Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

In addition to my work as a business coach, one of my interests is blogging about life in Israel. This is a country full of contrasts – over eight million citizens living in an area the size of Wales. You can see snow and the lowest place on the globe in the same day. Although surrounded by geopolitical extremes, Israel has achieved a decade of high economic growth. My work brings me in contact with an array of new companies, exciting technologies and dynamic characters. Sitting back with a relaxing cup of strong tea (with milk), you realise just how much there is to appreciate in the Holyland. Large or small operations, private sector or non profit, my clients provide experiences from which others can learn and benefit.

Last week, I was reading a blog that implied that Jeff Bezos of Amazon has dispensed with powerpoint presentations in his company. The reason is that clever images fail to describe on-going stories nor do they bring home the “wow factors”. Apparently, slides have been replaced by old-fashioned 4-6 page typed out working papers.

I recalled this as I was sitting in the Google Campus in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. Eight hopefuls from the world of Cleantech were pitching. The prize was a trip for the winners to Scotland, prize money, and the opportunity to network with international investors. (And yes, one of the hopefuls was a long-time mentoring client of mine).

I should add that the lucky eight had already passed one round of selections. So I expected a high standard. And how I was disappointed. Apart from one team and my acquaintance, none of the participants brought home the presentations to those sitting in the audience.

Was that so bad? That is not just an opportunity gone begging. Think how much time (and money?) had been invested by each company on their ten ten slides. There was a range of classic mistakes: –

  • Presenters wasted time by reading long texts, from boring slides.
  • Slides did not support the verbal message.
  • Slides had so much information, the audience could not understand the message.
  • Presenters were so devoted to their slides that they barely looked at their audience.
  • Presenters had not rehearsed! (This point really flummoxed me.)

I could go on. However, there was one humongous mistake, common to all. While, I understand that the slides had to keep to a certain flow or path, none of them had a takeaway. Let me explain.

You invest vast amounts of time, money and effort into creating the slides. Most people even practice what they are to deliver. The listener quickly gets it that you are involved in something fascinating. Good for you, but……so what? What is in it for them; the investor, the buyer, the decision maker?

For whatever reason, all eight spokespersons spoke about themselves, their company and their innovation. They did not address the potential needs of their audience!

Which prompts me to raise the question, invoked by Bezos: Why did the contestants need such sophisticated powerpoint presentations in the first place?

It has been an awful night. At least 80 rockets have been launched into southern Israel since midnight. As a friend of mine posted on Facebook:

We were woken repeatedly during the night by sirens and audible rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza.
The Rocket app recorded over 125 rocket and mortar attacks on Israel last night.
Hundreds of thousands of people spent the night in a shelter or safe room (if they have one – we don’t).
Did anyone hear about this on a foreign news station?
Seriously.
Anyone?

What a way to live! Would you accept that in your backyard? Will Israel go into Gaza? I have no idea, but this is not just a challenge to the country, this terrorism is a direct threat to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has cultivated a reputation as Mr. Security. In other words, the country can depend on him.

This somewhat cynical consideration is incredibly pertinent, because just two days ago Israel’s High Court of Justice allowed the government just three more months to implement the new draft law. In effect, this would force ultra orthodox Jews to face conscription, which their political leaders see as a double red line, which should not be even considered.

Now, as Israel’s government is a coalition, dependent on these same parties, this means that the government is likely to fall, maybe before the end of the summer recess. In theory, this would suit Netanyahu just fine. Sometime towards the end of the year, he may face calls for prosecution. The noise of the elections should preempt and then dampen the clamour for his withdrawal from public office.

It should be noted that in poll after poll, Netanyahu is riding high. And it is assumed that after any such early elections, he will again ask the ultraorthodox to support his new government, assuming he is asked by the President to form it. (I shall spare yet another cynical comment).

It is incredible to comprehend that none of the multiples of opposition parties have thrown up a leader of strength and moral worthiness, who can challenge the incumbent Prime Minister. Certainly, the sharp words of the Druze community over the past few weeks have left him slightly wounded. A poor performance against Hamas this summer could also dent his popularity. And that is it.

One thing is clear to me. However Israel does respond to Hamas, it could eventually be seen in the context of a future general election. What a sad way to run a beautiful country.

 

True story. Happened to me last week.

I was asked by the Keep Olim organization to give a talk at the MATI premises in Jerusalem. What could I, as an experienced business coach and mentor, impart to new immigrants in Israel, looking to set up a new business.

Imagine the scene. Several of the participants turned up early. They entered the room, said their hellos to me and then promptly found a seat. The body language of many of them exhibited a “do not disturb sign”, as they took out their mobile phones, which I assume they had not looked at for at least an excruciating five minutes.

Resorting to some old fashioned techniques of group dynamic, I quickly arranged people into couples, and encouraged them to speak to each other. (One person struggled to abandon his precious phone, even if he might benefit from a new commercial encounter).

After seven minutes, I created new partnerships, although not without some objections. Apparently, I had not given the first set of teams enough time to listen to each other. Of course, I did point out that they could have done this beforehand.

Sad. In a society dominated by the language and technology of millennials, somehow we do not find the time or the ability to listen to the wisdom of those very people sitting next to us – at work or in the home. This point was rammed home in an article by the former Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Jonathan Sacks.

