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Money and imagination

Israel has more technology companies listed on the US stock exchange, NASDAQ, than any other nation. "Israeli mothers want their sons to drop out and become entrepreneurs," reports Thomas Friedman in the New York Times. Friedman is an astute observer of economic things, such as the idea that the world is flat.

Actually, he wrote the book by that name. A regular NYT columnist and a Pulitzer prize winner, he’s written a terrific little piece while in Israel (he’s also an Arab-Ireal expert) about the importance of imagination and commercial success. I have stolen some excerpts in the hope that a link to his site will allow it.

“If you want to know why Israel’s stock market and car sales are at record highs — while Israel’s government is paralyzed by scandals and war with Hamas and doesn’t even have a finance minister — it’s because of this ecosystem of young innovators and venture capitalists. Last year, VCs poured about $1.4 billion into Israeli start-ups, which puts Israel in a league with India and China.

"...when the world becomes this flat — with so many distributed tools of innovation and connectivity empowering individuals from anywhere to compete, connect and collaborate — the most important competition is between you and your own imagination, because energetic, innovative and connected individuals can now act on their imaginations farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before.

“Those countries and companies that empower their individuals to imagine and act quickly on their imagination are going to thrive. So while there are reasons to be pessimistic about Israel these days, there is one huge reason for optimism: this country has a culture that nurtures and rewards individual imagination — one with no respect for limits or hierarchies, or fear of failure. It’s a perfect fit with this era of globalization.

“We are not investing in products or business plans today, but in people who have the ability to imagine and connect dots,” said Nimrod Kozlovski, a top Israeli expert on Internet law who also works with start-ups. Israel is not good at building big companies, he explained, but it is very good at producing people who say, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this ...,” then create a start-up to do it — which is later bought out and expanded by an Intel, Microsoft or Google.

"...My guess is that the flatter the world becomes, the wider the economic gap we will see between those countries that empower individual imagination and those that don’t. High oil prices can temporarily disguise that gap, but it’s growing."

(NYT, June 10, 2007 )

Perhaps we need a little hostile enemy action in NZ to get the message that we need a huge jump in imagination and ambition to survive.