To Dream Big – the Next Generation
Prof. Yesha Sivan, a global expert on digital innovation and venture capital innovation, talks to Chemi Peres, Co-Founder and Managing General Partner of the Pitango Venture Fund, and Chairman of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. They discuss big dreams, daring, and inspiration in the world undergoing fast and radical technological change. “The next era is an era of peace and ‘Tikun Olam*’ (Hebrew: world repair) through technological innovation,” says Peres.
* Tikkun Olam: In Jewish teachings, any activity that improves the world, bringing it closer to the harmonious state for which it was created.
By: Prof. Yesha Sivan
“A big dream is one whose fulfillment may affect people’s conditions, whoever and wherever they are, for the better,” says Nehemiah (Chemi) Peres, one of the Israeli high-tech community leaders, Co-Founder and Managing General Partner of Pitango Venture Capital. I was invited by The Marker’s (HaAretz) editorial team of the annual “High-Tech Book” to hold an in-depth conversation about dreams, with Peres – who also chairs the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation (and son of Shimon Peres, Eighth Prime Minister, Ninth President one of the founders of the State of Israel.) Not dreams in the Freudian sense of the word, but reality-shaping dreams, facing the fast and messy technological change and globalization process that today’s’ world is going through. Towards 2020, with the opening of the second decade of the 21st century, Peres draws a futuristic vision – a vision based on “dreaming big” on a personal, organizational, national, and international level.
Intermediate: “Big Dream Inspires and Gives Meaning”
The central element of your vision for the State of Israel is thinking big. How do you define a “big dream?”
“A dream that creates significant value for human kind. Of course, the size of a dream relative. There are global companies with a big dream, such as Apple, Amazon and Google. There are global companies born in Israel and they, too, has a big, significant dream, e.g., Check Point, Mobileye, SolarEdge, or WIX; Shay Agassi’s dream, to create electric vehicles and infrastructure that will change the world of transportation and energy, is a huge dream that connects energy and mobility; even younger companies have a big dream, for example, from the medical-diagnostic field. Companies such as Zebra and Helthy.io bring the digital world to the health-care field and they use technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence. Each in the field and level in which it operates.
“When I meet entrepreneurs, I look for the vision and the big dream, but I also look for a grain of dread or concern. ‘Can I really fulfill that dream? Is it big enough?’ If I’m not mistaken, Richard Branson said that ‘If you are not afraid of your dream, it is not big enough.’ But, it’s not the paralyzing fear I am looking for, but the one that inspires and inspires, challenges and motivates. The dreamers should feel the opportunity, the burden, the fear – build the valor – and then dare even further.
A big dream has an advantage in the set-up phase, because it inspires, gives meaning, is challenging and sweeping because it is a dream. It attracts the best of people – the entrepreneurs, the workers, and investors. The dream produces energy, which is also used as a safety airbag at the beginning. Over time, in the implementation and operation phase, there are likely to be many difficulties, which may increase in a linear function to the dream size”.
Intermediate: “At the individual level – Self-realization should be encouraged”
What did you learn at home about dreaming big?
“Alongside the command to dream big, there is another one – to serve a great cause. My late father used to say that ‘a man is as great as the size of the things he serves.’ The big dream should be attached to a big cause worth serving. By this definition, a dream that amounts to the individual service, in the realization that satisfies the ego, does not qualify the definition of a big dream. A dream that serves something that is beyond the individual – society, environment, state, region – is a dream that serves a great interest. The size of the dream is in linear proportion to the size of the community you serve and to the degree of impact.
“Ben-Gurion dreamed of the founding of the state of Israel. He had a life mission – to serve the Jewish people and materialize the Zionist vision. He encouraged my father to create and establish the cornerstones for dreams, and enabled him – at age 29 as Director General of the Ministry of Defense – to initiate the construction of the reactor in Dimona and establish the Israel Aerospace Industry. The bigger the matter, the better the dream was.
“My father’s vision for a new Middle East, a new regional reality, is a bold and tremendous vision. In a sea of hatred, extremism and violence he dreamed and strived to serve peace. A big step on the way. ”
Can you educate to dream big?
