The Companies of the Future

November 30th, 2011 by Yoyah Group

By Yoram Yahav

On December 11th, 2011, I will be moderating a panel on “The Company of the Future” at The Globes Israel Business Conference, a yearly event which attracts many businessmen from around the world. I joined forces with three notable CEOs (Erez Vigodman of Agan Makhteshim, Gil Shwed of Check Point and Dominic Barton of McKinsey). I am excited not only because of these distinguished and highly respected individuals, but also due to the subject matter of the panel.

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The fact that so many people around the world are starting to talk “the language of the unknown future,” excites and encourages me tremendously. It shows that what we have been proclaiming for so long, has a strong basis. We can’t build the future based on the past anymore. That era has ceased, finished, finito…

I want to challenge your intellect with a few questions. But beforehand, I must consider that readers of this newsletter come from more than forty countries worldwide, meaning the diversity of the cultures as well as the interpretations, may be very high. So allow me to steer my questions in a more general and cross-cultural manner.

  • The year is 2022. Can you describe your home, business, family, physical appearance, relationships with your spouse/partner/children? Can you describe them in clear and concise terms?
  • Ask yourself honestly if the process of generating the above descriptions was simple and without a trace of thought or concern relating to issues from past events in your life?
  • Now, look around yourself at your partners and colleagues, neighborhood, country, region, environment, security situation, employment, medical facilities, etc. Do the preceding affect your optimism or pessimism with regards to your earlier descriptions?

If you are having a hard time dealing with the above questions, I am welcoming you to the club! Most of us have a hard time relating to the future with a different “standard” than we relate to our past. When thinking of what the company of the future might look like, we quite naturally have a tendency to believe that our company will continue to be “as is” and in the future, it will only get better. It is a good and optimistic approach, however, it ignores current realities and the fact that only ONE “Fortune 100 Company” from 1900 (General Electric), is still active.

When contemplating on which company will survive deep into the future, we must look at the possible realities of that time. Will we use fuel or sun energy? Will we be structured in the same security/economic environment we are living in today? Will we have an abundance of food or scarcity like many claim? Since we are living in unprecedented times when it comes down to the speed of change and the levels of uncertainty, obviously, many questions like these may arise. Those companies which will consider as many scenarios as possible – in my opinion will be more ready for the future and will eventually outlast longer. The CEOs which are joining me during the panel represent companies which indeed consider the future in a different manner. To examine and study their philosophies should be helpful to all.

Are You Pursuing Your Passion?

October 2nd, 2011 by Yoyah Group

By Yoram Yahav

Are you often concerned by the news, terrorism, your economic status, your career, your personal relationships with your family and friends, or the unknown future in general? Like many, your answer is most probably “yes.”

Recently I had a discussion on a study which examined the longevity of startups. Upon its findings, 12 years ago, 1 in 10 startup companies lasted beyond 6 years, and today the statistic accounts for 1 in 112 lasting beyond 6 years. Few of us are willing to cope with an uncertain reality, therefore not many of the global population actually do establish startups. Such a step demands courage, deep awareness, commitment and strong belief. Going against the odds and pursuing one’s passion, while acknowledging the possibility of failure, is a challenging step for anyone.

I am a CEO, not a psychologist. I have run nine companies over the last two and a half decades and have seen the world at its greatness as well as at its recession. However, if I were a psychologist, and I were interested in the study of courage, I would pose my clients and friends a few critical and personal questions:

1. Are you honestly happy with your life?
2. Are you satisfied and excited about your work?
3. Are you happily married or satisfied with your relationships?
4. Are you living your dreams?
5. Are you content with the economic, political and cultural states of your country?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above (and I suspect many of you did), then you are probably justifying the answer with excuses such as: this is life, I can’t afford to leave, I don’t have any control over things, my children need me, I gave up living my dreams because it is too late… For whatever it is worth, I sincerely invite you to consider the fact that it is never too late and you shouldNEVER give up on your dreams or on taking control of your life.

living-your-dreams

If you are a 20 or 70-year-old reading this article, then the combined years you have left on this earth is approximately a hundred. Beyond the essential discussions on the science of philosophy, you would agree that a hundred years do fly by faster than you can digest them (just ask my parents…). My question is, what do you have to lose dear friend? As it stands, you are experiencing fear, depression and concern over “something” in your life. Does it help you to feel this way? Can you mark any sort of accomplishment or development in life achieved by fear or worry? Anger is actually an expression of fear, and fear as I just mentioned, does not contribute anything to your well being. So why give in to anger at all? If you are unhappy – change it! If you are not living your dreams, start living them even if you start small. It sounds so trivial and simple but we all need to be courageous and decide to dream in color…

