The world seen from the top

I love podcasts. And this one gives some perspective to our world. As seen by Angela Merkel interviewed by Lionel Barber from the Financial Times. From minute 4.17 to the end. Inspiring and sad. It’s about one of the most important leaders in the world – who happens to be a woman – who will retire from her top leadership position in 2021 and is asked to make sense of the world as she has seen it from the top. And it is also about the journalist who interviewed her, a leader in his own right, the former editor of the Financial Times, Lionel Barber who steps down himself from the position he held for 14 years as editor of the FT.

In the podcast Lionel Barber shares the highlights from his exclusive interview with German chancellor Angela Merkel. The world is very different from 15 years ago when Angela Merkel had been elected chancellor. The rise of nationalism has become an existential issue for Germany today. Still Angela Merkel continues to defend the benefits of the single market and of multilateralism. By defending Western values, she is projecting a Germany more engaged and active than ever. She sees the 27 member states of the EU as the anchor of her country’s foreign policy. The EU is both the main market for German goods and a global standard setter. Merkel considers the EU should be an alternative to the US and China and not in conflict with them. She also considers that data is going to be very important, but should not belong to the companies and governments, but should be owned by the people.

I find it inspiring that a leader like Angela Merkel seems to prefer alternatives to confrontations. Maybe the world is eventually going to listen and become somehow better. I also find the interview sad as all endings have a degree of sadness around them. In their two very different situations, the chancellor and the journalist have been at the top of their organizations and now they discuss their understandings of the changes in the world.

On his final day in the job, Lionel Barber talks about the major trends that affected the world during his tenure at FT: the global financial crisis followed by the political responses, the rise of the East, especially of China and India, and the tech revolution especially the power of the smart phones. I find it inspiring and optimistic that a person like Barber thinks that human judgement should never be replaced by AI. And the whole range of subjects he discusses with Miranda Green are exciting and worth listening to, mainly the references to his interviews with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and other world leaders as well as the values of the FT. Inspiring and sometimes sad, clearly challenging – very much like the world we live in. What I found wise is the appeal to understanding and taking account of what is happening. Not to condone things, but to try to offer solutions.

Cultura națională, cultura generală și bunăstarea noastră spirituală

15 ianuarie marchează în fiecare an, începând din 2009, Ziua Culturii Naționale și coincide cu ziua de naștere a lui Mihai Eminescu. Anul acesta se împlinesc 170 de ani de la nașterea lui Eminescu.

Am avut bucuria să particip la sesiunea festivă organizată de Academia Română „Sincroniile europene ale culturii române“ dedicată Zilei Culturii Naționale. Un eveniment deosebit prin participarea unui public numeros, dar și impresionant prin diversitatea profilelor celor preezenți. Pentru prima dată am văzut la un astfel de eveniment elevi și studenți, ba chiar am prins frânturi de conversații: V-a plăcut? A fost interesant, nu?!  Ce ziceți?

Dacă există tineri în sală este un semn bun. Mai ales că nu au stat lipiți de ecranul telefonului. Au urmărit ce se-ntâmpla în jur. Și au fost și câteva scene insolite: se pare că unii dintre cei prezenți ar fi vrut să se vorbească doar despre Eminescu, Prin urmare un domn cu o eșarfă tricoloră, la câteva scaune distanță de mine, i-a strigat cu toată puterea, oarecum ca pe stadion, “vorbiți despre Eminescu” președintelui Academiei Române, iar când ministra educației a pomenit numele poetului pe un ton oarecum dramatic, așa cum vorbești elevilor ca să-i impresionezi, domnul respectiv a început să aplaude frenetic.

Sesiunea a fost moderată de Ioan-Aurel Pop, președintele Academiei Române, care a fost o gazdă perfectă prin naturalețe, politețe și rezolvarea firească a unor mici inadvertențe apărute natural în astfel de cazuri, mai ales într-o cultură spontană ca a noastră. S-au citit mesaje de salut și s-au rostit alocuțiuni. Aici se află comunicatul de presă al Academiei române și aici programul evenimentului.

Apoi au luat cuvântul academicienii: Eugen Simion, președintele Secției de filologie și literatură, cu prelegerea „Naționali cu fața spre universalitate“, Nicolae Breban cu „Existența prin cultură“, și Răzvan Theodorescu, vicepreședinte al Academiei Române, cu prelegerea „Despre o sincronie europeană a vechii culturi românești“. Manifestarea s-a încheiat cu un moment eminescian susținut de actorul Dorel Vișan care a ales să rostească un fragment dramatic din piesa Decebal. A recitat cu o voce puternică, vibrantă emoționând sala.

