Start-up nation and creative thinking
The State of Israel has been one of the Startup global powers of the last 20 years. This is not a passing phenomenon or a one-off event, but an ongoing reality.
One of the main reasons for this reality is the way Israelis think. The ability to think like an Israeli is equivalent to the ability to think in an innovative way.
Is this the main reason why the State of Israel, with a population of less than 10 million, has become a wealthy start-up nation?
Is it a big money going into the country and encouraging start-ups? Is it the IDF in Israel that trains many young people in advanced technologies and then allows them to embark on the technology in a civilian version?
Probably all of these answers are true but they are another reason for the main reason why so many startups come up every year.
What is creative thinking
Creative thought is a thought that treats things in a way that is different from the conventional way in which these things are treated. In the context of problems, it is a thought that will offer a different solution from the usual solutions to the same problem.
Is there such a thing as Israeli thinking?
Just as humans have a different character, so peoples and countries have a different character. Obviously it is impossible to compare Japanese and Spanish or Germans and Brazilians. In every nation and state, a typical culture is created by a common history, culture, religion, living conditions, and shared dreams.
The same is true for Israelis, who have typical characteristics that are expressed in various ways. One of the defining features in the context of the present article is the ability to think creatively, the ability to improvise, the ability to think differently and to see things differently. This ability is key to creative thinking.
How can one think like an Israeli or how can one think creatively?
The vast majority of children in the Western world spend their studies up to the age of 18. They learn mathematics, science, history, languages and other topics. Learning a theoretical profession requires a lot of memorization. Learning a mathematical profession requires mathematical thinking and a lot of practice.
Every profession has its own way of learning and it is clear that not all children are equally talented, in every profession. The learning of the ordinary subjects is carried out in school, practiced in school or at home, after school, for a short time, and is examined in school. Once the test is completed, learning is completed.
How is learning different from creative thinking?
Learning for creative thinking is completely different. It involves changing the way of thinking and is therefore not limited to a particular time or place.
Creative thinking is part of the culture. Creative thinking is a much more educational process than it is a learning process. It has to do with habits, patience for mistakes, and its enormous importance. That is why learning for creative thinking is far more complex, long term and never ends. It is under constant scrutiny and cannot be completed at any point in time. It is constantly under testing.
Israelis do not learn to think creatively. There are no lessons in school that explain how to think creatively. While there are workshops on creative thinking in workplaces, the role of the workshops is to awake awareness and not make people who have never thought creatively, creative. it’s impossible.
But there are cultural elements in Israel that encourage creative thinking and those who grew up in Israel, experiencing them from a very young age, and these elements of creative thinking, embedded in it from an early age and expressed in many forms, are not all positive.
If so, what are the same things that exist in Israel, and if you embed them into your life frame over time, can you think creatively naturally? Here is a list of steps that can lead anyone, through a long-term process, to a creative mindset that can advance them in any field they are concerned with.
The 9 steps for Israeli creative thinking
1. Always challenge the rules
Laws are not sacred. This point probably illustrates, more than any other point, the negative and positive aspects of creative thinking in Israel. Obviously we do not want to harm anyone and obviously, we do not want to eliminate income tax and obviously we do not want to endanger people but there are many laws that are not part of the official laws but behavioral laws.
Take, for example, one of the behavioral rules of standing in line. Israelis don’t like to stand in line. For Israelis, the turn is a test of their improvisation. They do not plan it in advance but it is something that is embedded within the Israeli code of conduct.
It does not matter if the queue is in a hospital, on the road in front of a traffic light, in any government office, in a park, at a movie theater or while waiting for your turn to speak at a multiplayer meeting. Israelis do not like queues, do not like to wait for them, so queuing in Israel looks completely different from how it looks in the United States or Japan.
Many Israelis will try to “steal” the queue and move forward faster than if they wait patiently. It is perfectly clear that no positive behavior is described in it.
