Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

“Ask for Forgiveness, not Permission”

“Ask for Forgiveness, not Permission.” Since I arrived in Israel, I’ve heard this phrase on numerous occasions. Israelis become exposed to this phrase heavily during their mandatory military service, which lasts two years for females and three years for males. The reason this phrase is so prevalent during the army years is because of the small size of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Compared to the American army, the IDF has a lot more soldiers than senior officers. Therefore, a lot of these young soldiers have to make split decisions in a matter of seconds. Soldiers are given the freedom to think for themselves and make the choice that resonates best with them. Keeping in mind the small size of the IDF, if each soldier had to ask for permission prior to making a decision, the IDF simply wouldn’t be a well-functioning unit. This phrase translates very well into the Israeli work culture following army service and university education. “Start-Up Nation” and innovation are two terms that many people use when referring to Israel. If a bureaucratic system was in place where workers had to ask their bosses for permission before making major decisions, this would undoubtedly hinder some of this innovation. While this phrase certainly applies to the many startup companies in Israel, even the large, global companies in Israel adhere to this phrase. I’ve even encountered it on several occasions in my limited exposure to working in Israel. While asking my boss and co-workers for opinions, I’ve received this phrase as a reply. This simple phrase creates daily innovation in Israeli businesses and lets workers make their own decisions rather than being bound to one person’s opinion.