Cultural Roots of Incompetence-A painful post

There are generic and shared reasons for incompetence that transcend cultural borders: lack of skills, corruption, nepotism being the most frequent forms of incompetence which are applicable across the board.

There are also culturally unique reasons for incompetence which impact certain cultures and not others. For example, excessive planning/rigidity stemming from a sense of control of destiny (USA) or excessive bureaucracy (France, we can invent a perfect system) or ancient tribalism (Rwanda).

In this post I want to point out a some of the underpinnings of incompetence unique to Israel (but not only Israel). This will hopefully help understand how Israel could have been so duped in the present war against Hamas.

1)      Lack of discipline

Lack of discipline stems from the idea that “systems” probably have holes embedded in them and a lack of discipline allows people to survive the horrors of obedience. Only “suckers” follow the system.

2)      Lack of enforcement

Enforcement is unfair. Everyone deserves a second chance, and a third, and maybe a fourth. This stems from dysfunctional compassion towards an individual and lack of respect for systems.

3)      Over-reliance on technology

As a high-tech nation, we inhale our own smoke, stocking up on lots of technology, full of bugs, but ahead of our times, when it works. When it does not, we have no more boots on the ground; we just throw more technology at the problem. This is the most severe strategic weakness in understanding the present shortcomings.

4)      Fast and dirty-and sloppy

Israelis are faster at developing and deploying technology than most of the other nations. The speed and innovation are naturally sloppy and “cleaned up” afterwards, sometimes too late.

5)      Too little discretion; too much talk

We talk too much on the phone-hack our mobile phones or just ride the train or bus and a world of secrets is exposed. The assumption is that “field security” is not needed as long as you remember your password.

This post may seem to be written with detachment. But it is written with pain because we are paying a huge price and what’s more, these cultural attributes are very hard to change.


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The new Tel Aviv Subway-and the mobile phone

This week I went to see a documentary film about the Samaritans at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque.

I live in one of the suburban towns north of the city; a train + subway ride takes me about 45 minutes door to door, as opposed to a 90 minute commute by car and probably, no parking anywhere to be found. So going to the film gave me an opportunity to ride the new subway.

The network is not easy to to navigate the pay-your-fare and the transfer-to-Israel-rail stations are really challenging.

The fare system allows the passenger to pay with any one of many apps, credit cards, loaded train/bus cards, cash and monthly subscription cards. There is a huge line of different machines where one can top up  payment cards and/or pay. Too many payment choices are available. Navigating this is complex and many people, even technologically competent people, are baffled.

In the stations where one can transfer to a train, the signs are incomplete. In Kiryat Aryeh, a major station, there no way to know which trains leave from Platform Two and many people go to Platform One and go the wrong way. I am one of those people.

To deal with this mess, the subway hired many “travel assistance” personnel, who are supposed to help the public. Generally they are “heads down”, playing with their smartphones or talking to one another. Questions are often greeted with “I don’t have a clue” or “don’t know” or an incomprehensible answers comes your way- spoken like the way Mumbles used to talk in Dick Tracey films.

And I ask myself, how is it that such a negative organization culture develop so quickly? There is so much to be proud in the new subway-why is it that service providers don’t give a shit. And yes, they are well paid.

My educated guess is that were they not allowed to keep their mobiles on their shift, they would want to interact with people.

But when faced with a choice between “whats-apping” their friends or working, they prefer the former. Perhaps phones should be confiscated at the work place-I guess not. I’m too told to be accurate.






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