Reviewed by Brian David Goldberg, Ph.D., President of the Beverly Hills Unified School District's Board of Education and Co-Chair of AJU's Political Science department.
Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle by Dan Senor and Saul Singer brings to life the story of the little engine (Israel) that could. The book is a powerful lesson for anyone interested in entrepreneurship and how that entrepreneurship can change an entire country. What most people associate with Israel is a desert environment with limited resources caught in constant strife. The Israel depicted in this book shows that the entrepreneurial spirit has launched Israel's economy and grown that economy exponentially. This growth comes in spite of the conflict that engulfs the region and without the benefit of a natural resource like oil that many of Israel's neighbors use to finance their economic growth. This book tells the story not only of the impact of entrepreneurship on Israel but the incredible contributions Israel has made to the greater world while providing lessons on how to grow and use entrepreneurship for every nation on earth.
Start-up Nation chronicles the successes of small Israeli businesses that grow into leading companies in their field. It is also the story of why the largest high-tech corporations in the world choose to base their research projects in Israel. Those reasons include a workforce that possesses a strong entrepreneurial, innovative spirit and technical knowhow.
The book goes beyond explaining the strong work ethic of the labor force and how the country is filled with a large number of engineers and scientists, examining the role the Israeli military plays in developing skills necessary for an entrepreneurial work force. It is safe to assume that in most military settings soldiers learn to follow orders, but Senor and Singer uncover the unique character of the Israeli Defense Forces as well. Their emphasis is on soldiers taking personal responsibility which leads to problem solving by those in the trenches and on the front lines under incredible pressure and intense real-world, life-and-death situations. The training that IDF soldiers receive helps them become managers and business owners driven to overcome obstacles and develop solutions, allowing these entrepreneurs to work faster and harder than others.
The question is how other countries can emulate these skills in their young people. In the United States we are seeing fewer and fewer students with the science, technology, engineering, and math skills that Israelis possess, and we do not have compulsory service as in Israel. Is that something we need to look at in the United States and around the world if we want to duplicate Israel's success?
Even beyond the role of military training and a highly educated workforce, Israel has developed a culture of social networks. There is a deep understanding and commitment by Israelis to share knowledge and cooperate with each other. Entrepreneurship leads to more entrepreneurship, and the success of so many Israeli companies encourages more Israelis to share the formula for success with one another to help create even more success. They have found a way to create a culture that nurtures and supports entrepreneurship and creates opportunities for collaboration and continued growth.
The book's value extends beyond the story of entrepreneurship and demonstrates a different side of Israel and its population's commitment to succeed. With all the distractions that its citizens face on a daily basis, Israel has found a way to not only survive but to thrive. Israelis have found a way to take what they have learned on the battlefield and apply those lessons to the boardroom. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who loves Israel or is interested in learning more about this country's accomplishments. It puts together an inspiring story of success and how to create a culture of achievement while confronting so many obstacles.