I am always amazed at people’s reactions to the career path I chose. I hear questions of all sorts, most of which in my opinion represent fear. “Why don’t you take over an existing company?”, I am asked. “Why do you need to pursue new methodologies and run around the world selling ideas instead of sailing a boat in the Caribbean?” Well, the most straightforward answer I can give to all these rhetoric questions is that I am pursuing my passion. My time on this planet is limited and it is definitely unpredictable. My ability to face my own dreams and to try to live them, is what gives me new vitality to live my life to the fullest. If I don’t embrace the moment and pursue my passion, the moments will run out…

Are You Pursuing Your Passion?

October 2nd, 2011 by Yoyah Group

By Yoram Yahav

Are you often concerned by the news, terrorism, your economic status, your career, your personal relationships with your family and friends, or the unknown future in general? Like many, your answer is most probably “yes.”

Recently I had a discussion on a study which examined the longevity of startups. Upon its findings, 12 years ago, 1 in 10 startup companies lasted beyond 6 years, and today the statistic accounts for 1 in 112 lasting beyond 6 years. Few of us are willing to cope with an uncertain reality, therefore not many of the global population actually do establish startups. Such a step demands courage, deep awareness, commitment and strong belief. Going against the odds and pursuing one’s passion, while acknowledging the possibility of failure, is a challenging step for anyone.

I am a CEO, not a psychologist. I have run nine companies over the last two and a half decades and have seen the world at its greatness as well as at its recession. However, if I were a psychologist, and I were interested in the study of courage, I would pose my clients and friends a few critical and personal questions:

1. Are you honestly happy with your life?
2. Are you satisfied and excited about your work?
3. Are you happily married or satisfied with your relationships?
4. Are you living your dreams?
5. Are you content with the economic, political and cultural states of your country?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above (and I suspect many of you did), then you are probably justifying the answer with excuses such as: this is life, I can’t afford to leave, I don’t have any control over things, my children need me, I gave up living my dreams because it is too late… For whatever it is worth, I sincerely invite you to consider the fact that it is never too late and you shouldNEVER give up on your dreams or on taking control of your life.

living-your-dreams

If you are a 20 or 70-year-old reading this article, then the combined years you have left on this earth is approximately a hundred. Beyond the essential discussions on the science of philosophy, you would agree that a hundred years do fly by faster than you can digest them (just ask my parents…). My question is, what do you have to lose dear friend? As it stands, you are experiencing fear, depression and concern over “something” in your life. Does it help you to feel this way? Can you mark any sort of accomplishment or development in life achieved by fear or worry? Anger is actually an expression of fear, and fear as I just mentioned, does not contribute anything to your well being. So why give in to anger at all? If you are unhappy – change it! If you are not living your dreams, start living them even if you start small. It sounds so trivial and simple but we all need to be courageous and decide to dream in color…

I am always amazed at people’s reactions to the career path I chose. I hear questions of all sorts, most of which in my opinion represent fear. “Why don’t you take over an existing company?”, I am asked. “Why do you need to pursue new methodologies and run around the world selling ideas instead of sailing a boat in the Caribbean?” Well, the most straightforward answer I can give to all these rhetoric questions is that I am pursuing my passion. My time on this planet is limited and it is definitely unpredictable. My ability to face my own dreams and to try to live them, is what gives me new vitality to live my life to the fullest. If I don’t embrace the moment and pursue my passion, the moments will run out…

Meet Tsai Ming-kai, Mediatek Innovator: How to Innovate Business Designs

October 31st, 2010 by Dorit Bar-Golov

By Shlomo Maital

Tsai Ming-kai, Mediatek Innovator, Prof. Shlomo Maital

Tsai Ming-kai, Mediatek Innovator

The Financial Times this month had an excellent profile of Tsai Ming-kai, reclusive head of the Taiwanese chipmaker Mediatek.  Mediatek is the biggest supplier of mobile phone chips to China.   Innovators can learn much from him, even though he is rarely interviewed (the FT interview is the first in three years).

Tsai is an electrical engineer who never studied business – except for a one-week course at Stanford, where he learned about Harvard Business School Professor Clayten Christensen’s theory of “disruptive technology.” Tsai first joined United Micro-electronics, a large Taiwanese chipmaker.

When it spun off Mediatek, Tsai became its head.  Christensen teaches that vertically-integrated industries tend to mature and then split into horizontal segments, with each segment specializing in a key part of the value chain.  This creates huge opportunities for innovators who get there first.

