Last week I led a delegation of 26 educators from leading MBA programs around the world to visit Israel. The goal was to learn firsthand about innovation and entrepreneurship and help them develop educational, travel-immersion programs for their students. It is the third time I’ve led such a trip in three years, through which I have brought the Israeli approach to innovation and entrepreneurship to more than 50 of the world’s top business programs. This is via an organization I founded outside of Stax, and has relevance to our work and that of our clients because it is relevant to anyone in a leadership position globally—whether corporate, investor, NGO or government.
Israel has demonstrated a significantly higher rate of new company creation, innovation, and success on a per-capita basis than anywhere in the world. With a population of 8 million, it has the third most companies listed on Nasdaq, after the US and China. We met with startups, chief innovation officers at rapidly growing multinationals, educators in social enterprise, and operations leads at some of the most productive divisions in the world for major corporations. Companies we met with included Intel, Google, eBay, BillGuard, Soluto, and SodaStream. The social ventures and non-profits, each with an innovative way to improve the world, included Cardboard Technologies, Innovation Africa, Prepex, and Kaiima.
As Albert Einstein said, “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.” One of the great opportunities I see for global leaders is the need for innovation. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and investigating why so many smart leaders in business, government, NGOs and non-profits are running organizations that are momentum-driven without accessing the thrusters that innovation can bring.
When you spend a week with educators and get to better understand their subject matter and content development, you develop a great appreciation for what is being taught globally and what universities need, as the feeders into global leadership. First, global leaders have a lot to learn from Israel and Israelis about innovation, entrepreneurship, and how to develop meaningful products more rapidly. Second, Israelis are exceptionally open in discussing their successes and failures, and being open to discussing failures is a critical element of rapid cycle development. Third, what they say is true, that when you teach, you truly learn – it is work, results, and reward all at once. Fourth and finally, I’m quite pleased to see that the ethos and approach at Stax has a lot of similarities, and our work on innovation for clients has evolved based on customer needs and observations about what works.