Lessons From a Nation

Date: Oct 28, 2010
By: Joel Lazer, FCPA, FCA, CIRP

Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer is a book about Israel and the culture that has led it to be a nation of innovation and commercial success.  A sampling of results:

×           Israel has more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any other country except the United States;

×           it has the highest density of start-ups in the world;

×           venture capital investment, on a per capita basis, is the highest in the world, as is its research and development expenditures as a percentage of GDP.

About halfway through the book I realized many businesses, if they applied some of the principles Israel has embraced, would be more stable and successful.  If you would like to be inspired to read the book and perhaps to consider applying those principles to your organization, watch the video on the book’s website at

Senor and Singer discuss persistence.  Successful entrepreneurs are not put off by being told they’re wrong, that it can’t be done.  If you have a propensity to think outside the box, likely when you share an idea you will be dismissed.  If you’re an entrepreneur you’ll probably just press on.  If you’re a subordinate you’re likely to keep the idea to yourself and go back to doing your job.  Imagine if we could foster out-of-the-box thinking from all the people we work with and grow their ideas.  The example discussed in the book is about Intel and its development of chips which made portable computing a reality.

Chutzpah.  We’ve all heard that Yiddish word.  My dictionary says it means unbelievable gall, audacity.  Chutzpah allows you to challenge the people around you.  This applies to people who are senior to you, are junior to you or are your peers.  It has the effect of opening the organization so that everyone can contribute with no fear of recrimination.  With a chutzpah mindset, you don’t fear rejection and your feelings aren’t easily hurt.  With no negative intent, you’re therefore not afraid to question processes nor to suggest improvements.  Neither are you afraid of failure.  If you take the negative emotion out of the dialogue the results can only be positive.

Military service in Israel develops in young people the empowerment to make life and death decisions in live situations on the fly.  In Israel the ratio of officers and soldiers is 1 to 9.  In the United States it is 1 to 5.  Israel is a very small country surrounded by unfriendly and often threatening countries.  Decisions need to be made quickly.  The young soldiers are trained to make these decisions.  Now imagine taking the principles of that training and applying them to your organization.  The results would be better business decisions more quickly and efficiently with greater confidence.

There is a can’t-wait impatience in Israel.  It can be summed up as a what’s-the-matter-with-today attitude.  There is always a sense of urgency. Urgency gets more things done.  With deliberate training and empowerment, the decisions are likely to be healthy and profitable.

Educate, train and empower.  Embrace persistence and chutzpah.  Accept success and failure, and learn from both. Continue to train and reinforce the empowerment. And do it now.  In the words of Israeli guide Ezra Eini, “The impossible only takes a little longer.”

If you would like to see and hear more about Israel, come to the Lazer Grant Trade Mission to Israel information evening on Wednesday, November 3 at 6:30 in our offices.  We would be delighted to see you.

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