Archive | August, 2011

Complicated things?

24 Aug

I saw these couple lines by Dey Dos recently. They are so true!

“We complicate things too much. You miss someone? Call. Want to meet? Invite. Want to be understood? Explain yourself. Have questions? Ask. Don’t like it ? Say it. Like it? State it. Are you in a bad mood? Express it. Want something? Ask in the best possible way to get a ‘yes’. If you already have a ‘no’, take the risk of getting the ‘yes’.”

Dey Dos is an AIESEC Alumnus and his website is

A lesson about supporting innovation from Israel

16 Aug


How come some countries/organizations are more innovative than others? Good question and I would like to offer one insight on the topic having read a book called Start Up Nation, The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Dan Senor and Saul Singer and having visited Israel last week.
The book analyses how come a country of just 7.1 million people, less the sixty years old and surrounded by enemies has so many start-ups and technological patents (there are more Israeli NASDAQ companies than from all of Europe combined for example). I was reading the book while travelling around Israel and honestly, with the exception of Jerusalem, it looks like any other Middle Eastern country. The buildings were not too well maintained, there were bits of rubbish at lot of places and the street markets were bursting with fresh food and with local people. I would not have thought that this is one of the most innovative countries in the world by the looks of it.
The book offers lot of good explanations why the Israelis are so successful, the main ones being determination/stubbornness (chutzpah in Hebrew) of local people, cluster-like environment with the government supporting venture capitalism and the fact that everybody has to serve in the army for three years where they gain real life leadership skills while creating a great network for life. That is all true but what fascinated me the most was something else. It was the coexistence of order and disorder.
Coexistence of order and disorder
I think this mix is what makes Israel so unique and cannot be found in almost any other country. Israel is a mature democracy with uncorrupted politicians, good set of laws enforced by effective courts and bureaucrats that do not demand bribes and do not act as obstacle businesses. At the same time, it seemed to me that Israel managed to retain the kind of infectious energy, organic innovation, buzz on the streets whatever you like call it that I have seen before only in emerging economies and that I miss so much in the Western Europe.
Western Europe became organized to a point that this disruptive energy got mostly killed. On the other hand India has plenty of this ‘positive disorder’ but its legal and bureaucratic systems are painfully slow and corrupt. Similar thing can be argued about China where intellectual property rights are virtually non-existent. It is therefore difficult to innovate, attract sufficient foreign venture capital and successfully monetize ideas in such environments for one reason or another.
The main take-away I got is that any country or organization that wants to grow through innovation has to put basic governance framework in place and make sure it is enforced well. But at the same time it has to leave its people with enough freedom to work organically and to provide them with a space to implement their ideas quickly, fail, start again and finally succeed. They have to let order and disorder coexist together.
You can find out more about the book here:

Exchanging ideas

9 Aug

>I am now reading a book called Start Up Nation about innovation and entrepreneurship in Israel and I found there a nice quote by George Bernard Shaw.

‘If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples, then you and I will have an apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.’

What Great Leaders Do

6 Aug

>I recently discovered the podcasts section in iTunes and started downloading all sorts of talks and lectures. One of the best ones I have heard so far is a talk called What Great Leaders do by Bob Sutton as part of the Stanford Technology Lectures – Entrepreneurial Though Leaders podcast.

Bob summarises there his book called Good Boss, Bad Boss and in just over half an hour talks us through qualities of both kind of bosses. It is great for anybody thinking about moving into leadership roles or as a call for reflection for those already being bosses. I could certainly relate to a lot of his points from my experience of leading AIESEC UK.

I will let you listen to it yourselves but the three points I liked the most were:

- Good boss acts on his/her intuition as if it was a fact but is open to listening and when new piece of information comes in that proves he is wrong he is willing to change his/her position.

- Good bosses allow and foster what he calls a loving conflict. That seems to be taken a bit from Good to Great by Jim Collins but what it is basically about is that it is all right to have conflicts as long as they are open, do not get personal and finish up constructively for benefit of the team/organization.

- The final one I want to mention is when he actually builds on Good to Great’s concept of great organisations having a BHAG (a Big Hairy Audacious Goal – that is a statement which sets an ambition for the company for the next 20-30 years and which looks almost impossible to achieve without strong determination and a bit of hubris). Bob says that BHAGs freak people out and suggest that the best way to overcome this feeling is to break it into small and tangible steps which can be achieved quickly and create a sense of success to get the organisation moving towards achieving it’s BHAG.

All in all, you would have probably heard most of the things Bob talks about before (and he himself acknowledges that this book is his take on the topics having read lots of various journal articles) but he summarises them very well and they are so important that you should hear them again anyways if you want to be/are managing others.

You can find it here:

A Meaningful stretch

3 Aug

>Last Friday was my last day in the office as the President of AIESEC UK. It’s been a great year and it also marked an end to my involvement with AIESEC UK for the time being.

I was at a conference in the Mexico City in February and together with outgoing presidents of other AIESEC chapters around the world, we were discussing what leaving the organisation will mean to us. All of us and our teams at the national offices were living AIESEC 24/7 for the past year or more. We were responsible for leading the organisation, bringing up new generations of members and ensuring that we stay relevant. We were surrounded by like-minded people, we were having an impact and we were enjoying it.

So the question What’s next? was crucial and in many ways also a scary one. Will we be able to find anything as good and fulfilling as AIESEC anytime in the future again?

I approached it by trying to look at it from a more holistic perspective. What is it that makes this experience so unique? I identified two key elements that can be summarised as a ‘meaningful stretch’.

A stretch is something that challenges you, something you are not familiar with and you have to learn how to either execute it or delegate it.

Meaningful is something that is achieving a positive impact. It can be impact on the environment, the people around you or simply yourselve.

The questions then stops being what else can be as good as AIESEC and it becomes what is my next meaningful stretch. We should be asking ourselves this question whenever we are finishing one period of our life or whenever we are just feeling a bit rusty in whatever we are doing. Life should a be a series of meaningful stretches and we should not be afraid to start from a scratch when switching from one to another.

I discussed this concept with one of my former directors at AIESEC UK. He liked it a lot but told me that the problem with finding a stretch is that we often do not what all the possibilities are. We then choose a stretch only from a domain of all stretches known to us. In reality there are many more options that we are not aware of. When thinking about our next meaningful stretch, do a proper research and do not just get comfortable with options known to you at the time.