Book review Entrepreneurship Unputdownable

Book Review | Chutzpah: Why Israel Is A Hub Of Innovation And Entrepreneurship

Rating: 4 out of 4.
Publisher: Harper Business
Pages:
240
Author:
Inbal Arieli

Chutzpah, literally, means brashness or extreme self-confidence. In Israel, however, the term means a way of life, a mindset. If you have chutzpah, you exhibit unbounded determination to go after your dreams. If you have chutzpah, you go after a problem even though you have zero experience in solving it.

Inbal Arieli, the author of Chutzpah, is a serial entrepreneur and a former IDF officer. In her debut book, she details the lesser-known reasons that have powered the little middle-eastern country into a bustling tech hub.

Today, Israel’s reputation as a startup nation piques the curiosity of many. After all, for a country of 9 million to boast of the highest per capita startup density in the world is something of an incredible feat.

But how does Israel do it?

How does a tiny nation beleagured with hostile states muster so much courage and ability? What enables Israel to punch above its weight?

Inbal Arieli, image source: https://chutzpahcenter.com

Yes, Israel’s prowess in technology and defence gives it a competitive edge. But what enables and sustains that superiority?

Inbal Arieli addresses these questions by deciphering the underlying factors that make it all possible.

Overall the book charts the path a typical Israeli takes – right from their childhood to the point they join the mandatory military service.

The ingenious Israeli ecosystem exposes kids to risk-taking and perseverance – two key ingredients of entrepreneurship – at an early stage.

Arieli reports that some schools in Israel have a junkyard as the playground where kids play with unsuitable objects such as pipes, bricks, broken furniture, rusting cans, etc. If you are a parent like me and not from Israel, you and I both know that it’s a nightmarish scenario. Israeli parents are venturesome, you might think. In many ways, yes, they are but there is a method to their madness.

Inbal Arieli declares, “Managing risks in a junkyard is an empowering experience for children. It’s true that they may get hurt but getting hurt is an integral part of living. Life entails all kinds of risks.”

She adds that Israeli parents encourage kids to take charge of situations.

Non-interference from parents means that children learn about the risks and complexities of the world on their own. This enhances their ability to handle unpredictablity and their ability to offer radical solutions to knotty problems.

Another apparent ingredient in the Israel success story, as reported in the book, is the informal culture in its schools and institutions. You address your school principal and your superiors by their first name.

I have always thought that informal culture fosters uninhibited opinions and cross-pollination of ideas – something that results in quick decision-making and empowerment of those in the ranks. When you have too many formal layers baked into your institutions, information and ideas stifle, and so does innovation.

Israel

Chutzpah underscores a key aspect of Israeli society: entrusting youth with important responsibilities. Arieli asserts, “In Israel, youth are perceived as co-citizens and not as children.”

She dedicates almost one-third of the book to youth empowerment. Of particular interest is Tzofim – the largest youth movement in Israel whose 90,000 members comprise mostly children and teens. Elaborate set-ups like Tzofim inculate basic leadership and accountability skills in children. All in all, the forging of character that happens in such close-knit communities helps Israelis for a long time.

Clearly, youth empowerment is not a fancy phrase in Israel. Their society believes that youth have potential that can be harnessed.

In the later chapters of Chutzpah, Arieli gives an insightful account of the IDF and how it’s central to Israel’s startup scene.

A stint in the IDF hones the skills Israeli youth have imbibed over the years. With its policy of recruiting for skills and growth potential, the IDF molds the young talent into high performers. It acts as a perfect skills incubator for many potential entrepreneurs.

After reading the book, it’s no surprise to me why Israel dominates the tech startup scene. The country’s ecosystem provides an ideal breeding ground for its brightest to test ideas and take risks, it also infuses them with resilience, optimism and of course, chutzpah.

Verdict

Anyone who seeks deep insights into why and how Israel has become the North star on the map of entrepreneurship should read Chutzpah. The book delineates all the factors responsible for the deep-rootedness of entrepreneurship in the Israeli population.

Chutzpah runs to 201 pages not including the notes and bibilography. It’s a breezy read without any dull moments. Inbal Arieli rivets the reader with a lot of anecdotes from her own experience and those of other Israeli entrepreneurs.

It’s a book that should be read by parents and policy-makers all over the world. Don’t get me wrong. I am not implying that upbringing in other cultures is in any way inferior. But there are constituents missing. Constituents that are pivotal to sparking innovation and creativity in kids.

When you read the book, you’d instinctually draw comparisons. The challenge is to take some of the learnings and incorporate them in our lives, especially, when we deal with our kids and young people.


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