Un eveniment cu adevărat memorabil.

 

Leading creatively

This January, Brian Kavanaugh was our guest speaker for the creative thinking and leadership courses. Brian has a Fulbright Scholarship with a focus in Art Education. He shared with my master students his research interests – arts pedagogy specific to adults with disabilities, primarily autism disorders. He talked about how he developed practices and principles to facilitate expressive and creative practices in adults with disabilities. He also talked about his collaboration with Romanian institutions and organizations.

Some of the things that I personally found relevant for our leadership course and discussions were the following:

  • In his projects Brian was constantly trying to set up a supportive environment for the people he worked with rather than goals that they might not understand and, therefore, pursue. And I’m thinking of the many instances in our organizations in which we often do not understand what is requested of us while the organizational environment is extremely competitive. How does that reflect upon our performance?
  • Screwing up is important for the overall success. You cannot make progress unless you fail, you are not punished, you learn your lessons and you are encouraged to go on. This happened in Brian’s examples of two of the people he had worked with over the years and managed to develop in them a sense of discovering their own meanings of life and their places in this world. Particularly in the case of RN.
  • A possible leadership model in contexts which are more volatile and ambiguous than the usual organizational contexts:
    • identifying goals,
    • providing a supportive context,
    • facilitating motivation,
    • measuring success.
RN won a first prize at a local exhibition
RN won a first prize at a local exhibition
RN working on his art project
RN art work

 

We asked a lot of questions, discussed the different social backgrounds in the US and Romania, looked at creative practices at social and organizational levels, discussed entrepreneurship in arts and business, looked at the business model supporting such projects and at the influence of economics in general. We agreed that Romania is a place where creativity has a large space to develop at institutional and organizational levels, even though Romanians are quite creative as individuals.

During the leadership course students asked questions and discussed about the attitudes Americans have towards autism and general disabilities, compared them with Romania and Romanians, agreed that things are different in different places, even in the US which is such a large and diverse country and society. We had some intense discussions about social and individual responsibility in today’s societies, about living comfortably or living responsibly and connected to the needs of the others as well, about making sense of our lives and defining our humanity in the age of increased technological innovations – all important leadership issues in today’s world.

Thank you, Brian, for a great creative and learning experience.

 

Ultima zi din 2019 – The last day of 2019

Cum a fost 2019 pentru mine și ai mei? Cum a fost, adică, lumea mea în 2019? Frumoasă. Nu perfectă, nu ușoară de acceptat, nu întotdeauna plăcută, nu adesea așa cum mi-am dorit-o sau mi-am imaginat-o, dar frumoasă și, în cele din urmă, minunată. De ce? În primul rând pentru că a existat! Și asta înseamnă că am existat noi care i-am dat sens. Iar eu am ales să-i dau un sens bun și frumos. Chiar dacă …

Cum va fi 2020? Habar n-am, dar pot spera! Și sper, ca-ntotdeauna, că lumea va fi mai bună și mai frumoasă. Nu sunt prea multe semne, sau poate nu le-nțeleg eu, dar așa vreau să mă uit la noua lume care se chinuie să se nască sub ochii noștri. Și vreau să cred că dacă ochii noștri sunt învățați să vadă lucrurile frumoase din lume, încet – încet și lumea va deveni mai frumoasă. Pentru tot mai mulți oameni, de peste tot, pentru animale și plante, pentru ape și uscaturi, pentru Pământ și … pentru noi toți.

 

 

How was 2019 for me and my own? In other words, how was my world in 2019? Beautiful. Not perfect, not easy to accept, not always pleasant, often not as I wished for or imagined it to be, but beautiful and, eventually, marvelous.  Why? Mainly because it was! Which means that we were around to give it meaning. And I chose to give it a good and beautiful meaning. Even if …

How will 2020 be? I have no idea, but I can hope! And, as usual, I hope that the world will be better and more beautiful. There aren’t enough signs for that, or maybe I cannot read them, but this is how I choose to look at this new world that is striving to emerge under our very own eyes. And I want to think that if we learn to look at the world with good eyes and to see its beauty the world will, slowly, very slowly, become more beautiful. For more and more people, from all over the world, for animals and plants, for waters and continents, for the Earth and … for all of us.

Eric Bevan – In Memoriam

I met Eric and Mary Bevan in Budapest in 1996 at an English-Speaking Union International Conference. Who would have said then that it was going to be an extraordinary friendship, an exchange of experiences, feelings, values and true human emotions based on the generosity and openness of these two extraordinary human beings who have never been afraid to embark on the unknown waters of a distant East-European culture with open minds and open hearts! And what a journey it has been!  Over two decades of discoveries and learning about worlds that we thought we knew everything about. We do know Europe and its countries very well, don’t we?