Writing about the Book of Deuteronomy, Sacks observes how the word “Hear” is mentioned 92 times. In that context, I would add that ironically the book is called Devarim in Hebrew, which means “words”. Sacks adds:

Listening to another human being, let alone God, is an act of opening ourselves up to a mind radically other than our own. This takes courage. To listen is to make myself vulnerable…..But, it’s the people not like us who make us grow.

Last week, our eldest son approached my wife and I for some business advice. He really listened, but went in a different direction. Intriguingly, a few hours after I read the comments of Sacks, he received similar words of wisdom from somebody else (in my presence). To give him credit, he has begun to act on them, and I believe that could make a vital difference in what he is trying to achieve.

 

 

By all accounts, Israel’s international credit rating is about to jump a level to AA. That is a major vote of confidence in the economic policy makers in the Holy Land. There are only a dozen other countries with a better score. In theory, the effect is that the state of Israel will be able to raise cheaper money to invest in infrastructure projects.

So, why am I not elated?

Building a strong, inclusive society is not a set of acts dependent for justification, based on national statistics. Here are two examples of what I mean. Just before breaking for the summer recess, the Israeli Parliament, the Kenesset, passed two controversial laws. The first is the National Law, which seems to lessen the concept that minority groupings have equality in the face of the law. Most commentators agree that the whole show was concocted by Netanyahu in order to shore up the electoral vote on his right wing, as a general election seems to be in the offering.

The Druze community in particular has issued its protests, so far without any effect. Proponents of the law have argued that the law does not change any status quo. Really? So why legislate in the first place? After all, I know that I am Jewish and Zionist, and no “national” legislation is going to enforce those views in me, or in anyone else for that matter.

(For the record, one commentator recalled that the Prime Minister’s life had been saved by a Druze, following an accident in a training mission decades ago. Similarly, I went shopping today, when a bottle slipped from my hand, cutting me sharply. I was kindly helped by an extra attentive member of staff, who definitely was not a follower of Judaism).

In the second instance, the new surrogacy law, deliberately discriminates against single-sex parents. It was pummeled through the Kenesset at the request of the Prime Minister’s ultraorthodox coalition partners. Within days, the streets were full of tens of thousands, voicing their opposition to the act. And suddenly, believe it or not, Mrs. Netanyahu has claimed that the LGBT community is in her husband’s heart. Personally, I am not convinced.

These laws are not for the benefit of the country as a whole. They are targeting specific sectors in order to garner votes. This motive makes them suspect, if not down-right bad. I would argue segregationist.

Last week, a newspaper article noted that the price index had risen about 20% since 2003. However, wages in the high-tech sector, the core of Israel’s new growth and with 15% of the workforce, have risen 60%. It is yet another example of how two economies are developing in the country, and that means a potential sharp division in society.

A couple of hours ago, my son asked me if I had heard about Israel’s new credit rating in the money markets. He was pleased and proud. Rightly so. And then I asked him who he thought would benefit from this extra wealth. He was stuck for an answer. I suggested that he start looking at those elements who support the current crop of ruling politicians.

 

 

 

 

I have just come across this blog or advert: How to learn a language in 20 minutes a day!

With an industrial revolution taking place in communications, there are so many ways to link up with people and talk to them, and do so with ever greater speed. Is Facebook already passed its prime? How did we survive until now without WhatsApp? etc etc. Ways are now available for the blind to see. And now I am being asked to learn an additional language?

If I think about it, we are taught to communicate within moments of emerging into the world. The doctor gently slaps the baby to get a reaction. The new born cries, and the circle of life can commence.

Fast forward to the home. How many times a day are there basic misunderstandings? And at work, the list of poor interactions can be added to near daily by all of us. Let me take one example; preparing a presentation, maybe for an investor.

There are million of blogs out there explaining that presentations need to be brief and dynamic. They need to have a “wow factor”, usually with a personal edge. Above all, they should show what’s in it for the investor, rather why the technology is so brilliant. And for all that guidance, as a business mentor and coach I am inundated with poor work.

Last week, I was given a very specific brief; to edit the English of a presentation. When it was pointed out that the messaging was poor, the response was that as they are a start up, they are not expected to have a killer set of slides.

In my view, nothing could be further from the truth. After all, at home you try to express things clearly to your partner or parents or children. When addressing a colleague, you look to ensure that they have understood. So why cut corners in a vital presentation, directed at investors or otherwise?

There are few really good platforms that help you to perfect your “one sentence pitch“, and then go on to help you create some killer slides. And it is rare that you come across a commercial that makes you choke, and thus you are drawn to the product or service. Why? Because it ain’t that easy!

There is a double lesson here. For all our deep and extended experience in communicating with others, we take the skill for granted. And to achieve the right results, we should look to invest resources, like it or not …… or else we need to be slapped like a child?

 

 

This week saw the news of three significant investments in Israeli technology by multinationals. However, the international community treated the information as worthless. Why?

