Insights from my Israel start-up immersion

I was thrilled, when my esteemed colleague, Tania de Jong invited me to present a Master Class at the Creative Innovation Asia Pacific 2016 Conference. Tania and I first met several years ago, when she was part of an Australian Trade Mission visiting Israel, the iconic Start-Up Nation. At the time I was living there, as a start-up entrepreneur, an unexpected result of immersing myself in the Israel innovation culture, start-up lifestyle and innovation ecosystem. Causing me to let go of my core corporate learning and consulting roles,  which enabled me to experiment with developing my innovation education Israel start-up.  I was, in fact, totally immersed in researching the key drivers of the unique Israeli innovation culture, participating keenly in Tel Aviv’s’ start-up community’s entrepreneurial lifestyle and investigating its innovation ecosystem.

For the 2016 Creative Innovation Asia Pacific 2016 Conference, she suggested that I share the 5 key learning’s from the 6 years I spent immersed in Israel’s start-up culture and innovation eco-system.

Whilst I had written an e-book ‘The ImagineNation Story’ describing my experiences, I had not, actually sat down for some time, and retreated, reflected and percolated the generative learning’s from my misadventures in Israeli start-up land. When I did identify, summarize and edit the 5 key learning’s I was surprised at how profound they are and how essential they are, as foundations, to ultimate 21st-century business enterprise innovation and leadership success.

The 5 Key Learning’s from my Israel start-up immersion

  1. Innovation emerges from colliding Necessity with Possibility

I initially found that Israel defied any kind of conventional culture model definition. Whilst it is essentially driven by a strong survival need, this is strangely balanced by an equally strong inherently Jewish need for self-actualization and self-transcendence.  Ultimately, this might create entropy, which may not be sustainable for the long term, however, it also manifests as a collision between the “necessity” (survival) needs and the “possibility” (making the world a better place need) value that creates an explosion of creativity necessary to effect radical and disruptive innovations.

Why is this important for successful enterprise innovation?

At ImagineNation™ we believe that innovation is the result of a COLLISION between different programming perspectives and thought patterns (specifically our necessity and possibility metaprograms). Typically, most organizations focus only on the ‘necessity’ and ‘survival’ perspectives. Causing them to see innovation as a lever for ‘moving away’ from some kind of undesirable future state. This often results in a ‘push’ style of management, based on telling people what to do, and how to do it. Resulting in resistance to change, as well as in creating a more conventional, conformist and hierarchical type of organizational culture.

Organizations that focus their attention more on the ‘possibility’ and ‘opportunity’ perspectives, causes them to see innovation as a lever for ‘moving toward’ a more desirable future state. This results in what we describe as a ‘pull’ style of management, based on asking them what to do and how to do it. Resulting in a more engaged, committed, collaborative and creative type of organizational culture that will leverage talent to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution.

We encourage our clients to take a ‘both/and’ approach and intentionally collide necessity (need for organizational survival and growth) with the possibility (the need to make a difference to the world) mindset as a basis for directing and harnessing their intrinsic motivation.  To articulate this as a passionate purpose (why) for innovation, will result in an explosion of creativity, mobilized by a sense of PASSIONATE URGENCY that ultimately leads to innovative breakthroughs and solutions!

  1. Constructive Nonconformity & Disagreement drive creativity that results in innovation

The Israeli culture is exemplified by a state of constant ‘conflict’ and ‘argumentativeness’ at all levels.  This occurs between individuals, peoples, groups the government and neighboring territories.  In a unique way, this makes Israel and many Israeli’s experts and masterful in deviating from a ‘business as usual’ ways of doing things. By including dissent and dissonance when challenging BAU and the status quo (no matter what it is). By defying convention and in generating imaginative higher level ‘out of the box’ thinking through their assertive, candid and yet creative problem-solving arguments and provocative debates.

Why is this important for successful enterprise innovation?

At ImagineNation™ we teach our clients how to be safely disruptive and provocatively competent. This means they develop the creative confidence and generative discovery skillset (listening, inquiring and conversing – constructive non-conformity) to be, think and act differently.   They know how to see, disrupt and deviate from organizational norms, other people’s actions, and expectations. To use dissonance and dissent constructively to make the difference they want to make in ways that people value & cherish.

  1. The power of adversity, positivity, optimism, and individualism

Israel has a seemingly traumatized population, with a deep sense of self-centeredness and an overall impatience, all with a population of approximately 9 million people. It is often marginalized globally and is surrounded by hostile neighbors. Often at the edge of chaos, and in the face of complexity, and is yet contained in a land the size of Tasmania. However, most Israeli’s embody an incredible ability to adapt, be resilient and defiant in the face of adversity. They are able to deal with adverse situations whilst sustaining an inherently individualistic, optimistic outlook and a positive mindset.

