Daring to Risk: Culture of Innovation

Sarona, Tel Aviv, new land development
Taking risk in hi-tech seems small with respect to some real estate & legal risk taking – Sarona buildings moved to develop land in central Tel Aviv

Israel’s startup entrepreneurship culture draws on the local everyday customs. One unique factor is taking risks. In many countries behavioral psychologists try to teach technologists and business executives how to overcome fear of taking risks. Here in Israel taking risks come naturally. First time observers, ones who come to learn about Israels “Startup Nation” culture, err on the side of “bravery”. Many attribute Israeli strength and action in the face of fear to early military training. Israel is one of the few developing countries with universal military service. Some attribute to the training, starting before the military, in group cohesion, universal inclusion (both minorities and women) and most of all unique leadership training. Israeli culture places emphasizes the role of strong democratic leaders. Ones who lead by example and practice fairness and motivational tactics. Yet to Israelis this is not the most crucial element in risk taking. Training and group dynamics are the elements shaping strong focused state of mind. Acceptance and a sense of adventure in risk taking, the proverbial “the journey is as important as the destination”. Simply taking a risk, giving it your best shot, and even failing in the face of great difficulty, is worth a commendation. Simply put, Israelis learned from over a hundred years on this land, to take risks, fail and not feel shame or a sense of failure.

This aspect of Israeli perseverance is a clear advantage in today’s fast changing world. When cultures clash, economies tumble and policies around the world take u-turns on a regular basis, the cultures who help individual risk, fail and come back to do it again, are the ones more able to nurture entrepreneurs. The concept of “Anti-fragility” from Nassim Taleb comes to mind. The ability for a person, company or community to fail but not completely die. Then to actually “thrive” from events which should cause failure. Essentially, here in Israel, while some entrepreneurs fail with changes in technology and markets, other actually thrive and grow. Not only grow, but actually gain international fame. From the wikipedia description of Taleb’s Anti-Fragile book:

The fourth book of his Incerto series—Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder—was published in November 2012.[48] In the introduction of the book, Taleb describes it as follows: “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”[48]:3 (A mathematical parallel version of the Incerto Quadrilogy is available on Taleb’s website.[49])

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