  • GE Healthcare, Medtronic and Change Healthcare are to receive around US$5.5 million dollars each to expand their R&D efforts in the Holy Land. They all already employ hundreds in Israel.
  • U.S. sales and marketing software company Salesforce has signed an agreement to acquire Datorama, an Israeli cloud-based artificial intelligence marketing platform. in a deal worth around US$800 million.
  • Lockheed Martin and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to evaluate potential markets  for Rafael’s Smart, Precise Impact missile guidance kits.

Each of these commercial deals will have strong positive knock on effects globally, too complex to relate in detail here. Meanwhile, the international media has focused on Israel’s new nationality law.

Now, I have my own reservations about this law. What it actually does or change is still not clear, which is a clear indication why it is probably a bad act of Parliamentary business. It is certainly seen as an election move by the Prime Minister to shore up his proverbial right wing, as elections appear to be looming.

It is easy to see why the foreign press has focused on the issue. Israel has been ‘fair game’ for decades.

And just as easily as the journalists ignored some positive commercial news, they also “forgot” to write about the thousands of Syrian refugees who benefited from Israeli charity this week. Those refugees are ‘fair game’ for the Assad regime. Conversely, they are fair game to be ignored by the governments of the same critical journalists.

Meanwhile, Israel’s opponents appear holy than thou….to themselves.

Moscow’s month of football mania is over. France won. Much back slapping for Putin, even if he left important guests drenched in the rain. And the bloggers are still occupied with finding ways to link this sporting orgy to clever messages.

So permit me to join this game for a couple of minutes, as a business coach and mentor.

England’s latest hero is Harry Kane. Finally, the country has at least one player who can actually put the ball into the net. A “model student” at school, who excelled at several sports, he has worked his way up through a series of junior sides. However, what all his professional admirers have pointed out is his burning desire to put in the hours – to practice and to practice some more until he gets it right.

Intrigued by this determination, I looked at some other heroes of the tournament. For example, Luke Modric, Coatia’s brilliant captain, grew up during the cruel war in the Balkans in the early 1990s. Football provided a way to escape from – in more ways than one – the horrors of battlefields. His first shin guards were made of wood. To be blunt, not even a round of bullets aimed at his family could stop him progress.

And the French striker, Kylian Mbappe, is the son of immigrants from Africa. Barely four years ago, he was still sharpening his skills on gravel pitches just outside Paris. Yesterday, he was probably the most skillful person on the most important stage for world football.

I was able to bring together my thoughts on these players and others, when I was meeting with a client in my office in Jerusalem. He has been pondering a wonderfully creative idea that can be nurtured from the garage to, hopefully, a much wider business operation. He has already validated the concept commercially.

And now comes the challenge. He has to apply his passion – and he loves his subject – to a business model. That means much hard work; checking multiple suppliers, learning production processes, investigating facilities, creating a pricing structure based on a clear profit, and so much more.

My point is that all these aspects are very doable, but may not be easy for each individual. For example, as a modest person, he does not like bothering others to obtain information. He has to be encouraged to call outsiders. Similarly, making a large profit is an anathema to him.

This contrasts sharply with out three footballing heroes. Each one grew up with their own hang-ups. Who am I to assess them here? What is clear is that they have been able to put them aside in the name of their dreams and their passion. That is what their various coaches taught them along the way to their successes.

Bottom line. You may have skills, sporting or in business. However, you have to learn how to apply them. This takes time, patience, pain – over and over again. It is important to realise this as early on in the process as possible.

 

In the start up nation, you are allowed to assume that the Israeli economy revolves around the high-tech.

Certainly, whenever a news item features commerce and trade from the Holy Land, it does seem to revolve around innovation and entrepreneurship. Just look how CNN featured the Israeli efforts on the rescue of the boys in Thailand.

Going through this weekends’ newspapers, I realised just how diverse the Israeli economy has become and just how much there is for others around the globe to benefit from its resourcefulness.

For example, staying with the tech theme, and as it is the last day of the World Cup in Russia, let’s consider VAR; Video Assistant Referee. Israel has become a key player in the field, pardon the pun. For example, this year, Invertex was bought by Nike. Two years ago, Replay, which specialises in D3 platform, was sold for US$175 million to Intel.

According to one report, there are 177 Israeli start ups associated with sport technology, having raised over US$650 million in a decade. Nine have achieved exits, resulting in close to a further billion dollars. Revenues are up 38% this year.

In a completely different sphere, we are increasingly aware how Palestinians are adept at using Israeli resources. For example, despite calls for boycotts such events, they always make a splash at the Agritech exhibition in Tel Aviv. The Al Baidaa agricultural trading company is run by the well-connected Al-Masri family. It is the key behind the growth in date plantations in the Jordan Valley region, which is expected to see a doubling of production by 2023.

So far, around 10% of the produce goes oversees, primarily to Europe. In the past, security measures have seen shipments delayed. However, all parties are now finding ways together to overcome these handicaps. It is also worth noting that most Palestinian commercial successes are to be found in the West Bank, tucked away from the rule of Hamas in Gaza.

On a structural level, there is one positive potential change in the offering. The Prime Minister’s role in the suspected corruption case known as File 4000 has highlighted how for the past decade Israeli business leaders have tried to secure fame, fortune and safety by dominating an aspect of the media. Two examples include the fallen tycoons Eliezer Fishman and Nochi Dankner, former owners of newspapers.