Why is this important for successful enterprise innovation?

At ImagineNation™ we have drawn inspiration from how Israel provides the world with a microscopic, adaptive and replicable example of how to adapt to adversity, discontinuity, and volatility. How to use these as levers for resilience, collaboration, creativity, invention, and change. We enable our clients to operate defiantly in the face of opposition, resistance, and constraints. We support them to cultivate the core traits of passion, optimism, self-efficacy, individualism, achievement, accountability and positivity, which are at the core of every Israeli start-up entrepreneurs’ success story and the innovation ecosystem.

  1. Emerging a new paradigm for 21st-century leadership

When I arrived in Israel in 2010, I faced a harsh new reality that defied all of my previous organizational roles.  As well as most of what I had been taught and experienced about high-performance organizational cultures, leaders and teams.

Aptly illustrated by Dov Frohman founder of Intel Israel in his book ‘Leadership the Hard Way’ where he states that “leadership in today’s economy is a lot like flying a plane through a thunderstorm”.  Defining innovation as “the ability to take risks and create fundamentally new ways of doing things.”

I quickly realized that most of the current approaches to organizational learning and development were irrelevant to future potential clients inside, and outside of my then-new homeland.  I was curious as to what could potentially constitute learning new ways of successful transformative innovative 21st-century leadership – as leaders face “new kinds of risks and new kinds of threats- not only to their organisations, but sometimes to the very lives of their employees”.

Why is this important for enterprise innovation?

At ImagineNation™ we follow the advice of Albert Einstein who aptly stated that “you can’t solve the problem with the same thinking that created it”. For an organization to be able to innovate people must have great leaders, these are people who understand how they impact on others and how they impact on the business enterprise culture. Leaders who drive innovation by making it safe and possible, by giving people permission to take smart risks and to innovate. The most effective leaders lead from behind to harness and mobilize people’s collective genius, because they know that most innovation is the result of a courageous and collaborative effort by a diverse group.

  1. Creating an innovation ecosystem to co-operate internally and compete externally

One of the key critical success factors behind Israeli innovation and entrepreneurship is the successful Israeli innovation ecosystem.  This is described as the cluster of world-class universities, government agencies, venture capitalists, large organizations, the (IDF) Israel Defense Forces, Start-Ups, and the collaborative ecosystem that connects them.

Israel has developed the concept of an ‘economic cluster’ into a uniquely collaborative and competitive internal state-driven, innovative ecosystem. This is a result of its unique set of cultural attributes including maximizing diversity, willingness to experiment and fail, creative teaming and ‘networks for life’ as well as government support initiatives. Israel has created a business environment where all of the key pieces and important parts work together to support and enable their start-up business enterprises to be nimble and adaptive, innovative and successful in an uncertain and unstable world.

Why is this important for successful enterprise innovation?

At ImagineNation™ we encourage our clients to take a longer-term, non-linear and perspective and emergent approach innovation. To apply it as a strategic and systemic lever to adapt to the disruption and variation involved in innovation as positive factors simultaneously. We have deciphered, defined, modeled and replicated the key attributes that enable the innovation eco-system concept to be adapted to suit the specific individual and organizational needs. This means that individuals, functions, business units, organizations, and even industries can take advantage of globalization and our interconnected world, to collaborate effectively to see and solve customer problems and deliver greater user experiences.

So what does all this mean really?

For organizations to respond, flow and flourish with the wide range of 21st-century challenges, business wicked and customer problems we suggest they focus on developing their capability in three key areas;

  • Developing innovative leadership, entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial capacities, innovation-focused organizational strategies, cultures and an innovation ecosystem!
  • Transforming possibilities, constraints, challenges, and wicked, business and customer problems by harnessing and mobilizing people’s collective genius into user-friendly creative inventions and innovative solutions, products and services that people value and cherish.
  • Fearlessly experimenting and calculated risk-taking to discover, design and deliver innovative prototypes that cause them to fail fast to learn quickly that result in radical and disruptive solutions.

This is just a short preamble to my whole Master Class  presentation, so please join me at the Creative Innovation Asia Pacific Conference 2016  The Exponential Shift Making transformation happening on  7-9 November 2016, Sofitel Melbourne on Collins where my master class subject is a mouthful, it is ‘Making Transformation happen – the 7 breakthrough capabilities of successful transformative innovative leadership.’

At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviours and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Contact us now at to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.