Mandatory Innovation

Have you heard of Krav Maga?

If you have, that’s really cool. If you haven’t, then you’ve seen Matt Damon use Krav Maga to kick butt in the Jason Bourne movies.

Krav Maga is a fighting technique that is practiced all over the world. It originated in Europe but was refined in Israel, where the International Krav Maga Federation is located. What’s interesting is that Krav Maga is taught to every Israeli soldier. And every civilian.

Remember that in Israel, every citizen goes through basic military training.

This got me thinking as I was watching the Human Weapon episode of Krav Maga. Just like it’s mandatory for Israeli’s to go through basic military training, what if we made it mandatory to teach every civilian entrepreneurship?

Sounds crazy right?

Not so. For example, Academics, the people who think up a lot of stuff in labs, are getting trained in entrepreneurship. They are being taught how to turn their projects into startup companies:

The National Science Foundation screened applicants for this Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program and awarded each research team $50,000. They’ll be mentored by entrepreneurs familiar with bringing a new technology to market, and participate in ongoing webinars and progress meetings throughout the process.

This is a big idea. But a bigger idea would be for a city, a state, a country, to have mandatory entrepreneurial training for every single citizen. The traditional way of providing this type of knowledge is through schools, the most expensive ones (at least) offer Entrepreneurship courses, but that’s not enough because only a very small sample of people get access to top flight education. Now you might say that most of this information and knowledge is out there on the internet and people can easily educate themselves.

The internet is definitely playing a role in disrupting education as we know it, and God knows it needs to be. But we’re still not there yet. A more ambitious view would be for a government to make entrepreneurship mandatory. I have a feeling this is already happening in some part of the world but not explicitly. This is the next step.

How do we make this happen?

Everyone is an entrepreneur

The main challenge of promoting innovation is clearing the way for entrepreneurs. There are many ways that this is getting done such as the startup accelerators, boot camps, and just recently the Startup Act. There are also all kinds of different i-Labs and technology centers popping up in distant places in the world that aim to start their very own version of Silicon Valley. I already told you about the one that’s being built in Tijuana, there’s also another one in Guatemala and another one in Harvard called the i-lab.

Look at this from the 30,000 foot level and you can see a pattern: Entrepreneurship is alive and well. Organizations, cities, countries, continents want and need to innovate.

But this still isn’t ambitious enough. It’s just the start. I’m imagining a PARC/MIT Media Lab entity that every single citizen has access to. Not just students or people close to schools. And instead of relying on schools to add entrepreneurship classes to their curriculum, we make entrepreneurship a national requirement.

The United States just might be the most entrepreneurial country on the planet because the entrepreneurial culture already exists. And that still isn’t enough. Entrepreneurship shouldn’t be left to the United States.

What we at war with, and that’s every country in the planet, is indifference.

Indifference about progress and change. Indifference about imagination. We see companies instituting innovation programs inside their four walls, but those four walls now extend to the rest of the world. This is what the socialization of business really means, that the role companies play in the world, their communities is even more important.

With the rise of social networking, citizens have a direct line of communication with their government (although not everywhere yet). With the rise of social network, specialized knowledge can be had for nothing, all it takes is time. Video is accelerating society’s ability to innovate. Just look at how two professors from Stanford (and Google employees) opened up one of their classes to the whole world this year. All through YouTube.

This high level knowledge is now being given up for free to the rest of the world. When before, only a special few, with a lot of money, had access to.

If we really want to make ‘innovation’ a way of life, then we best look outside the business cannon. The dramatic transformation from un-innovation to value innovation will come when these skills are rediscovered by everyday people.

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