The links between Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch, who had the controlling interest in the national phone company, Bezeq, are just an extension of this theme. The two have been friends for years. The Ministry of Communication was run by a confidant of Netanyahu, just as Bezeq’s commercial reach was being secured. All this was going on at a time, when the Prime minister retained the communications portfolio.

Is it any wonder that much of the term of the current government has been spent loosening the controls over its authority by the courts and civil service. Is that period of abuse coming to an end? I would like to think so, for the benefit of 8 million citizens (less the few oligarchs at the top).

 

We all have those hot nights, when we cannot fall asleep. We look for something meaningful to do. We five minutes ago, I just saw two contrasting videos of Facebook that I want to share.

I was struck by the beauty and simplicity of a most effective video from Koolulam. This is a group that brings masses of people together through song, whatever their background. Their name is a play on the word inclusiveness.

This time, Koolulam arranged for members of Jerusalem’s three leading religious communities to perform in the ancient City of David, located just inside the Old City of Jerusalem. The chosen song was originally written by Bob Marley.

Just click on this link, watch and take it in. Note also the special lighting effects bouncing off those very ancient and symbolic walls.

At the heart of the name Jerusalem is the word “shalom” or peace. Next time somebody tells you that the city is not open to all, 24/7. just think about what you have seen.

And then sadly, almost the very next posting I saw revealed the ecological disaster that is evolving in the south of Israel. It may not be terror in the classic sense of the word, but it is designed to frighten, destroy and maim the innocent.

It is time for the world to show that it cares and to tell the perpetrators that they will be punished. Why? Not just because such acts are abhorrent.

They are also futile. And how do I know that? Because only resilient countries – states that are built on core values of mutual love, hope and respect – can produce videos like those of Koolulam.

Israel’s economy has been given a big “thumbs up” just recently. Matthew Michael, head of EMD and Commodities at Shroders Investment, one the UK’s largest investment houses, has paid a visit to the Holy Land. This was not his first trip here, as his team are trying to show a visible presence in the country.

Shroders operates in over 20 countries. And as Michael discussed in an interview with the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, Israel is considered the 4th least risk problematic country in Schroders index of 80. Some mighty compliment. What I found interesting was Michael’s assessment that Israel is well protected against unforeseen shocks to the world banking system.

That is all very encouraging. And the economy is still growing by over 3% a year, as unemployment remains at a record low. So where’s the proverbial “but”? And there is one, if not two or three.

Let us start with what interests Shroders, the banking system. Israel has been blessed with several strong and defining Governors of its central bank over the past two decades. None more so than the incumbent, Karnit Flug. Unfortunately, as her first term of office draws to an end, she has been forced to fall on her sword. Having neither the approval of the Minister of Finance nor the Prime Minister (for different reasons), she has asked that her contract not be renewed.

What is the concern? The role of the Governor of a central bank is to be an independent voice, protecting the money supply of a country. This calls for the political echelons to act with responsibility, and not just appoint a ‘silent mirror image of themselves’. Given the behavior of the aforementioned gentlemen, that is unlikely to happen with Flug’s departure. And in that case, if the new person is to be a “yes man” (or woman), a new large question mark will open up against Israel’s ability to raise money on the international markets.

Next is that ever worrying and constantly ignored issue of wealth distribution. With a huge amount of irony considering the religious nature of the country, Israel has the highest ratio in the OECD of salaries in the ninth decile (the 10% of salary earners below the top 10%) to salaries in the bottom decile (the bottom 10%). 

The country scored 7.22. The average for this ratio in the OECD was 3.22. In second place after Israel was the US, with 5.05, following by Costa Rica, with 5. In other words, the rich are getting richer more quickly, as the rest of us fight for the scraps on offer.

In my view, this is unacceptable as well as unsustainable. Further, it gives a much deeper perspective as to why so many government ministers and their associates are being investigated at this time for misuse of public funds and authority. And I deliberately include in that listing the files against the Prime Minister and also his wife.

If there is a message here, it is very clear. Wonderful stats and even a seemingly solid infrastructure takes years to create. However, they can be destroyed far, far more rapidly. They can only be retained and protected through continuous responsible measures. Flug and the OECD have delivered their warnings.

 

BDS is an international movement, dedicated to creating an economic and cultural boycott of Israel in support of the Palestinians. A recent report of their successes noted that:

A planned soccer match between Argentina and Israel was canceled after the Argentinian team received threats to themselves and their families…….Meanwhile, In May Netta Barzilai’s song “Toy” earned Israel the right to host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. Calls to boycott the upcoming event began immediately, particularly in Iceland, Ireland, Sweden and Britain…..

Elsewhere internationally, local efforts to boycott Israel accelerated dramatically. In Ireland the Galway City Council voted to boycott Israel, while in Spain there is a renewed wave of BDS moves. In a first, the state of Navarre condemned Israel and passed a resolution calling on the Spanish government to support the international BDS movement. This followed similar calls in the cities of Valencia, Oviedo, and Pamplona. Oviedo immediately canceled a performance by an Israeli orchestra and ballet company saying, “Israeli organizations are not wanted.” Overall, some 90 Spanish communities have voted to support BDS.

