Start-up Nation – Book Review

START-UP NATION addresses the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel – a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding with no natural resources – produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK?
Start-up nation paints a mosaic picture of why Israel has succeeded. I have pulled out a few of the key points below:
Israel is a country that at its founding was attacked by the surrounding nations and has had to continue to fight for its existence. Israel was built upon a land covered primarily by deserts and swamps, yet the Israeli people have worked on this land and made it productive. Jewish people have been persecuted across the world. Now that they have regained their land after 2000 years, they have a clear purpose and desire to make their country a success, even through all the hardships. The constant threats and limitations placed on Israel and its exports, has forced the Israeli people to work together for a common purpose to make it succeed. They have the drive and motivation that is lacking in so many other countries. When things are too easy and peaceful – like in my country New Zealand – there is a lack of drive to improve. To me Israel is like a sports team that is competing in a foreign stadium. The team is booed and jeered at as it runs into the stadium. However, instead of curing over and being downtrodden they have risen up and taken on the challenge. The more the crowd is against them the more determined they are to succeed.
Peres points out that the key to their success is dissatisfaction. Always wanting to be better and achieve more. They are pushed to succeed individually and as a nation. They are never happy with what they have, always wanting to improve and change.
Israelis are taught to question authority – they are taught, even in the military, to question authority. If you do not have faith in your commander you can throw him out. Below is an extract from the book.
“I was in Israeli army units where we threw out the officers,” Oren told us, “where people just got together and voted them out. I witnessed this twice personally. I actually liked the guy, but I was outvoted. They voted out a colonel.” When we asked Oren in disbelief how this worked, he explained, “You go and say, ‘We don’t want you. You’re not good.’ I mean, everyone’s on a first-name basis… You go to the person above him and say, ‘That guy’s got to go.’… It’s much more performance-oriented than it is about rank. “The phrase ‘It was not my fault’ does not exist in the military culture”.
This is also in business, where the leader’s ideas are always challenged and therefore refined and improved. Israelis are brash and to the point – you know what other people think and they know what you think.
It is a very informal culture. Everyone is on a first name basis, and most of the leaders and presidents have a nick name. The majority of Israelis are required to serve in the army (male and female) and they stay with their original unit for 20 years as reserves. This breaks down the social gaps even further.
Israelis have a tolerance and acceptance of failure. They encourage learning from it. You are not looked down upon because you failed and are encouraged to get up and keep trying.
They break down silos and see the benefits of cross-disciplinary creativity. Everyone becomes a jack-of-all trades, combining radically different technologies and disciplines. Innovation is created when you can mash together ideas from different disciplines.

Overall a very good book that can help you see and address some of the issues that limit innovation in your company or country.  If you want to buy a copy I have included a link to it at Amazon and Book Depository.