What Could the Startup Nation Teach Us About Innovation? Adi Mazor Kario Shows us the Way!

Strategy, design and innovation expert Adi Mazor Kario led a key conversation at the Innov8rs Unconference in Spring 2021. I was honored to moderate the session, entitled, What Could the Startup Nation Teach Us about Innovation? Adi revealed how culture underlies mindsets, and what we all might learn from the way the Israeli experience drives innovation.  

We began the session by asking participants to share their comfort level with uncertainty on a scale from 1 (uncertainty yuck!) to 5 (uncertainty yay!), and discovered that participants who chose Adi’s session live in the top half of the scale, in the 3 to 5 range. Not necessarily so for our colleagues, stakeholders and organizations! We understand: It’s hard to seek real feedback about your assumptions. It’s hard to go against the grain of established expectations and structures. And it’s hard to recognize that doing nothing may be much more risky than taking a leap — you’re actually doing the safe thing when you diversify your bets through innovation, even though it’s not easy to see!    

Innovation is your insurance policy! — Adi Mazor Kario

Some key questions, and Adi’s answers:

*Q: How do you get stakeholders to question their assumptions, instead of looking to confirm their biases? 

A: Cultivate a growth mindset, reduce the social cost of failure, and invest in many small bets, the way VCs do.  

*Q: The top level in our organization supports innovation. How do we get it through the next level of influential leaders? 

A: Middle managers often have formal goals that are not aligned with innovation. Furthermore, they don’t have the tools to engage. Solve these two challenges to give managers room to get on board!

*Q: How can people focus on innovation and startups, even in the context of war? 

A: Israelis are familiar with the unknown and with tragedy — they expect to find a way to move forward, even if that means bending the rules. For example, no Israeli would ever wait in line, or sit patiently in a traffic jam — they’d find their own way to the goal instead! These kinds of challenges directly create an entrepreneurial mindset: Perceiving an obstacle and framing it as a challenge compels a desire to thwart the challenge.   

How to innovate as if you too were living in a Startup Nation:

*Live as if everything were uncertain

*Know and support your ecosystem. The ecosystem in Israel is highly connected. Everyone knows everyone and aims to help each other.

*Be confident, think aloud. It’s Ok to be loudly wrong at first, you’ll learn and grow from the attempt. Israeli children score relatively low in math globally, but number one in confidence in their ability. Don’t be afraid to articulate an unfinished thought with gusto! Just be sure to learn from the feedback when you do!  

*Find a way.  Expectations can be bent, rules can be looked at another way, pivots can lead to a new direction.    

Adi has built a five-stage framework for innovation: Analyze (know your strengths, market and clients), Focus (from big dreams to the right idea), Make (bring your idea to life, Test (de-risk and measure), and Decide (grow, pivot or kill). To learn more, download the free version of Adi’s book, Innovating Through Chaos!


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