And while these politicians were waving their speeches in the air, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled their homes and have made their way to the border with Jordan and Israel. The only significant aid for them has been supplied by Israelis, primarily from the area, which these same politicians call the “occupied Golan Heights”.

Israeli Flying Aid secured most of the 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby formula, three pallets of medical supplies, and 30 tons of clothes and shoes sent ….to Syrian civilians fleeing Bashar Assad’s latest offensive against rebel holdouts in the Daraa region of southwest Syria.

Ironically, these people and their numbers no longer capture international headlines. In contrast, 12 boys and their football coach, miraculously surviving in a underground cave in the middle of Thailand, are far more news worthy. One of the first rescue teams to find them came from the UK.

And how was that accomplished? The trackers were primarily dependent on an emergency mobile communications technology, developed by the Israeli company Maxtech Networks.  As their CEO observed, since Maxtech’s role in the rescue attempt hit the news, the company has been inundated by enquires from all over the world. The website has almost crashed.

And reflecting on the contribution of BDS to these stories? Well if people had listened to the campaign’s advocates, the answer would have been death, hunger and illness. Well, that is what you expect from a campaign, based on hate and hypocrisy.

 

Somewhere amongst a very stressful week, I came across three very insightful postings from the web. Together, they form a powerful message.

Let me start off with sport. Football’s World Cup in Russia is but one of a myriad of great events these days. For example, the Brits are lining up for their annual two week tennis binge at Wimbledon in south west London. It is a wonderful event. If you pardon the phrase, the buzz of the crowds can be heard even during the silence of the points as they are played….,

…except for Lee Duck-hee. This 20 year old South Korean, deaf from birth, is a professional player and has been trying to qualify for the tournament.  I find it astounding that he has found a method to overcome the lack of hearing so key for others in their 100% fight on the court. Can you imagine trying to play the game without listening to the sound of how the ball has been it or if it caught the net? That requires an extra level of determination.

Somewhat staying with sports, I came across a post from motivational speaker David Flood. He described how his physically challenged son took part in an ice hockey game and what he learnt from the moment when his son actually scored. I will not spoil the whole story , but he signs off by demanding that we look inside ourselves.

“Your life is not about you”, Flood reminds us. It is how we interact we all – yes, all – those around us and what we can learn from them.

My final item leads me into the world of high-tech. We are used to hearing stories of people starting out in garages or dropping out of university before they reap their millions. However the founder of Flickr and Slack, Stewart Butterfield, has a very unique background.

(He) spent the first five years of his life living on a commune in remote Canada after his father fled the US to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. The young Mr Butterfield and his parents lived in a log cabin in a forest in British Columbia, and for three years they had no running water or electricity.

Think that unusual? Butterfield originally contemplated a career as a professor of philosophy. And today, his personal fortune is estimated at around US$650 million. Clearly, living in the wilds of Canada do not act as a boundary to becoming one of the world’s wealthiest people.

I am a business coach and mentor. My office is in Jerusalem, Israel, a region where miracles are supposed to be ever present. Somehow, while these characters may have prayed, I do not believe they relied purely on an exterior force. They asked what else they could do of themselves in order to succeed.

So what will you contemplate about your future this weekend?

I always get tense when booking my flights on line. I feel that I am waiting ‘to be had’ by some hidden clause and then duly ripped off.

This past Saturday night, I concurrently checked out the prices of four airlines, flying from Israel to the UK. El Al was the clear winner, and so I duly set about ordering a ticket for myself and my good lady. All was fine, when at the last moment I realised that I had made a mistake. As I could not go back one step, I was thus forced to start the process from the beginning.

I zipped through the pages again, until I reached the verification of the prices. Within 120 seconds, the cost of the return trip had miraculously jumped by around US$60. (Well, as somebody once mentioned, we are in the Holy Land.)

The expletives were not slow to emerge. Strangely enough, an hour previously, I had read an article that noted how El Al was ranked 34th out of 42 airlines for operational punctuality. Their CEO is demanding better performance from his staff.

Ironic, I thought to myself: At least my national airline is pretty damn prompt at asking for extra money from me. So, if the company is not worried about its pricing policy, I duly gave them some free publicity and blogged what happened to me on Facebook. That means that not only my friends heard about the story, so did the friends of the numerous people who added a like or comment.

At my daughter’s suggestion, I also let El Al know what was going on via their FB page. Who knows if they will respond, or how quickly?

However, permit me to throw on my hat as a business mentor and coach. There is a much more important lesson here. As a friend pointed out, the price hike was caused by the use of an aggressive algorithm, which many / most / all airlines use.

I wonder how much extra traffic El Al could draw to its website if it actively practiced and advertised a policy of not using such algorithms. In other words, their clientele would feel safer and better protected!

That would position El Al a large cut above their competitors in the skies. It would show that El Al genuinely cared about its customers. As their passengers are always told at the end of each flight, “we know you have a choice”.

The question is does the management of El Al understand the true meaning of that statement?

PS: For the record, I stuck with El Al, booking to return on a different flight which cost the original price I had intended to pay. However, it is inconvenient.

 

It’s the beginning of the week. The coffee is flowing. We are all aware of the subconscious that is screaming out “how can I make today meaningful?”. And that does not matter whether you are the big boss or the newbie in the outfit. What is it that you can do that will make a difference for yourself and for those around you?