But try for a moment to think about it. Failure to accept the queue is a failure to accept the existing order. Failure to accept the existing order is the key to changing the existing order. It is very difficult to change something that is accepted and accustomed to it. It is easier to change what one does not accept as a good solution and one does not practice, since then the view towards it is critical.
2. Enrich yourself, enrich your world
Permanent enrichment is like a constant source of ideas that can undermine the conventional concept in any field. When you listen to others, through reading, through a podcast, through video or course, you open yourself up to new opinions, different perceptions, ideas you haven’t thought about.
Enrichment topics should not necessarily be exactly what you are trying to solve, they can be close by and still, refreshing thinking in one area can lead to creative thinking in another field. One-time learning won’t do the job.
It has to be a routine of study that opens the mind to other ideas. You should read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts. Don’t limit yourself. Pick the topic you are interested in and keep learning, deep-dive, get to the bottom of it.
3. Search for inspiration
Inspiration energizes both the spirit and fresh thinking. When you are off, it is very difficult to think freshly and creatively. Creative thinking requires energy, it requires investment.
Inspiration can be the one that provides the push it takes to get out of the comfort zone and think differently. Since humans are different from each other, their sources of inspiration are different from each other.
The sources of inspiration can be spiritual, professional, technological, it doesn’t really matter as long as they are a source of inspiration for you that encourages you and pushes you forward. You can’t be depressed or motivated and still think creatively. These things do not go together. Sources of inspiration are critical for those who do not find the energy required for creative thinking.
Brainstorming is probably one of the most powerful tools for creative thinking. Creative thinking is challenging and especially when you do it alone. When in a company, it can be like a game.
Dialogue between people gives different and original thinking angles, which are hard to come by when thinking alone. Dialogue between a number of people speeds up the creative thinking process and allows for original ideas to be reached, disqualifying less good ideas.
Clearly, effective brainstorming can take place where people have confidence and trust. When people trust each other, they allow themselves to be opened and openness gives rise to ideas. When there is no trust, closures are created and closures are a death drug for creative thinking.
The brainstorming method cannot work in a hierarchical framework. Imagine the following situation, a group of five people brainstorming, one of the people in the group is a manager. Suppose that within the process, a number of ideas come up, one of which is the manager’s and his idea is less successful than the others.
Will the rest of the group feel comfortable enough to tell him this or because he is a manager, will they focus on his idea? The brainstorming process requires an equitable reference to ideas.
Executives can certainly take part in that but provided the rest of the group feels completely at ease and feel confident enough to disprove their ideas without feeling insecure.
Two examples can be considered: a Japanese company and an Israeli company. The hierarchical structure in Japan suppresses the freedom of expression of junior employees vis-à-vis senior or managerial employees. A brainstorming process cannot be conducted in such an environment.
In contrast, in Israel, the hierarchical structure is much more flexible. People feel much more free to say their opinions, even to senior executives. One could say that even more than that, people are eager to voice their opinions. There is no code of conduct that requires a young person to remain silent with someone who is elder or more senior than him.
It is also important to note that the brainstorming process cannot be conducted in overly large groups. One of the principles of brainstorming is the ability to respond quickly to one another and to keep a discussion going on. When there is a small group of 3-5 people active, such a conversation can occur and progress. But when there are ten or more people and everyone wants to say something, and respond to the ideas of others, the process loses momentum.
The social nature of Israelis, the lack of respect for the hierarchy, the desire to speak and voice your opinion, makes the brainstorming process very effective among Israelis and is a fruitful source for new and good ideas.
5. Go to the Gemba
The Gemba is a Japanese term meaning “The actual place”. Creative thinking requires a deep understanding of the problem you want to solve. Creative solutions cannot be reached when the problem is addressed theoretically only, without experiencing it as end-users.
Therefore, the important rule is to experience indirectly what it is trying to change. The experience will illustrate well the challenge, the difficulties of the alternative solutions, the limitations of the existing solution, and thereby provide a much more practical and accurate direction for solving the problem.
6. Always search for the problem
Constant searching for problems is a habit. It’s a habit of being reluctant to accept things as they are. This is a thought that is even a bit arrogant as it assumes that everything can be done better and whoever you come across a solution, you refuse to accept and find some kind of problem.