Tsai realized Mediatek could thrive by doing just one thing very well – and doing it very cheaply.  That one thing was making CD drives for computers, which then became – making chips for DVD players.  By 2000 Mediatek was big, but Tsai looked for new opportunities.  He saw them in mobile phones.

While the big mobile phone chip designers like Qualcomm and Texas Instruments focused on 3G chips, Tsai saw opportunity in improving 2G chips to service the “newcomers” in China that he foresaw would one day defeat the industry leaders.

“There was still room for technological improvement in 2G phone chips,” he observes.  There is a very important principle here.  Innovators often look to cutting-edge breakthrough technologies.  That leaves much room for improving existing far-less-dramatic technologies, by raising performance and cutting cost.  Tsai offered not chips but also a “business model” – “reference designs” that came with the chip and enabled new phone makers to break into the business.

It was this business model that brought down barriers to entry into the mobile phone market dramatically.  So even while Western phone makers shunned Tsai’s basic “primitive” chips, Chinese firms leaped at the chance, and quickly grabbed 20 percent of world mobile phone markets, to the disgust of Nokia and Samsung.

The inexpensive Chinese phones became known as “shanzai”, or bandit phones – this is an injustice, Tsai says, because the enabled low-income people in emerging markets to have mobile phones just like the rich.

Tsai’s simple business model for innovation? “By relentlessly improving existing technology to reduce costs, this serves a population that is a much bigger proportion of the world.”  It reminds one of the late C.K. Prahalad’s “fortunes at the bottom of the pyramid”.  Tsai found a fortune there – and has made a fortune for himself and for his shareholders.

Tsai’s next frontier is ‘reverse innovation’ – taking goods (chips) designed for low-cost emerging markets and repositioning them for low-cost producers making products for Western consumers.

The business of looking from the future

September 1st, 2010 by Yoyah Group

By Yoram Yahav.

Yoram Yahav, יורם יהב, קבוצת יויהI have recently received many requests to write about the “Light House” and the business of “looking from the future”. I thought that I would revisit something I once wrote since it responds directly to the question – What it is all about!

I speak to them in my office, on long airplane flights, during cocktail parties and even while walking at night…… Ever since I started to talk and lecture about this new strategically oriented envisioning process and its importance in defining and supporting one’s dreams – friends, colleagues and clients have been approaching me every day with new revelations and new ideas.

It is quite remarkable how many of us are so lost in the web of goals and the search for the things that make us tick. I have written about these issues in the past and received literally thousands of responses. Working with the envisioning process which involves “looking at everything from the future”, is so loaded and unusual, that I thought it would be worthwhile to add a few more words.

In today’s world we often move at a pace too fast to comprehend. Knowing exactly where we’re headed with the goals we set for ourselves, both personally and career wise is not always clear. That’s why, defining one’s vision is like building a light house to which we can navigate and use as a constant land mark.

One of the most difficult exercises that I sometimes recommend to people who approach me, is the process of standing unclothed in front of a mirror for thirty minutes and looking directly into your eyes. It is only you looking at yourself, without any distractions except your thoughts and reflections. The process is often a humbling one that can bring out the deepest fears, anxieties, hopes or aspirations, and though it may sound like a simple enough process—even boring—few people are able to complete it.

Yoram Yahav, יורם יהב, קבוצת יויהThe very few that dare and complete the exercise are amazed at how such an obvious and “easy” task they perform every day, can bring about a new type of awareness and expose them to new feelings never experienced before.

Interestingly, I find a correlation between this exercise and the process of defining your future through the envisioning process.  In my many conversations with executives around the world, I quite often challenge them with real exercises which reflect the “AS IS” (as opposed to the “SHOULD BE”).  I warn them ahead that it is an extremely difficult process and though they do it on their own with no one overseeing them, their egos and insecurities get involved… For some reason, defining the “As is” and later on defining the dreams, from a point of view of what and where they want to be, is difficult for most human beings.

I strongly believe that the physical process of defining one’s futuristic photograph, mission and goal (by the way, these are three different concepts that get confused in the corporate world), is an extremely productive process that ultimately serves personal dreams. I will venture even further and say that in most cases, should a person enter this kind of process and describe the future, with attention to the smallest details, it has a better chance of materializing.

To those of you, my friends and colleagues, who I was able to convince to go through one of these processes, I want to say thank you, because through you I was able to grow as well.

Nothing can be taken for granted. NOTHING!