I want to introduce you to three inspiring items that have come across my path in the past 24 hours. By sharing them with you and by comprehending the simplicity of these actions, I hope to inspire you towards that something extra special.

The first item comes from Sunday’s demonstration in central London. This was the annual march of those people who support Hizbollah, and it is known as a hate fest against Jews and Israel. Attempts to ban the event fail, as only the military wing of the movement is considered terrorist.

So imagine the sight. On a summer’s day, around 3,000 angry demonstrators are about to set forth, with full police protection. And then suddenly, the whole show comes to a stop before it has started.

Mark Lewis is a prominent lawyer in London. He is also confined to a wheelchair, due to MS. His treatment has been the subject of a television documentary. With the help of his partner, he merely wheeled himself out to the beginning of the path of the procession. The effect? The police refused to let the demonstrators proceed until the threatening (?) obstacle was removed.

Brave, daring and highly effective. I can but assume that the police feared for the safety of Lewis, although why anybody would want to attack a person in a wheelchair is beyond me.

Moving on, this morning I found myself listening to a TED Talk on why some people live longer than others. Delivered by Susan Pinsker in August 2017, exercise and better diets were not the core items of her approach. She emphasised “close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions”. And she added that in general, women excel in these fields better then men, and they live longer.

However, let us be honest. How many of us – particularly those from the big cities – struggle in performing such basic social functions as saying hello to the janitor in the office or smiling at colleagues? I have to admit that last summer I was on holiday in Cornwall, England, and locals would just greet you with a friendly ‘good morning’. It took me 48 hours to acclimatise.

Similarly, I opened a link on Facebook from Jay Shetty. The original post, which I cannot find, came from a marriage guidance counsellor. He can predict with extreme accuracy, which marriages will last, or not. The trick is in the little things – the email sent for no particular reason but expressing love, the extra kiss of care on the forehead, sharing a TV night in together, etc. All of these ideas rarely cost large amounts of money.

The link between all three items is that very often it does not take a lot to make that essential difference, whether it be in the world of politics or everyday social situations. What we are required to do is take five minutes of quality time in order to think carefully and quietly and with due purpose.

Have a great day!

 

 

TechCrunch Tel Aviv 2018, held last week, was yet another thrilling exhibition of Israeli entrepreneurship. As one speaker described it – the ability to find a big problem and then to create a global solution.

I was particularly struck by the observations of Uri Levine, the founder of Waze . It is five years since he sold out to Google for over US$1 billion. Dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, he announced that he had arrived on a bicycle.

And Levine posed the question: If today Israel is a leader in automobile technology – just think how ironic that statement is, when you reflect on the Arab oil embargo of old – what is the next target industry? Construction maybe? That too would be ironic in light of the poor building safety standards in the Holy Land.

There are those who argue that not enough software engineers are produced by the local education system. Professor Eugene Kandel, CEO of Start-UP Nation Central, discussed in a newspaper article on Friday that only 7% of the workforce is employed in high-tech. That figure should double in order for the country to maintain its competitive advantage.

As if to prove the point, Amazon is opening a huge warehouse centre in Israel. In order to staff this operation, the company is stealing / enticing / bribing techies away from Intel and other r&d leaders in the country. And these companies are already considered amongst the top payers.

According to an article in the newspaper “Ha’aretz”, a software engineer costs an Israeli employer around US$130,000 per annum. This compares to US$35,000 for an Indian.

Interestingly, the cost of employing somebody from the Palestinian territories is about US$42,000. And it appears that this is one of the areas the Israelis are turning to. TechCrunch featured the cooperation with firms in Gaza. Mellanox, an Israeli company quoted on NASDAQ, employs over 100 Palestinians.

What next for the Start-Up Nation? Chemi Peres from Pitango believes that Israel has shown the way forward in AI, which connects IOT to with human intelligence. His portfolio already includes companies looking at flying cars.

Coaches and trainers of all fields tell us that if we would just do some physical activity, we will feel better. If nothing else, a little bit of exercise is supposed to be good for us. So just try it, no?

My role as a business coach and mentor has forced me to dig deeper into this theory. After all, I cannot merely rely on the miraculous air of Jerusalem, where several of my clients hang out, to get them and their businesses into shape.

There is now plenty of literature that establishes a clear link between exhaustive activity and (ironically?) better thinking. As Melissa Dahl summarised, run and “new cells pop up in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory.”

She continues:
Other post-run changes have been recorded in the brain’s frontal lobe, with increased activity seen in this region after people adopt a long-term habit of physical activity. ….. After about 30 to 40 minutes of a vigorous aerobic workout – enough to make you sweat – studies have recorded increased blood flow to this region, which, incidentally, is associated with many of the attributes we associate with “clear thinking”: planning ahead, focus and concentration, goal-setting, time management.

And I have proved this with my own clients. There have been times, when the standard meeting has proved uninspiring, I have invited them – not giving them much of a chance to refuse – to a quick yet stirring physical challenge. This is usually greeted with initial disbelief. However, as one person remarked to me twenty minutes afterwards, “Michael, I don’t know what you have done to me, but my head is rushing with ideas.”

