Book review: ‘Chutzpah’

The formula for innovating like an Israeli

ISRAELI INNOVATION: Chutzpah gets the job done. (photo credit: PIXABAY)
ISRAELI INNOVATION: Chutzpah gets the job done.
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
A typical guidebook on educating success in business or entrepreneurial settings, whether in the form of operations, investing, project management or any element thereof, focuses much of its effort on hard or technical skills needed to succeed in the workplace, such as computer programming, statistics, or scheduling.
Sometimes, soft skills and behavioral approaches are touched on, but they aren’t emphasized to a point where they can be applied. No behavioral approach to successfully navigating the work setting is touched on in such books, and while they ultimately can provide readers the right skills and knowledge to succeed in their respective field, it still leaves that piece of the puzzle open to scary interpretation.
Chutzpah works this business book formula differently, arguably at an entire new angle. Author Inbal Arieli, Co-founder and CEO of leadership assessment company Synthesis and one of the most influential people in the world of Israeli hi-tech, concentrates her writing on the behavioral mindset beginning in an Israeli childhood that brews the start-up success seen in Israel.
Weighing in at more than 250 pages of stories outlining entrepreneurial success, methods of thinking, and experiences plucked from the lives of Arieli’s three children, the book’s context is broad enough to the point where the skills and thinking needed to succeed as an innovative business leader can transfer to any field.
Chutzpah’s formula is brilliant: benchmark a typical upbringing of an Israeli – from birth to adulthood – against what a typical entrepreneurial-startup business cycle looks like. The similarities are scarily parallel, and it proves to readers that an Israeli childhood is the true catalyst for shaping a powerful entrepreneurial mindset.
In five stages – Discovery, Validation, Efficiency, Scale & Sustainability and Renewal – the Israeli childhood and the cycle of entrepreneurship go hand in hand as elements of experiences, failure, feedback, uncertainty, and improvisation are brought to life in the pages.
Written informally with headers to guide the reader along, Arieli doesn’t hesitate to kick off the journey of an Israeli childhood as she discusses the role balagan (chaos) plays alongside, quite literally, kids playing in junk yards with junk that has no predetermined purpose.
“In the junkyard, children are challenged to find a creative solution that is acceptable to all,” she writes. “And things can get very complex when children are engineering tunnels in the dirt to funnel rainwater through vacuum hoses.”
She says that junk, which really has no intended purpose, is designed to begin flexing children’s creativity muscles while helping them learn how to cooperate with others. Such variables allow them to develop skills that later make them successful entrepreneurs.
As Arieli takes readers into the Validation stage of the book, she discusses the role parents play (or perhaps don’t play) in leaving children alone when they come from school. As Arieli points out, children tend to spend their afternoons unsupervised until parents come home from work, emphasizing the role that lizrom (going with the flow) plays in an unsupervised environment.
“By force of necessity,” she writes, “children must learn to take responsibility for themselves, which provides a great sense of achievement and pride.” She argues that constant instruction from parents and teachers means that a child’s motivation for success may not “be their own” and that this makes children later in life less inclined to set goals to pursue.
As readers fast-forward to later stages, they will find teen years before serving in the IDF are quite formulative in building independence and risk-taking when teens join the Tzofim (scouts) as a means of developing social activism skills as well as hard skills, including camping, hiking or backpacking.
Arieli even contributes her experience in the elite IDF intelligence unit 8200 and how her time as a lieutenant allowed her (and allows all Israelis) to gain experience in the fluidity in crossing between military and civilian spheres.
“The involvement of the military in civil life goes beyond the passive (yet powerful) relationships that are created circumstantially,” she writes discussing social bonds created while serving in the army.
The word chutzpah is often interpreted negatively, as a way of directness or rudeness coming from someone’s actions. Arieli proves that, while this approach is more deterministic and robust, it gets the job done when it comes time to innovate.
The book Chutzpah is the ideal tool for offering insights to aspiring entrepreneurs and even current businessmen and women who seek to overhaul innovation in their organizations. A reader’s mindset of entrepreneurial thinking is bound to change from it.