The most significant moments in my new life, as a new life started in Eastern Europe after 1989, have somehow been connected with Mary and Eric, sometimes only Eric, other times Mary, but both of them always at the end of a fax-machine (remember them?!?), of an e-mail or simply a phone with good advice or help when needed.

And now … it’s only Mary! Eric is no longer among us, except for all the things he offered us, taught us, built together with us or simply enjoyed life together with us. Death, no matter how sophisticated we are and how rationally prepared to accept it, is still one of the most traumatic events that can happen to those who are left alive. But it is also what makes us look at one’s legacy, what has been left behind, at what gave meaning to a life, and what that meaning tells us and how it possibly helps us go on when the world continues to be mad, again and again, without having learned from its past, but still hoping.

So, I will try to make sense of what I know of Eric’s life as seen and experienced by my Romanian mind. Which obviously is just a small fraction of what his life really meant. As Mary, his partner in the adventure of life for 57 years, was saying in her tribute, Eric had been a lucky man: for having lived 84 years, out of which 82 in excellent health, for having worked with extraordinary people, for having enjoyed some 20 years of retirement to do the things he and Mary wanted to do together.  And Eric had been extremely lucky also because life allowed him to be his own master through three essential elements: a good sense of humour, the ability to recognize opportunities and seize them and a strong sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. Everything wrapped up in courtesy, respect for others’ point of view and an amazing desire to help the less lucky.

My first business here in Bucharest, had been possible by a generous donation from Contexta. It was a language consultancy called BEST – Bucharest English Studies and Training set up together with Veronica Focșeneanu, my respected and admired English teacher from the seventies. BEST had been among the first private language consultancies in Bucharest and one of its main objectives was to generate funding for the ESU-Romania. Both Mary and Eric helped whenever help was needed and the fax machine constantly buzzed in their lovely house in Dorset with questions and clarifications that a new business needed constantly at the time.

The 1999 course for the House of Deputies of Romania had been a miracle and Eric the enabler. It was offered freely to selected experts of the House of Deputies, but the costs of the course had been funded by donations raised by Eric through the Salisbury and South Wilts ESU branch. No use to remember here the bureaucratic intricacies through which we had to go to make it happen. Enough to say that everybody involved in the project had been happy with the results. So happy, in fact, that the project had been awarded the ESU Hardacre Trophy in 1999 (picture below) and in Bucharest the feedback received had been extremely positive.

Eric and The Hardacre Trophy, 1999
The cover of the Report of the House of Deputies Project, 1999

The most extraordinary thing however I’ll always remember about Eric is the way he and Mary became wonderful friends and had been present in our lives in so many meaningful ways. My son discovered England with the help of Eric in 1997. Eric took him to the most wonderful place that Ionuț could have dreamt of, the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, and took him on their sailing boat at sea. He thus will for ever be alive in the mind and heart of my son who, beyond his career in the car industry, is both a speed hill climbing competitor and loves sailing so much that he’s passed the tests for a sailing permit. This tribute is about Eric but I simply can’t stop talking about the many lives he had touched with the generosity of his heart and actions.

Ionuț at sea on Eric and Mary’s boat. 1997.
The Beaulieu Motor Museum_on a 1912 London bus.

I just have to add my son’s honeymoon in Eric and Mary’s house, my daughter’s many trips to Dorset or to London and her stay at their lovely house or meetings somewhere convenient, my own visits and chats with Eric and his coaching me through so many fascinating aspects of British business culture, his highlights of Scottish traditions that he loved to keep, the haggis (which we discovered was similar to a Romanian traditional dish) and the way to address and serve it on a Burns Night, our 2006 tour of England with incredible stops at Skipton, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, the Brontë Parsonage Museum and mainly our memorable stay in Cullingworth, at what used to be an 18th century cotton mills and is now a self-catering accommodation place.

After having visited Skipton Castle, 2006.
Benton Mills, 2006.

There are so many things to remember about Eric and to be grateful for. I’ll probably need to write a whole novel about our meetings, projects and enriched lives. I’ll just add some pictures to highlight those moments. And my prayers that Eric’s sense of commitment to the things he started, from gardening and cooking, to his having fun and enjoying life, after a successful career in business and government, will guide me as well along my own new life which would have been lesser and poorer had I not met Eric and Mary on that trip to Budapest.

2017, Crafts centre pottery lessons for us.
2017, Visiting the Bevans with Radu, my grandson.