August 3rd, 2010 by Yoyah Group

By Yoram Yahav.
Yoram Notes July 10, יויה, יורם יהבPharmaceutical drug company – Teva, is an example of a corporation I truly admire. Established over a hundred years ago, the founding families never realized that it was going to turn into the world’s leading generic drug company.

What was so special about the growth of this company was its legendary chairman Eli Horowitz; a true visionary who could “see into the future”, figure out a new niche in the market place, bring the right people to replace him as a CEO and inspire the workers of Teva to think big.

Three years ago, I asked Eli to join a fantastic group of people for a project outlining the future of Israel. I was keen on futuristic scenario planning methodologies already then and I remember challenging Eli privately on one possible scenario.

What if Copaxon – (a leading drug that Teva manufactures  accounting for 25% of  sales) disappeared? “It is not going to happen,” he said. But what if it does? I insisted. “Then we will worry about it then”, he responded.

As I write this article three years later, the papers are filled with media coverage on the 10% drop in Teva’s stock because of the FDA approving the first steps of a competing drug.

As you have heard from me so many times, nothing can be taken for granted, NOTHING. Our future plans should consider all possibilities and then our dreams will have more potential to flourish into different realities.

One of Harvard Business School’s major contributions to the industry is the Harvard Case Study approach. Ever since Harvard published its first case study in 1921, millions of business people around the world have benefited from learning and simulating real life cases. In addition, quite an interesting trend was introduced to the business education scene; international companies around the world have actually been approaching business schools to offer themselves as candidates for case study writing.

Writing a case study requires unique skills. It is neither a typical writing project, nor is it a journalist task. Writers of case studies are required to go through special training and should have talent in addition to creativity. Companies participating in the process, need to express openness, non-defensive about their weakness as well as their failures.

In all relative terms, Israel is one of the world leaders in the number of start-up companies as well as the number of companies registered in Nasdaq. At the same time, it is quite surprising to see the small number of cases written about Israeli companies.

One of the reasons may be the lack of willingness of Israeli executives to expose their past down falls and discuss them in an open manner. Culturally, it is an interesting phenomenon, practically, if it doesn’t change, it may create some major problems in the future. Part of the reason to discuss the past is the fact that there is no future without a past, but there is definitely a past without a future.

In this day and age, when change comes and goes faster then the speed of light, companies and individuals who are not going to consider different types of scenarios in their growth, in my opinion, will face a danger of disappearing. We can not move forward based only on the successes of the past and part of our respect to the future has to be linked to our willingness to consider some different futuristic paths.

Having worked with many of Teva’s leading executives I know and respect their capacity to think out-of-the-box. At the same time, if the Copaxon loses market share, Teva will need to deal with some serious realities.

What’s better then considering the “what if” and deal with virtual realities as though they actually happened? When organizations are able to think this way, they are better prepared for their future.

Test driving the future with Better Place

August 3rd, 2010 by Dorit Bar-Golov

By Debbie Meltzer

Better_Future, Debbie Meltzer, דבי מלצר

Better Future

The lights were dimmed.  The multimedia screens came alive. The movie rolled into action. A slick hologram image greeted us as we sat on second hand car seats. Tour guides with Madonna microphones drummed up the excitement. An evolving stage turned the screens around to reveal the show’s true star – The Renault ZE.  All the showbiz plugs were pulled out – nothing short of a universal studios production.

The promise? A new era of electronic transport.

Which yellow brick road will get there you may ask? Why it’s the one to Better Place’s demo center in Pi-Glilot, Ramat Hasharon, Israel. Once there, jolly smiling assistants enroll you and then usher you into the movie theatre. Enthusiastic and upbeat, they beam with optimism, eagerly waiting to take you for a test drive or a battery swap demo.

This is the future of transport and we have solved a significant part of it – This is the message coming across loud and clear.

That’s it folks. Pack your woes in the boot. No need to be concerned about infrastructure, battery swapping, battery junk yards, lithium shortages, sulphur dioxide pollution, competing car stations, battery compatibility, tax breaks, government support, or the coal needed to generate energy in the first place.

Just press the start button and away we go…

Truth is when you get a go on the test track, the drive is exceptionally smooth. No roar, no purr, no splut. The Renault ZE – a standard sedan on the outside with EV technology inside was surprisingly quiet. Acceleration was seamless. The sprint is 0-60 mph in 10 seconds. The breaking was subtle. It can even be easily adjusted to be more aggressive.

