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Friday, December 21, 2007

Wikinew writer in Israel: Is Yossi Vardi a good father to his entrepreneurial children?

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Wikinews reporter David Shankbone is currently, courtesy of the Israeli government and friends, visiting Israel. This is a first-hand account of his experiences and may — as a result — not fully comply with Wikinews' neutrality policy. Please note this is a journalism experiment for Wikinews.

Dr. Yossi Vardi is known as Israel's 'Father of the Entrepreneur', and he has many children in the form of technology companies he has helped to incubate in Tel Aviv's booming Internet sector. At the offices of Superna, one such company, he introduced a whirlwind of presentations from his baby incubators to a group of journalists. What stuck most in my head was when Vardi said, "What is important is not the technology, but the talent." Perhaps because he repeated this after each young Internet entrepreneur showed us his or her latest creation under Vardi's tutelage. I had a sense of déjà vu from this mantra. A casual reader of the newspapers during the boom will remember a glut of stories that could be called "The Rise of the Failure"; people whose technology companies had collapsed were suddenly hot commodities to start up new companies. This seemingly paradoxical thinking was talked about as new back then; but even Thomas Edison—the Father of Invention—is oft-quoted for saying, "I have not failed. I have just found ten thousand ways that won’t work."

Vardi's focus on encouraging his brood of talent regardless of the practicalities stuck out to me because of a recent pair of "dueling studies" The New York Times has printed. These are the sort of studies that confuse parents on how to raise their kids. The first, by Carol Dweck at Stanford University, came to the conclusion that children who are not praised for their efforts, regardless of the outcome's success, rarely attempt more challenging and complex pursuits. According to Dweck's study, when a child knows that they will receive praise for being right instead of for tackling difficult problems, even if they fail, they will simply elect to take on easy tasks in which they are assured of finding the solution.

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