Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Can We Learn from Israel?

One does not change a culture easily. Tom Friedman of the New York Times most recent book was entitled "That Used To Be Us." It is fairly depressing. The Israeli venture capitalist Jon Medved said, "The US needs to regain its mojo."

The US is still the most innovative country on earth. I saw significant potential collaborations between SC researchers and Israeli researchers in nanotechnology, neurology and other areas. There were at least two dozen Israeli companies that can potentially establish some kind of partnership with SC.

The population of the US is a little over 312 million. Israel is 7.5 million. SC is 4.5 million. We can not import culture. We can work to rebuild elements of the Israeli culture that are so successful. Let's look at the success factors and see what can be adopted.

1. Risk Taking. Outside of Silicon Valley and a handful of other entrepreneurial hotbeds, there is still a fear of failure when it comes to entrepreneurship. The Israeli economy suggests to American entrepreneurs, "why not?"

2. Immigration. In my opinion, we are going the wrong direction on this one. Most of the graduate students in engineering at USC are from outside the United States. We should staple a green card to their diploma, but that is not happening.

3. Ability to question authority. That is more in the culture of individual companies, but it should be encouraged.

4. Universal military service. It won't happen, but I for one would vote for two years. It think it would give the government a labor source, and would better prepare young people for college.

5. Government policy. SC has tried to become a business friendly state and for the most part has succeeded. I think that SC Launch can be every bit as effective as the Israeli incubators. We need to consider adding some support services to the effort. Russ Keller from SCRA/SC Launch was on the Mission and all over this idea.

6. Education. Don Herriott and Jim Reynolds, Co-Chairs of the New Carolina Education Task Force, have been exploring ways of improving the education ethos in SC. This should be among our highest priorities, but it is difficult to change someone who doesn't value education.

A great first step in connecting SC with Israel are the collaborations that I have idscussed over the last seven days. A speaker at Technion had a slide with a 2500 year old quote from Confucious. "Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand."

Thanks again to all of the organizers, trip participants and Israeli hosts. It was a great trip.

1 comment:

  1. I will not deny that foreign students can be bright, but faculty exaggerate their brilliance because foreign students are servile in doing work and favors for faculty and not demanding that professors actually earn their tuition keep. Morevover, faculty like that foreign students are either afraid, complicit or morally ambivalent about the imoral behavior of professors. In many cases they are more likely to share the professors' anti-Americanism than American students.