The cool factor is embedded in the dashboard’s design where information on breaking, battery capacity and the nearest charging station are digitally displayed on the control screen. The software, we were told, could possibly interface with future power-monitoring technology to feed power from parked cars. Like!

The unsettling factor is the lithium packed battery that Better Place will own along with the infrastructure for servicing them.  The charging, needing six to eight hours, will keep the car going for 130 kilometers.

This range may suit short distances, like in Israel or Denmark, the first launch sites, but what happens when you turn into, let’s say, the Pan American highway or the Autobahn? What happens when you drive along more challenging terrain demanding more power?

Better Place hasn’t found all the answers yet, even though their tour guides will lead you to believe otherwise, but they seem to be overcoming some fierce challenges.

In central Israel, for instance, they have erected a charging infrastructure featuring designer charge poles that are already densely dotting public places. At the demo center we were shown how drivers can easily top off at one of these curbside charging poles. In my home town – Hod Hasharon alone, there are at least three of them.

They are also planning to launch battery switch stations – A tall order for batteries weighing each – 250 kilograms. But after witnessing a demo switch before my very own eyes, I’m convinced it can be done.

Apparently a fully functional battery swap station is operating in Tokyo. It is servicing a pilot-program fleet of three cabs. We were told the taxis visit the station almost every hour – not for recharging, but to satisfy inquisitive passengers keen to get a glimpse of the future.

Although Better Place claim the battery-swap sessions have been clocking in below one minute, the demo displayed a different story. Its not just about battery swapping, it’s about lining up to drive onto a ramp, setting the switch in motion, and then driving off the ramp. Being a ferociously high-cost system, don’t expect to see more than one per station for a while.

The final stations will accommodate multiple types of batteries and will have greater storage capacity,” says Kiyotaka Fujii, president of Better Place Japan. That statement seems a bit rash; who says that competing EV manufacturers will be willing to design system compatible batteries? Why should they? After all, what’s stopping Ford Motor Co let’s say from owning car batteries or selling power to customers through their own charging stations without a middle man?

Alarmingly no one is raising an alert on the amount of coal needed to fuel the charging power. Sure there are talks about wind and solar power some time in the distant future, but what will happen till then? Are we replacing one environmental hazard with another?

What does Better Place plan to do with the junked out batteries? And let’s say there is no shortage of lithium, as some scientists may have us believe, what about other rare earth elements needed in the battery like cobalt. What about the highly polluting sulphur dioxide that will be increasingly spitting out from the lithium battery manufacturing plants? At Better Place they assured me they have begun to think about these issues.

Despite the list of concerns, I truly commend Better Place for daring to dream, for designing their future and then doing everything they can to make it happen. Most importantly they secured the funding (750 million dollars) to keep the momentum going for a long time.

Their vision – to change the transportation landscape is beginning to surge. Slowly but surely they are overcoming near-impossible hurdles. More importantly, by doing so, they are dictating the pace of the electric car infrastructure.

Truth is, I can’t wait to top up my future electric car at the charging pole in my neighborhood. So go ahead – start charging.

Do we have the guts to be wrong?

August 3rd, 2010 by Yoyah Group

“Either you are wrong or I am right”? How many times have you met or spoken to people that all you heard was their “right” point and your “wrong” point? How many times have you walked away from a person only because you felt that he or she was too invested in hearing themselves?

I believe this is global phenomena that crosses over countries and cultures .  I also believe, that most of the conflicts of the world, exist because people are not willing to stop the train, get off, wait for the next one and meanwhile do some reflection on themselves.

I have decided to re-visit this topic I wrote about years ago because it is so relevant today.

Good management, in my mind, has a lot to do with one’s capacity to seek, search and select the “truth” by listening at least as much as speaking. We send a message in everything we do, everything that we say and everything that we represent.

We are what we are but we can always be better just by listening and hearing the other side. Can we do it without help? Can we do it just by realizing that we need to do something differently?

I know a little country that is in the international news all the time. Its reputation is mixed. It has a mighty army, it has produced many major breakthroughs in science, technology, music and medicine, it has some of the most beautiful women in the world but it also is in denial, and I mean Huge Denial.

Think about it for a second. Just hear me out before you declare me wrong. I have received hundreds of e-mails over the years telling me amazing things and amazing figures about this little country. Since I am a little man from this little country, I am always proud of the great achievements. I am also amazed as a person that has traveled the world, to see many little people like me in my little country, see so little of their capacity to make the little – big.

Why is it that the business people, the citizens and the management of this country don’t see the true essence and the reality of their economic future? Why so many smart people don’t see what some of the greatest minds of the world are seeing? Is there any limit to one’s denial?

