more ambitious entrepreneurs want to take the company public on NASDAQ. (Israel is the number two country with NASDAQ listed companies after the US.) Start-up success is held in almost mythical terms in Tel Aviv. Besides the financial rewards there is a reverence to entrepreneurs as creative inventors and productive managers. This attracts all kind of people to the world of entrepreneurship. Start-up fever or start-up mania (see blog) are a common condition seen around the high-tech community. Start-Up Fever condition comes in many forms, from chronically unemployed (or under-employed) entrepreneurs to job hopping early start-up engineers. There are also the "always in attendance" at tech meetings denizens. Essentially start-up fever is the blinding desire to have your own start-up regardless of reality. Let's face it, not all engineers are able to produce a good product and get on a shelf.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Do We need Innovation? Moving Forward in Israel, Can We Teach Others?

Two recent books show Israel's economic and technology strength touch on the Israel's development of innovation skills. Israel Test is written from the economic perspective by George Gilder a technology writer and thinker [book page]. Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer two journalists focusing more on Israeli innovation in the form of start-up companies [book page]. Some think of Israeli innovation and technological adventurness in cultural terms. Is innovation such a critical element in Israel's economic success? How is economic success drive cultural and lifestyle success? Is everyone in Israel just concerned with the money and innovation? Or is it the other way around and innovation changed the Israeli culture somehow? I will try to touch on these questions in upcoming posts, this one will introduce innovation in Israel and expand on areas which you will probably have to be here in person to see.

If you spend time in Israel it becomes clear how innovation is not an inbred attribute. Nobody is born with the "innovation gene" or at least the trait comes in so many different shapes and types it is hard to figure out who has the gene. True, there are many start-ups, some even make it big, but most people work in "regular jobs". There are plenty of traditional businesses, these give the country it's stability. Innovation in technology still needs a solid base economically, roads need to be paved and government needs to run and grow at it's own rate. But there is something unique here that many people do not see right away. It's change, here it happens quickly and clearly. If you are following the economy, change came quickly when financial markets crashed in the US and than at the rest of the world. Somehow in Israel we saw it clearly and noticed how our economy slowed down. Tourists use to come to Israel in large numbers, when they stopped coming the economy declined and tourism workers went scrambling for new jobs. Follow politics and state security issues and notice change even faster. When Israel signed peace agreements with Egypt, the Palestinians and than Jordan everyone was happy, but only for a short while. Government was in a high after each agreement but then Israel went back to daily reality and euphoria settled down to regular everyday state. When Israel gets ready for elections there is buzz all over the world, some hope for the big savior (peace maker,) some fear extremist warrior. As soon as the elections are over, it is quiet once again. This cycle of change is a recent memory with the Netanyahu/Liberman government. Replacing Olmert/Livni with such extremist was suppose to bring chaos to the land - I don't think anyone would stick by their predictions today. Change is what makes Israelis innovate. Change makes people look for new ways to do things everywhere in the world, just here people scramble faster. That is what gives Israelis an edge. When engineers come out of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) they are already well equipped to innovate because they dealt with change, sometimes on a massive scale. Imagine what it's like to go from calm to war in one month. The Israeli army goes through this change every few years. A war erupts by surprise or they are asked to go into enemy territory. The last two years both happened in the north and the south. Not only reserve soldiers have to be called, equipment has to be moved to the front and the whole operation of an army has to start, intelligence and communication has to be operational in an instant. The speed of change in Israel is amazing, and one way to deal with it is innovate.