“I think so. You can certainly inspire. I would say that the required key action is to draw the younger generation’s attention inward, into themselves, to discover the immense potential of each and every one. It’s about self-realization. Not to be afraid to dream and realize, dream and imagine what is possible as a way of life, and to move on to the realization. We must say to parents and teachers: We protect the children and restrict them with concern, as we do not want them to fail or disappoint. But at the same time, we must encourage self-realization. The trick is to create a sense of capability which can grow alongside failures, the failures that are a part of us all.”
Intermediate: “At the enterprise level – every company can and should dream big”
Can a big dream be identified?
“A big dream can be identified, but its realization capabilities cannot always be estimated. Naturally, there is a difference between a possible dream and an illusion. The bolder the dream, the more challenging its realization. For example: Landing the ‘Genesis’ spacecraft on the moon was a big dream for a small country. Although we failed to make the final step of landing, it is of enormous importance to set the target, mobilization, daring, and learning – all these created value for Israeli society. And perhaps a different and opposite example: WAZE had a dream to change the way we navigate, familiarize, and manage traffic. Many investors considered the venture’s difficulties and focused less on the possibilities of success in realization. Thinking back – this was a big dream and the realization was perfect. In the entrepreneurial world I give great importance to human capital, the talent of the entrepreneurs, and the ability to navigate and change. The ‘dream big voyage’ usually has a starting point and direction. Obviously, there will be changes along the way and from there the navigation is in a world of uncertainty.”
And what about existing companies?
“Usually a mature company has a choice: Either it is change-based and constantly renewed, or it will be based on preserving the existing. A company that has a DNA of renewal, R&D and risk-taking – its chances of surviving are higher. A company that concentrates on the existing is in danger. It will find it difficult to attract talented and dynamic personnel ,and may fall prey to competitors.”
How do you create a supportive organizational environment for dreaming big?
“Not everyone can build big innovative companies, such as Tesla or Amazon, but every company can and should dream as big as possible. The CEO needs to discover the potential of the company that has not yet been revealed. Shareholders should support and enable the change to take place. I recommend exploring the possibility of connecting to a relevant big dream, and finding your place within it. For example, for a company in the medical field, a big dream can be the effort to extend life considerably, and within that find its opportunity.”
What are the technologies that will affect companies?
“Within a decade, I would mention the field of artificial intelligence (including machine learning), IOT, and data. The combination of these creates opportunities for small companies to become large, and in turn – makes big companies fall off the map as they are replaced by new ones. AI is transforming to be much like the software world: Every company will use artificial intelligence. The change is parallel to the change made by the HTML and TCP/IP technologies that created the Internet era. These digital technologies are becoming the neural network of the organization. This is the corporate core. The ability to collect data, process them, and make business decisions.
In the more distant span of over ten years, with even more far-reaching effects, I will note quantum computing, DNA engineering, the human brain, and nanotechnology. These are technologies that will create waves of change.”
Intermediate: “State-level – Israel is an example of a big dream”
In Israel, a unique ecosystem has been created to generate and materialize big dreams. How did we get there?
“Israel was founded by virtue of innovation and entrepreneurship and is thus being built. Several epochs can be discerned where innovation was in focus during stages of our development, tier after tier. The first era can be described as ‘the building of Israeli society’ and it includes the revival of the Hebrew language, the construction of institutions that existed before and close to our Independence: the first universities, the Zionist Congress, etc. Creating a new society during the transition from the Diaspora to a state. The Second Age is the era of ‘Innovation in Settlement and Sustainability’ across the country: the building of kibbutzim, aquaculture and energy – innovation such as water desalination and the drip irrigation system. The following era was ‘Innovation in Safety & Security’ that naturally resulted from the need of our existence here, where the foundations of research and development, engineering and technology were built, starting with the establishment of an advanced atomic reactor, aerospace industry and entering the cyber era. These led to the era of ‘innovation in economics.’ On the ruins of agriculture farming we established a technological industry for export creating an Eco-system of entrepreneurship, digital industry, global capital and the breakthrough into international markets. Israel has been recognized as the “startup nation”. For me, the next era is the era of ‘peace and repairing the world through innovation’. The Age of “From Zion will come out learning” through solving major issues that the world focuses on, and here I incorporate the vision of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation: Creating Peace by Innovation and Empowering Innovation by Promoting Peace.”