When Jack Welsh, the former CEO of GE, took over a “small” company, he realized that to make it “big”, people will need to change their approach, their style, their attitudes and their perception.

He realized that the art of excellence requires excellent people using excellent methodologies and achieving excellent results.

No compromise!

He made GE a $100B company, which if you compare to the GDP of the little country I know, it ain’t bad…. But Jack knew when something different had to be done. Does the “little” country know?

Do they realize that their wealth and poverty gap is increasing faster then many western countries? Do they realize that they are losing market share in several countries because of the negative PR they are receiving in the international press? Do they realize that during times of economic distress, other countries have made sure to develop and inject new vitality into their universities while in their “little” place they are killing the future of the universities?

Do the people of the “little” country realize that if 80% of the population is supported by taxing 20% of the population, it is not going to hold water forever?

Denial my friends, is the name of the game. If I am right and you are always wrong, down the line I will collapse, and you will realize how wrong you were…. Wake up friends, this little country is in trouble and only a few realize the magnitude and depth of the problem.

Help yourselves by helping this place. Get involved with practical people that are trying to make a change. Support sound and logical fiscal policies even if you know that they are going to hurt. Help friends get jobs if you know the right people, volunteer in your children’s schools to save the collapsing system by supporting the teachers with your knowledge.

Last but not least, since management is my field, how about following the advice of ancient saga about starting to understand knowledge is when one realizes that he doesn’t know.

Lets “Walk our Talk” by realizing how wrong we all are so many times, and how deep our denials can be. Get involved in helping all of us, become the people that know what is right by admitting sometimes we can be wrong.

Mighty rivers of creativity bring Tsunami of innovation

August 3rd, 2010 by Yoyah Group

By Prof. Shlomo Maital

Mighty rivers of creativity, Shlomo Maital, שלמה מיטל, יויה

Mighty rivers of creativity

A recent BBC World Service poll completed in February reveals a painful fact − Israel is regarded by much of the world as illegitimate, a pariah, a social reject. Against this tsunami of anti-Israel sentiment, rises “Start-up Nation”, a best-selling book on Israeli innovativeness by Dan Senor & Saul Singer.

Thousands are reading the book to learn how this little country invented the cell phone, Copaxone, Azilect – a heart pump, drip irrigation, the Given Imaging pill that ‘broadcasts’ your intestines’ condition,  the Pentium chip,  and a thousand other life-changing inventions,  while fending off enemies and squabbling endlessly with one another.  “What is driving it,” Senor recently told the cable network CNBC, “is a national ethos, resilience, the fight for survival.”

Why not build on Start-up Nation’s buzz?  Why not rebrand Israel as the nation where creativity lives — come see for yourself?

Cont./ from Newsletter May 2010 main page:

A first step in this direction was taken recently by Prof. Shimon Shocken,  who founded the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center.  Shocken and a team of dynamic young people led by Maya Elhalal and Liat Aaronson organized a TEDx gathering on April 26 at a highly unusual venue near Jaffa Port called Na Laga’at (more about the venue later).

The BBC survey covered 29,000 people, interviewed by phone or face-to-face in 28 countries.   The question was: For each of 17 countries,   do you regard the influence of Country X in the world as mostly positive or mostly negative?

Half the respondents rated Israel’s influence as negative.  Only 19 per cent rated it as positive. The rest were either neutral or ‘don’t know’.

Incredibly, the results for North Korea are slightly better than for Israel; Iran rates only slightly worse.   In only two of 28 countries does Israel have a perceived net positive balance:  America and Kenya.  And in America, only 40 per cent gave Israel a “positive” rating, down from 47 per cent a year ago.    There is not a shred of evidence that Israel’s leaders lose sleep over these terrible numbers, let alone take action.

Against this tsunami of anti-Israel sentiment, rises Start-up Nation, the best-selling book about Israeli innovativeness by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, reviewed in The Report on Dec. 7 (“When Chutzpa Wins”).  Friends abroad tell me the book has aroused enormous curiosity about the source of Israel’s boundless creativity, mainly in the U.S. but in other lands as well.  Thousands are reading the book to learn how this little country invented the cell phone, Copaxone, Azilect, a kind of heart pump, drip irrigation, the Given Imaging pill that ‘broadcasts’ your intestines’ condition,  the Pentium chip,  and a thousand other life-changing inventions,  while fending off enemies and squabbling endlessly with one another.  “What is driving it,” Senor recently told the cable network CNBC, “is a national ethos, resilience, the fight for survival.”