The vast majority of people go through their routine without paying attention to the things that bother them since they are already used to it. But our routine is full of many uncomfortable elements that need solutions. Existing examples like Wase can be seen as a solution to the traffic jams problem, or even a coffee shop set up where there was no cafe (this is also creative thinking that accompanies entrepreneurship).
Being able to look at things critically (not criticism for the sake of criticism) gives rise to ideas for other solutions. Critical thinking is not born out of anywhere. This mindset needs to be nurtured from an early age. Children who ask difficult questions and encounter hostile or unresponsive responses will grow up to be adults who do not ask questions and accept things as they are.
A society that encourages asking questions and encourages open and free discourse is a company within which many ideas can be born. Historically, Jewish society has been a subject of debate and criticism. The Talmud is a monumental enterprise of countless discussions and debates on various halachic issues. This culture has penetrated deep into the character of the Jewish people and is an integral part of it.
A few years ago, a company called Shamaim (sky) was founded in Israel. The company was founded by pilots, Israeli Air Force veterans. The gospel the company brought with them was the retrospective process carried out by Air Force pilots, a substantially different process from that carried out by other air forces, bringing them to a very high level of excellence in far fewer flight hours.
The method is built on a personal retrospective process carried out by the pilot himself, after each flight, instead of a retrospective process carried out on it, by a senior pilot.
The ability to perform personal retrospective frequently is part of the ability for creative thinking. It requires self-audit ability, it requires an understanding of the source of the mistake and what needs to be done to resolve the mistake. The whole method, very simple and based on three questions: What happened? Why did it happen? And how to avoid the mistake again.
There are very important subtleties in the process and not the place to enter them, but it is important to understand that the key to creative thinking is not just a well-developed sense of criticism of external solutions, but also of our actions. Self-criticism allows us to change our way of thinking and behavior, a very important element of creative thinking.
8. Don’t fall in love with your ideas
In Judaism, there is a verse that says: “A person close to himself”, that is, people love themselves, value their opinions and love to listen to themselves. There is nothing more natural than that.
But not when you’re in the process of creative thinking. Any entrepreneur who has a good idea, is very familiar with the experience of a good idea, feels like Archimedes when he discovered the specific weight and runs naked on the streets of Athens and screamed Eureka…
Any idea can be too early for its time, too late for its time or uninteresting as a solution to the problem it is trying to solve. Being able to understand this, it is critical. It is therefore very important to remain as objective as possible with regard to our own ideas, to deep dive into the suggested solution, and to understand whether it is interesting to implement.
Obsessive analysis of an idea will further refine creative thinking and lead to a better idea or, alternatively, choose not to proceed with the idea.
The need to be careful not to fall in love with the idea should not be confused with the passion that every entrepreneur must have towards the realization of his ideas. One of the best tools against falling in love with ideas is the brainstorming process that challenges in real-time the effectiveness of each idea.
9. Failures are the main milestones in your creative thinking
Naturally, people are afraid of failures. Nobody likes to fail. Failure exposes our weakness, our vulnerability and makes us an object of criticism. Failure reduces our self-confidence in our abilities and the way we chose to go.
It’s pretty clear why no normal person would be happy to fail. On the other hand, as far as it sounds paradox, the road to success is via failures. You can’t succeed without fail. Fear of failure paralyzes the creative thinking that challenges the existing reality. It is better to stay within the existing and avoid betting on a solution that may not succeed and then be exposed to criticism of our actions.
In contrast, a society that is not critical of failures is a society that encourages people to try new things without too much fear, because in the event of failure, their attitude towards them will be forgiving. One could say that Israeli society is a very forgiving society for failures.
Entrepreneurs who fail repeatedly, are not judged severely and are not perceived as losers. On the contrary, they have the full legitimacy to try again. This realization that you can try and fail, is a huge catalyst for creative thinking. The lack of concern about the criticism of those around you, freeing you into action and challenging the existing order.