Neuroscientist Hannah Critchlow confirms that neurogenesis, the birth of new brain cells, takes place in adults, particularly when running. However, she takes her research a stage further.

There’s a huge amount that seems to be hardwired into us and predetermined. You are born with a particular brain and that shapes your perception, shapes what you are hardwired to find rewarding. You are brought up in a particular environment and that reinforces what you are born with. (Thus,) if your perception of the world is based on prior experiences and hardwiring, then that shapes your reality, which goes on to affect your decision-making. A large amount of your decision-making taps into your reward system in your brain. Although there is scope to change certain behaviours, you have to make a real conscious effort in order to break habits and change how your reward system affects your motivation. I think neuroscience can be very empowering in that, in making me go for a jog rather than reach for a bottle of shiraz.

I have written previously about my own running efforts. There is no doubt that I can record the positive change that they have had in my career. I would like to sign off with a very different case study, which refers to a very brilliant yet fidgety individual, who has been asking me to help create a new professional path for him.

He realised his mistake only after he had told me that he used to run marathons, although you could not tell that from his current bodily outline. He has since run tens of kilometers – for me and for himself. And as per his running, his pace of commercial progress has also increased noticeably.

I grew up in West London. I have been supporting Chelsea FC since I can remember. Last summer, like a little schoolboy, I took a tour of the club. Should I be pleased that Roman Abramovich, owner of the team and who has pumped hundreds of millions to secure success, has come to live in Israel?

It has been a rough few weeks for the Russian billionaire. Chelsea’s results have not met his expectations this season. He was refused a work visa to enter England (and thus missed Chelsea’s one triumph), probably on the back of the recent spying scandal. Plans to develop a new £500m stadium have been shelved. Rumours abound over key players to be released, as well as the possibility of him selling his properties in the UK.

Out of the blue, Abramovich announced that he is coming to live in Israel, a move which would earn him the title of the wealthiest person in the country. Under Israel’s updated “law of return” for Jews, he would be entitled to a healthy range of tax breaks for ten years.

In the framework of what is referred to as the Milchan Law, Abramovich gets a 10-year exemption from tax and from reporting to the tax authorities in Israel on income and property originating overseas.

Abramovich already has several investments in Israel. For example, in 2015, he acquired the Varsano boutique hotel in Tel Aviv for NIS 100 million, which he is converting into his Israeli home. A year previously, he invested US$10 million in StoreDot, which develops fast batteries for cars and smart phones. He has also invested US$0.5 million in an Israeli-Russian medical consultation group.

But why the publicity over the announcement? Abramovich is man who represents the typical oligarch, who made his fortune as Russia emerged out of the mess of the USSR. His path to success was solidified by massaging good relations with the Kremlin. As one Israeli journalist wrote today, he surely has the blessing of Putin to live in Israel.

And if Putin is involved, the mind starts to wander. To be blunt, people in Israel view Putin as ex-KGB, who rules Russia like a benevolent dictator. Who around him has not become mega-rich over the past couple of decades?

You have to assume that all this will have an impact on Israel’s relations with Russia. How? We can but speculate. The Israeli Prime Minister is another politician who has let himself be surrounded by those who have attained financial success. I wonder what the American State Department is thinking.

person wearing red low top sneakers and jeans
Photo by Nick Demou on Pexels.com

One of the well-trudged phrases I hear as a business coach and mentor is “if only I had that one piece of luck to make things go right for me”.

I sometimes feel like I am placed in the position as a commercial shrink. New CEOs or seasoned-tested executives turn to me despairingly and say that they deserve that extra something to go right for them. “Why me? Why is it not my turn for something nice to happen in business?

These people are lost for an alternative constructive strategy about what to do next. And the result is commercial immobility, which is frequently the predecessor for starting to go backwards. They become stuck in mud.

When you are the owner of a small or medium sized business, that emptiness can be depressing.

The scenarios are probably similar to some of my readers. It often starts when a series of clients end their contracts, often unexpectedly and at the same period. You then realise that the pipeline of potential revenue has dried up. Concurrently, that one additional unexpected large expense hits you between the eyes. And this is usually the time, when somebody in the family is unwell.

There is a saying that bad luck comes in “threes”. The reality is often much more harsh and rapid. So what can be done?

I do not believe in luck just turning up. I believe that we have to create our own luck. That means we have to be proactive. Here are three brief case studies to indicate what I mean.

  1. This week, I have been working with a couple of clients, who were concerned that sales have been slowing down. Their plea was that I come up with a plan. During some rather painful sessions, I encouraged them to come with their own ideas – what had been tried successfully in the past and could be repeated, or new approaches that had yet to be tested. And yes, matters have begun to move forward.
  2. I was asked by somebody to help them sell their property, as they had no real leads from their own efforts. We created a Facebook campaign together, and today there are two serious buyers on the map.
  3. A CEO was looking for additional financing, pursuing the customary channels via their own bank and private investors. A revamping of the proposition very quickly resulted in an injection of new cash flows.

That all sounds very quaint, but here is the catch. In none of the situations did the success actually emerge from the expected or intended sources. For example, new sales came via word of mouth rather than a calculated strategy. The prospective purchasers of the property had never seen it advertised on Facebook. And the extra cash is to come from the bank and other unexpected sources.

