One famous Shimon Peres quote – that didn’t make it into his autobiography – declared that nagging dissatisfaction is Israel’s greatest natural resource. People would chuckle when Shimon made this declaration, speaking about innovation leadership at an international conferences like BioMed. Anyone who’s lived in Israel knows that we’re a country of chronic critics. We’re always looking for a better way, a better deal, a better ride, a better taste, a better sound, a better user experience – and are happy to tell anyone who will listen how what they’re doing could be better.

Fortunately, Israel’s other national resource is boundless optimism – which harnesses dissatisfaction and turns it into action and inventiveness rather than finger-pointing and negativity. Israel has a super-high Happiness Index – one of the highest anywhere in the world. There’s a sense that even the most complex and nagging problems are fixable. The worst insult you could give someone is to accuse them of being a “fryer” who rolls over and lets others take advantage of them – or a “bitsuist” who just follows orders and does what they’re told, whether or not it makes sense or will actually make things better and create value. We complain with a smile and challenge ourselves and our teams to step up, stand out, mobilize capable contributors and make a difference.

Strategy+Business posted an article this week – “What Distinguishes A Challenge-Driven Leader?” They didn’t reference Shimon Peres or Israel’s StartUp Nation mentality – instead, focusing on American teams with Courage to harness dissatisfaction and optimism and step up to make a difference rather than conform and perpetuate the same-old-same-old and deliver the same-old-same-old results:

“Challenge-driven leaders don’t want to lead or be led. But they excel at choreographing the work of others. Challenge-driven leadership is not right for every situation. But where innovation and entrepreneurship are required — and in particular where developing a solution requires drawing together diverse talents and perspectives to discover novel approaches — it tends to work well. No wonder we find it in many places where people are dealing with “wicked problems” – broad challenges with no obvious solutions. This is the kind of leadership that many companies, government agencies, and nonprofits would do well to recognize and cultivate.”

11 attributes, described in the Strategy+Business article, parallel the StartUp Nation mindset and the No Place for Small Dreams thinking that make Israel one of the world’s most prolific innovation ecosystem – a small island country in the middle east that punches way above its weight on a par with North America’s most prolific ecosystems. We invite you to see how you can strengthen these mindsets in the innovation teams you’ve entrusted to take your enterprise to new heights of value-creation:

  • An “anti-leadership” frame of mind – which fosters a take-charge “power-of-one” mindset rather than falling into risk-averse traps like hierarchy dependency and groupthink where you are conscious of where you stand in the hierarchy and mindful of what decisions you can take at your job-grade
  • Passion for cool problems – that converts really big hairy nagging problems into big hairy audacious make-the-world-a-better-place goals and aspirations
  • Deep expertise and broad working knowledge – breaking out of silo myopia and frame blindness to look deep and, at the same time, look broad
  • Stepping up and stepping out – so they aren’t stuck “waiting for permission” (at Level 3) and reach out to mobilize support (at Level 5)
  • Low interest in trappings (think: spartan office) – both for themselves and for others, which means that they listen to the substance of ideas and inventive thinking, and get the best thinking out of people who may be dressed in a T-shirt or who may talk with a foreign accent
  • Distaste for office politics – so there is a foundation of win-win-win negotiation and trust to support one another
  • Relative lack of focus on teams’ social and emotional needs – and an expectation that teammates will have the “elephant skin” to take criticism onboard and the resilience to stay in the game, if the stakes are high and they have something important to contribute
  • High tolerance of team members’ idiosyncrasies – as an antidote to the risk-averse trap we see in many corporations, called “bias against creativity”
  • Boredom with status quo operations – and an early-adopter, how-do-we-tweak-this-tinker-and-make-it-even-better mindset. (Israel doesn’t just buy F-35 fighter jets; it upgrades and tweaks those sets to be F-35I fighters)
  • Hopelessly analytical bent – with improvement, inventiveness and results based on data not intuition. No wonder we’ve morphed from “the land of milk and honey, oranges and olive trees” to “the land of the algorithm and of AI”
  • Most likely to be leading an entrepreneurial venture. There are very few major corporations in Israel and there’s far less government and social employment. There are tens of thousands of entrepreneurial ventures, each of them cultivating entrepreneurial leaders.

If these are mindsets you’d like to cultivate in the high-potential leaders you tap for enterprise-transformation and innovation leadership assignments, we’d love to talk. We’ll start the dialogue about harnessing your dissatisfaction and boundless optimism – and your Challenge-Driven Leadership – with the question, “Are you ready?” – and an assessment that measures your readiness. Check it out here.