How to understand innovation ? – 怎么理解创新? – English

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Are all Israelis innovating?

Recently, I went to visit Israel with about thirty friends who run companies. This really moved me. Typically, we would visit during the day, and talk about our perceptions in the evening. I asked the following question: in this so-called ‘innovative nation’, what actual new things have we observed?

有人说,所有犹太人的门上都有一个装置(里头装了希伯来圣经里头的一段话)。我说,这种东西国内一些地方也有,那是信教家庭的一个吉祥物,不信教当然没那个东西了,何况早就有了的。还有人说,进以色列海关不要求填表(不填入关表)。那么一个敏感地区,VISA审查很严格,但只要盖到VISA以后,入关手续极简单. This shows they have trust in their own IT and security technology systems.

Apart from this, was anything else new? When we took the bus in Israel, did we feel that the driver was different? When we looked at the small traders in the streets of the old city, did we notice any difference with Chinese cities? Weren’t they just also yelling all day, waiting for passers-by to buy something? The hotels of Tel Aviv, did they have anything special? Although they were more simple than our hotels (not so luxurious), we couldn’t really speak of innovation. Finally, when we boiled down the conversation, we didn’t notice any particular new things in Israel. From direct observation, it seems the vast majority of Israelis are just doing what they’re doing.

Israel’s population today is less than eight million people, only one-third of the population of Shanghai, and yet the country has thirty-eight thousand scientists! Its land area is smaller than Beijing. But if you look at the high-tech sector, it contributes ten percent of total employment, fifteen percent of the economy, and fifty percent of exports. R&D expenditures amount to 4.2% of GDP, and rank highest in the world. Other measures, such as the number of start ups, venture capital firms, and NASDAQ ranked companies, also place the country among the first in the world. The most impressive thing is, no matter what scientific or technological organisation you visit, everybody will proudly come up with a list of ‘technologies that can change the world’ and that were developed in Israel.

Therefore, the path towards the interests of the country is to create the conditions to encourage innovation, and particularly, bring together the elements required for innovation. At the same time, ensure that the results of innovation feed back into the national economy. And finally, everyone to dip in together, even the barbers and sweepers.

现在大家都承认犹太人厉害。其实,过去分散在各个地方,哪里看得出犹太人厉害?“二战”的时候,被纳粹杀了六百万。所以,现在回顾当今以色列的成就,最早的起源,可能是犹太复国主义那么一个想法:那就是要把犹太人聚到一块,构成一个国家,有个保护壳;然后让里头最厉害的人,创新出成果,去罩住其他不那么厉害的同胞。在以色列以外的犹太人,也是聚到一起,才有更多的裂变。比如硅谷。

Israelis’ capacity for innovation stems from education

Israeli education is completely different from that of all other countries, particularly China. We went to IDC (a business school), where a studying rabbi (that is, a ‘wise man’, most often missionary elders) gave a lecture. His topic was: how education shaped the history of Israel. With just a few slides, he put the point across very clearly.

He first said that all jews, from a young age, had to receive education from two books: one is the Hebrew Bible, the other is called the Talmud. The latter is a collection of the thoughts of generations and generations of outstanding rabbi on the interpretation of the Bible over 200 years (with a total of 2.5 million words, it is a very thick book indeed), and the book also includes a lot of folk wisdom and folk tales.

The Rabbi explained that all jews encounter the two books from childhood, and repeatedly read them all over their lives. He said that the first responsibility of all Jewish mothers is to educate their children. Grandmothers also educate their grandchildren – education is the most important duty of Jewish women. Education starts from a very young age, and comes from the older generations. How do you educate a one-year old? By starting to tell him the stories from these two books. When Jewish children reach the age of five, they’ve heard all of the fundamental stories. They can then start their formal learning with the rabbi. The rabbis have some interesting traditions in their schools. On the first day of school, children must wear new clothes, to signify that learning is a happy thing. Everyone warmly applauds the new students when they come. On the first class, when the children are taught the alphabet, they write with honey on a clean slate, so that when they’re finished, the children can ‘lick’ the word clean; or they give the children a piece of candy, and they start learning when everybody’s had one – so that the children can feel that learning is a very sweet thing.

拉比接着说,以后犹太人怎么来来回回读这两本书呢?靠讨论式的学习。两个人看一本书:你说这是什么意思,他说这是什么意思,互相讨论式。它是有点怀疑论哲学,包括对上帝、对“圣经”,鼓励学生question它。犹太人提倡批评式教育,从小就这样。犹太人的教育,不是说拉比讲的就是真理,学生记住会背就行了;而是鼓励挑战、提问题。为什么犹太人思维厉害?他就是从小受这套思维方法的影响。

访问期间,请到以色列第一位得科学类诺贝尔奖的阿龙·切哈诺沃教授来做讲演。他讲,从小他的妈妈就这样教他:“走进一条河,你可以顺水走,也可以逆水走。但是,你要永远逆水走。”这奠定了他一辈子的人生态度。一脉相承,《塔木德》里也有一句话,大意是“人们都不同意的事情,做起来反而容易”。

阿龙还说,每天放学回来,犹太妈妈不会问教了什么、学了什么,更不问考试成绩怎么样。她就问:今天你问了什么问题吗?你问了有意思的问题吗?我觉得,这是人家的宝贝。实际上,教育要开发智力,提倡好奇、把问题看得比答案还重要。这是以色列人思维真正厉害的地方。

犹太人永远相信:土地会被夺走,财富会被拿走,但知识拿不走(从小就教育孩子这个道理)。所以,以色列人最相信,就是human capital。这个人力资本理论,终于在以色列找到了一个最彻底的应验场所。

The Israeli army as an innovative system

我开始觉得,以色列周边强敌环伺,保家卫国是第一优先,而军队靠纪律、以服从命令为主导,应该不容易形成鼓励创新的文化吧?这是我当时的一个问题。最后找到了答案。

第一,以色列全民皆兵,国家财力很大程度资助军队的研发系统,财力充分保证。因为以色列如果没有高科技,它是没法在残酷的环境里头生存的。

第二,军队研发系统全是最好的教授领导。以色列四所顶尖的大学和研究所,都由一流教授主持军事科研。

第三,所有以色列高中生必须当兵,挑当中最优秀的人进军队研发系统。一流的青年学生感觉最光荣的,不是入美国哈佛、耶鲁名校,而是被挑进以色列情报部门或军队科研局。

第四,以色列是靠民兵打出来的天下,所以正规军队的等级制还不那么强,穿着军装的研发人员一般“没大没小”的,第一线的人有很大的发言权;包括立题,到底干什么谁说了算?不完全是自上而下,也鼓励自下而上和自上而下相结合。

第五,当兵三年退役后,以色列还有预备役制——每年要有一个月重回部队去——这把等级制更加打乱了:你在公司是个老总、在政府你是个局长,但你回到预备役部队,遇到的领导,可能就是你原来的下属。这也有利于他们之间激发创新思维,没有被等级约束的桎梏。创新,就要这样的环境。

据说,硅谷的美国科技巨头们,对下属的以色列研发中心的犹太同事们,真是又爱又恨。这帮家伙出活,但可不容易领导,因为常常爱问他们的上司:为什么是你领导我?为什么不是我领导你?

有人问:他们的头头不反感吗?答案是:出活啊。最后会出创新成果,你认不认?其实,这也是创新的必备条件之一。所以,我们别以为,仅仅是犹太人的聪明才智起作用。不完全是。更重要的是,有没有鼓励人们发挥聪明才智的氛围和环境?如果这个没有,聪明才智向别的方向用,创新就难了。

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Source : Aisixiang

About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact [email protected]