Luck? Definitely not. But in each of the cases, the change in fortunes resulted from the renewed efforts of the CEO. These created an unexpected chain reaction of events, which in themselves have led to the right result.

The lesson? Next time you feel stuck, take yourself off to a different environment. Start rolling out a strategy  even if it is not the most coordinated of moves. You are creating “noise”. And it is amazing just how many are out there waiting to hear from you.

I do not normally reproduce word for word a press announcement, but this one comes with a real punch. Coming from Israel’s Innovation Authority, the subject matter is:

South Korea and Japan’s Largest Corporations – Toyota, Hyundai, Yaskawa, Mitsubishi, Samsung and Fujitsu – to Meet with Israeli Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR & AR) Companies

On the surface, so what? Most of these conglomerates already have r&d centres in the Holy Land. Now think again!

It is still only three decades ago that these firms and many like them complied with the Arab Boycott of Israel. Today, that evil discrimination has evolved into BDS. As I have written many times in the past, this is just a politically correct version of anti-Semitism.

When you read the message below, just imagine how less well off the world would be if it boycotted such advances pioneered in Israel.
Tel Aviv, May 27, 2018 – The 5th ‘Road Show’ sponsored by the Foreign Trade Administration of the Israel Ministry of Economy and Industry and the Israel Innovation Authority will take place in South Korea and Japan from May 27th-31st. This year’s delegation is comprised of companies from the fields of virtual and augmented reality (AR & VR) and robotics. Seven Israeli companies will meet with business entities, production facilities, government officials and leading Japanese and South Korean corporations in a number of cities with the goal of strengthening trade and business relations.

Participants in the road show – organized by the Asia-Pacific Division at the Israel Innovation Authority, the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry’s Trade Mission in Tokyo, and by the KORIL Korea-Israel Foundation – include companies in the fields of AR and VR such as: Asymmetric Medical LTD, Newsight Imaging, Elbit Systems Land and C4I, Intuitive, Actiview, Elbit Systems HQ and White Raven.

The road show is just one important element in the range of activities carried out by the Israel Innovation Authority to make the Far East and Asian markets more accessible to wide sectors of Israeli industry. In light of the complementary nature of Israeli and South Korean and Japanese innovation, potential for technological cooperation between the countries is significant. Countries throughout Asia are seeking to invest in advanced technological solutions and are looking for innovative components to implement in their products.

The week-long series of meetings will enable the Israeli companies to have direct interaction with local companies, and lay the groundwork for significant R&D cooperation, investment and future business opportunities.

Israeli Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen: “We are excited by the enormous global interest in Israeli innovation. The road show will assist several Israeli companies to penetrate Asian markets and is one more stage in the deepening technological and economic cooperation already taking place. This is an additional tool in the toolkit we have developed over the past few years to promote Israeli companies in the Asian market in a number of areas.”

“The world of robotics is a broad and highly advanced field in Japan and South Korea, but still has plenty of opportunities for growth and development,” emphasized Avi Luvton, Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific Division of the Israel Innovation Authority. “The combination of Israeli innovation with Japanese and South Korean capabilities may lead to significant cooperation in these fields.”

Noa Asher, Trade Attaché in the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry’s Trade Mission in Japan, said: “There is significant interest in this delegation in Japan, which included intensive meetings with leading Japanese companies like Fujitsu and NTT, as well as a seminar supported by the Japanese government. Japanese companies are scouting for innovative technologies in Israel. Robotics is one of the significant fields of interest in Japan, due to the government’s desire to advance the Japanese manufacturing industry while preserving its position in the face of competition from China and South Korea.”

Deborah Schabes, Director of the KORIL Korea-Israel Fund in Israel, noted: “In South Korea, as in Israel, there is a lot of R&D in robotics in general and in related technologies. Among the South Korean companies that will take part in the seminar and meet the delegation are Samsung Research, NT Robot, Hyundai Motor, as well as government research institutes.”

For additional details:
Brandon Weinstock
Foreign Media Advisor to the Israel Innovation Authority
052-7567211
innovationisrael@headline.media

Last week, the Israeli air force deliberately released a picture, depicting one of its new F-35s flying serenely over Beirut, arguably the first operational sortie of its kind in the Middle East. Clearly a big wow, and obviously sending a message towards the Iranian leadership.

Let me move on from the diplomacy and recall that F-35s are manufactured by Lockheed Martin. This huge conglomerate has been supplying Israel with planes for decades. However, the commercial links between the defense manufacturer and the Holy Land are just as significant.

For example, Lockheed Martin is estimated to have spent around US$1 billion is reciprocal purchasing arrangements in Israel since 2010. Back in 2015, it had already invested US$10 million in Cybereason, whose software prevents the hacking of large systems. And last week, the company opened a new office in the desert town of BeerSheva to coordinate its operations with the Israeli army.

What I have found fascinating is the latest news that Lockheed Martin is to open a preschool facility in Jerusalem called “Madakids”. (Mada means science in Hebrew).  It is to be deliberately located in one of the poorer neighbourhoods of the city, aimed at giving children a chance to develop their instinctive innovative skills.

The project is a first for the company, which is known to invest in primary and secondary schooling around the globe. The investment will only cover the funding of the science curriculum.

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