Why not build on Start-up Nation’s buzz?  Why not rebrand Israel as the nation where creativity lives — come see it for  yourself?  A first step in this direction was taken recently by Prof. Shimon Shocken,  who founded the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center.  Shocken and a team of dynamic young people led by Maya Elhalal and Liat Aaronson organized a TEDx gathering on April 26 at a highly unusual venue near Jaffa Port called Na Laga’at (more about the venue later).

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design.   It is an American group dedicated to “ideas worth spreading”  that has built a popular, fascinating website where brief 18-minute talks by creative people are uploaded, many of them given at TED conferences in the U.S.  (Seewww.ted.com).   The ‘x’ in TEDx stands for ‘ex’ or ‘held outside the US’.   TEDx Tel Aviv was the first TED conference in Israel.   A second, TEDx Holyland,  will be held in Jerusalem on October 28 and will feature Jewish-Arab partnership.

The TEDx Tel Aviv conference was limited to only 340 participants, each of whom had to write an essay saying why they deserved a seat.  (However, for the crowds who did not gain admission, a  simulcast was broadcast to 18 sites throughout Israel).   The theme was “thriving on turmoil”.

In his opening remarks,  Prof. Shocken used the phrase “might rivers of creativity” to describe Israel.  And then, one by one,  we saw those rivers burst forth, as Israeli after Israeli spoke inspiringly, 15 of them in all.   In just 18 minutes, each described a brilliant idea and then explained how they made it happen.

What we learned from this amazing day was that Israeli innovativeness is not confined to high-tech.  It is pervasive and ubiquitous,  in social action, education,  therapy, music,  dance.  (And in politics?  Alas − no creative politicians could be located).  Participants ranged in age from 14-year-old Ori Sagy, who is a “scientist of the future” at Tel Aviv U., to myself (age 67),  Raphael Mehoudar, who invented drip irrigation for Netafim and Anita Shkadi, who introduced horseback therapy to Israel many years ago.

Here is a sample of six of those mightily creative people who spoke and the ideas they implemented.

Shimon Shocken chose to talk not about computers or software, but about juvenile offenders.   A fanatical mountain bike rider, he rode past a juvenile jail one day, talked his way in and pitched an idea to the warden, who at first found it highly amusing. (Creative people are never deterred when their idea arouses gales of laughter).   Result:  Every Tuesday Shimon leads a group of juvenile inmates on a challenging mountain bike ride, to build their self-confidence and tolerance for frustration.

Anita Tal, who directs plays, was asked in 2001 to come to Jaffa to work with a dozen deaf and dumb actors suffering from Usher’s Syndrome, a progressive genetic disease,  and until then living in darkness and silence.   How in the world does one do that, she wondered?   Result:    The curtain rose in the Na La-ga’at (“please touch”, in Hebrew) Center on “Light Is Heard in Zig Zag”.   In 2004 the unusual company toured Canada and the U.S. and won rave reviews.  Today the Na Laga’at Center, where the TEDx conference was held, features the Blackout Restaurant, where dinner is served by blind waiters in complete darkness — a startling experience I strongly recommend.  Tal was given the Chesed (Grace) Award at the Knesset in 2008.

Karen Tal (no relation),  principal of Bialik Rogovin School in South Tel Aviv, told how she upgraded a rundown elementary school of 800 children, many of them refugees or children of foreign workers hailing from 48 countries, two-thirds from families with a single parent.   In five years she and her team raised the proportion achieving Matriculation  from 28 per cent to more than 70 per cent.  She serves her kids hot lunches, and runs a Hebrew ulpan for 45 parents.  In the afternoons the children study art and play sports.  The school choir sang for us; the polyglot blend of ethnic groups singing in perfect Hebrew brought tears to our eyes.

Shimon Steinberg, a scientist, talked about “bugs are good for your health” and told how at Kibbutz Sdeh Eliahu, biological pest control creates good bugs that destroy bad bugs. The global biocontrol industry today amounts to $250 m. worldwide and aspires to replace an environmentally-harmful pesticide industry that is 100 times larger. Israel is among the leaders.

Isaac Berzin spoke about “fill it up with seaweed”.   At MIT, he is making biofuel out of algae, after being told it could not be done.  Berzin thinks it is smarter to make biofuel out of algae than out of corn, which takes food out of hungry people’s mouths.  “Tell an Israeli it was never done before, it can’t be done, and you get their attention!” he said.  “We Israelis invented ‘Yes, we can’ (President Obama’s slogan)  first”.

