Which country is the world's #1 destination for venture capital funding? Which has the most start-ups per capita? Which country invests the highest percentage of GDP in civilian research and development? The answer: Israel. Next question: Why?
Dan Senor and Saul Singer give an answer in their new book, Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. They cite several factors, including an innovative immigration policy and the aforementioned investment in R&D. However, the authors attribute the largest determinant to the Israeli military experience. Here's how it works: Every Israeli citizen is required to serve in the military following their secondary school education.
During this required military service (3 years for men, 2 for women), young Israelis learn vital leadership skills in the areas of problem-solving, innovation, teamwork, and time management. By the time they enter a university, they have far more managerial experience - in arenas where the outcomes can be life-or-death - than their global peers.
Senor and Singer then turn the question around to the rest of us. How can other countries reproduce not the specific environmental aspects of the Israeli experience, but the outcome: a young but mature, highly-driven, well-trained, dynamic workforce ready to lead in innovative ways. Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, eBay... they're all conducting their most critical R&D in Israel. What lessons can we learn in leadership and innovation from this tiny country?