What should be preserved in this aspect in Israel? And what needs improvement?
“Our core values must be preserved as part of the Jewish people and as a democratic society, while striving for a worldview, deepening education and striving for excellence, together with equality, sharing and inclusion. One fate for all of us: together we rise and fall. All those good things about Judaism and Israel built in the past ages.
“What needs to be improved? The source of innovation, previously mere existence (no water, no food, no security) is changing before our eyes. What will drive future generations is the search for meaning, the preservation of the earth and the human society, and self-realization. We need to be more global and more serving: Moral Values, Impact (IMPACT), Searching for Meaning. The sources of innovation will be less military and security and more focused research in dedicated research institutes with a connection to personal (internal and non-organizational) entrepreneurship. We live in the global era and need to be global players, which includes connecting to the sources of need, to technology, to manpower, to financing and to the global market.
“Of course, this means that managers need a new and different set of capabilities: Innovative Leadership, Corporate social responsibility (CSR), and adaptation to ever-changing reality. To foster growth. I wish we not only be the innovation state, but also a source of moral values and applications for the use of advanced technologies.”
Intermediate: “At the global level, we are all single trees that create one forest”
Israel has long been not a solitary island, but part of a global fabric of innovation. The arms of Israeli companies are present in the world’s focal points: New York, San Francisco, London and even Shenzhen and Shanghai. What are the key trends in the world that we need to connect with?
“The global connection is critical, both in finding big dreams and in realizing dreams. I see some trends in the world that affect both the creation of the dream (the need) and the way of realization: The first trend is the social gaps created as a product of acceleration in innovation – gaps between those who advance and those who remain behind; gaps between those who are connected to the new world and those who suffer from it. These gaps are politically expressed and lead to instability. The second trend is the common destiny of all of us. The major worldwide challenges of global warming, sustainability, disease, terrorism, and the likes, require inte-state cooperation because everything depends on everything, everything is at stake, and is not within the power of the individual. Only together can we meet these challenges. We are all single trees that create one forest. The third trend is the growth of new extra-state forces, mainly huge global companies such as Google, Facebook and their Chinese counterparts that create a socio-economic fabric of new empires. The leaders’ challenge, today and in the future, is balancing so that the gain of one will not become the loss of the other, but a shared success. Mutual prosperity.
A summary message?
“Each of us, at the level at which he or she operates – the individual, the organization, and the states – should be in constant forward motion. Standing in place means falling and decay. Like cycling – you have to be in forward motion to maintain equilibrium. And the best way to move forward to a better future is through sharing, through service, and the daring way of dreaming and dare.”
Prof. Yesha Sivan is the founder and CEO of i8 ventures – a boutique consultancy focusing on digital transformation leadership. He is also a visiting professor of digital, innovation and venture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School. Sivan’s professional experience includes developing and deploying innovative solutions for corporate, hi-tech, government, and defense environments. He focuses on digital strategy, innovation and venture, mindful leadership, virtual worlds (3D3C platforms), and knowledge age standards. After receiving his doctorate from Harvard University, he has taught executives, EMBA, MBA, engineering and design courses in his areas of expertise.
The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation was established in Jaffa on the beach in 1996 to promote Shimon Peres’ vision: A prosperous Israel through promoting peace and regional cooperation. In October 2018, Israel’s Innovation Center was launched as the president’s flagship project, to be the epitome of Israeli innovation for leaders from around the world, international leaders, senior business executives, and youth.
The Center presents, for the first time under one roof, the story Israel as the ‘nation of innovation’. Along the four floors are presented the 100 events that made Israel a startup nation, including: a conversation with inventors in interactive holograms, which tell first-hand about the way to the ground-breaking Israeli inventions; Exposure of the inventions that are at the forefront of Israeli technological developments that have changed the world, including display presentations, models and prototypes of these inventions; The start-up floor is updated with 45 developments; The future floor simulates a time capsule through VR technology, in which visitors are exposed to the future developments of the State of Israel.