Ehud Shapiro, a Weizman Institute scientist, told us about the human cell lineage tree.  Shapiro made a stellar career in computer science in the U.S., then came home to the Weizman Institute and shifted into biology.  By tracing how our 100 trillion cells divide from an original fertilized ovum, he believes we can crack cancer’s origins, by learning how and why cancer cells divide uncontrollably.

It is an utter travesty for Israel to be perceived by the world as a pariah, rather than what it truly is,  a light-bulb unto the nations.   At a time when countries in the West are struggling to recover from the global crisis and are seeking new innovations to lead the way, they can learn much from Israel.  Let every Israeli official abroad convey that message with conviction, at every opportunity.

Courtesy of Jerusalem Report Marketplace – Prof. Shlomo Maital *   Senior research associate. S.Neaman Institute Technion.

What if we could project into the future?

August 3rd, 2010 by Yoyah Group

What if, יויהץ

By: Yoram Yahav

Charles Darwin once said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives or the most intelligent, but rather the ones most responsive to change.”

If the word “change” has been crucial over the last hundred years, then today in my mind, it is probably the hottest term to describe anything, anywhere and anyone who lives, experiences and breathes on this planet.

What if people could project into the future and make more intelligent predictions? What if leaders could visualize and successfully enact transformation? What if we could tell when earthquakes occurred and predict their capacity? Or know the time and places of economic collapse and devastations? If this was realistic, would we act differently? Will we prepare ourselves better?

I argue strongly that our whole demeanor and our natural internal defenses prevent most of us from preparing for future changes, even if we know that they will happen sooner or later.We tend to act and react based on our “past conversations.” We are either afraid of, do not want to, or avoid addressing possible future changes, if they don’t synchronize with our hopes and normal path of least resistance.

I travel and work with people of many religions, cultures and preferences. Regardless of our biases and previously acquired judgment values, I find (“surprisingly…”) that people are people are people… Fear of the unknown move across boundaries of countries, race and experience. Change troubles us, scares us, threatens us, alarms us. You can probably come up with several more adjectives.

Last week I was privy to a discussion involving some of the European Airlines. For them, managing change and addressing possible futuristic directions is about survival or death. Who would have predicted the volcanic eruption in Iceland, who would have believed Europe would be on the verge of financial bankruptcy in the spring of 2010? When individuals discuss their own maps of the future, they don’t even realize they have a mental map until they hear about future mental maps of others. During discussions of this nature, I find people open up more.

It is so wise and so called for to engage in activities which help understand tomorrow’s outcome. These should be based on futuristic approaches as opposed to our collective past experiences. I am amazed to see in my work that not every country, leader and global corporation is actually establishing daily routines and methodologies to educate others to think this way.

Today’s airlines should sincerely consider tomorrow’s worst and best scenarios and address them with real possible action plans as though they have already happened. This can lead for example to construction and acquisition of travel companies in other relatively safe areas such as light trains or green-tech energy related companies. I can clearly keep writing and flood you with data and information we collected over the years, but I want to leave you with a few thoughts of possible scenarios.

I want to take the risk that you may criticize my thinking, adopting the excuse that the present is the most important aspect of our existence and when tomorrow comes, we will address it then.

So, with this risk in mind, here are a few scenarios:

  • Iran shoots a nuclear war head at Israel and it kills fifty thousand people… The world is in shock, Israel reacts…
  • The technology for replacement of eyes, noses, legs, arms and faces is readily available
  • Security measures and recognition measuring devices become obsolete
  • The president of France died and his son actually took his face five years ago. The people are shocked… New blood recognition icons are required by law for every citizen of the world…
  • People easily live to 150 years and retirement age is established at 130
  • Conventional medicine has virtually disappeared
  • Canada is now the “Empire” of the world. It is the only country left with enough oil reserves and it is considered the “greenest and cleanest” country in the world.
  • The Canadian dollar is the new global currency and the U.S (or what’s left of it) is now “the Mexico of the 20th Century”
  • Al Gore was right. 28% of the world’s land as was known in 2010 is under water
  • Space settlement is not a dream but a factual program. The new “space” country is recruiting future citizens based on their UVP (Unique Value Proposition)…

I could go on and on but I will end with one practical suggestion. Look into yourself, visualize the best and worst that you can imagine about yourself twenty years from now. Now go back to “your past” and confront what you could have done to change or prepare better. I know it is difficult and uncomfortable, but having seen the process in action, all I CAN SAY THAT IT HELPS.