As part of my entrepreneurship tour of Israel sponsored by Vibe Israel, I had the opportunity to learn about the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), or the Israel Army. IDF service is mandatory after young male and female citizens turn 18.
When I first heard about this, I'll admit that I didn't necessarily think it was a good thing. However, after seeing what the IDF teaches in terms of critical business skills, I've come to believe that it provides a great training ground for young professionals heading into the work world - especially those who want to start their own businesses.
First, a bit of background. The IDF was officially established in 1948, shortly after the founding of the State of Israel. Its mission is to defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel; and to protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten daily life.
Preparation for Entrepreneurship
In a recent panel, Dov Moran, inventor of the USB flash drive, pointed out that IDF service is a major driver of high achievement. "Military service, combined with the continuous external threats to Israel, cultivate a seriousness of purpose and a cultural willingness to accept economic risks," he said.
"Creating a new business may seem relatively tame when neighboring countries are hostile to your physical survival. Besides this, Israel’s investments in defense technology and commercial products spun off from defense technology have encouraged – and even required – ongoing innovation."
Living with the constant threat of war has spawned a culture of Israeli military research and development, and battlefield inventions have been transformed into technologies used worldwide to save lives, guard against cyber-attacks, and simplify mobile communications.
One example is PillCam, a capsule with two tiny video cameras that enables visualization of patients’ intestines without the need for endoscopy. The PillCam was invented by Gabi Iddan, an IDF-trained engineer who used miniature missile-guiding technology for the purpose of medical imaging.
Infused with this R&D spirit, young servicemen and women are ready to launch their careers. "How do you approach a complex problem and solve it? We do this in the IDF every day," said Iron Dome innovator Brig. Danny Gold in an interview with Israel Brain Technologies. The Iron Dome is a revolutionary, mobile all-weather air defense system designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets headed toward populated areas.
“Many of the people involved in these types of projects then take their skills to industry. What they learned about putting together complex multidisciplinary solutions serves them well in fields such as high-tech and brain-tech," added Gold. In addition to problem-solving and innovation, these skills include accountability, self-discipline, project management, and interpersonal communication.
If you lived in Israel, would you want to serve in the IDF?