And whenever I need to stop and think of a direction in which to continue to go, Eric’s words will always be with me: “Start writing all those stories, Mariana! They are fascinating! And we, over here know so little of your lives beyond the curtain.”

In the end what else can we dream of? That we continue to be remembered after we are gone, that our life has not slipped by like a field mouse, but it did shake the grass and was meaningful to so many.

 

 

 

 

Emailuri poluante? – Polluting emails?

Da, da! Emailurile sunt și ele poluante. La fel ca marea majoritate a activităților umane. Nu, n-am știut nici eu. Probabil ar fi mai corect să spun că nu m-am gândit cu adevărat la așa ceva. Dar, iată că alții o fac.

Mailurile de mulțumire poluează planeta?!? Noi românii suntem prin definiție prietenoși cu mediul!!! Asta se referă la britanici – probabil cei mai politicoși oameni de pe planetă!

  • Un email mai puțin pe zi ar putea reduce emisia de carcbon a Marii Britanii cu echivalentul a 16.433 de tone adică, de exemplu, cam 81.000 de zboruri Londra – Madrid.
  • 71% dintre britanici nu s-ar supăra dacă ar primi mai puține mailuri de mulțumire dacă asta ar ajuta salvarea mediului

Ce putem face prin urmare? Cum spuneam, nu noi românii!!! Noi nu suntem în pericol – doar suntem frate cu codrul de când ne știm! Mă rog cei care mai știu chestia asta!!!! Și oricum majoritatea nu trimitem “mulțumiri”! Dar cei care o fac, indiferent unde locuiesc, sunt sfătuiți să se gândească mai bine. Și dacă persoana lucrează alături, poate chiar la biroul de lângă tine, ridică-te, fă câțiva pași și spune personal “Mulțumesc”! “Mulțumesc” personal!?! Ce tare! Da, personal, adică în carne și oase! Beton, meserie, și alte chestii marfă!

Oh, yes! E-mails are themselves polluting. As most human activities! Unfortunately. I didn’t know that myself. Or, probably it’s better to say I never really thought of that! Luckily, others do.

‘Thank you’ emails are polluting the planet? And this is about Britain – probably one of the most polite countries in the world!

  • one less email a day could reduce Britain’s carbon output by 16,433 tonnes equivalent of more than 81,000 flights from London to Madrid
  • 71% of Britons wouldn’t mind fewer ‘thank you’ emails if it helped the environment

What can we do therefore? Not, we Romanians – there’s no danger here. Most of us don’t send thank you emails or notes anyway. But those who do, no matter from where they are, are advised to think better. And if the person is next door or even next desk just walk over and say “Thank you” in person. Cool, isn’t it!?! In person. Wow!?!

 

 

Înainte de Crăciun – Pre-Christmas

Ce este o echipă? Pentru mine, acum, este ca un concert și sper, în timp, să se transforme într-o simfonie. Așa m-am simțit aseară în echipa INACO – ca într-un concert de Crăciun. De ce? Pentru că suntem o echipă de profesioniști minunați, conduși cu entuziasm și pasiune de dirijoarea noastră Andreea Paul, care selectează constant partituri noi și provocatoare, dificil de interpretat adesea, dar cu un succes garantat la publicul larg al societății românești prin temele acut importante pentru noi toți. În diversele noastre proiecte avem roluri clare,  învățăm lucruri noi pe care le punem în practică, pentru că practica socială este cea pe care vrem s-o schimbăm în mai bine. Avem relații între noi de o calitate deosebită pentru că ne conduc nu orgoliile personale, o da, avem destule mulțumim, cât scopurile mai ample pentru care ne-am reunit și la care fiecare, în felul nostru, vrem să contribuim. Și când am interpretat ultimele note ale unei partituri de proiect care ne-a “întins și antrenat” competențele, performanțele și ne-a făcut mai buni ca oameni, sărbătorim succesul ca echipă, împreună cu dirijoarea noastră. Crăciun binecuvântat și An Nou Fericit!

What is a team? For me, now, a team is as a concert which I hope is going to change into a symphony. That’s how I felt last night in the INACO team – as in a Christmas concert. Why? Because we are an amazing team of professionals, led enthusiastically and passionately by our conductor Andreea Paul, who constantly selects new and challenging parts, often difficult to interpret, but with guaranteed success for the general public of the Romanian society through their crucially important themes for all of us. In our various projects we have clear roles, we research and learn new things and also implement them, because it is social practice that we care for and want to change for the better. We have great relationships because we are not driven by our personal pride or rather arrogance, oh yes, we have enough of that, thank you, but we have greater goals to care for and to contribute to. And when we have interpreted the final notes of a project sheet that has “stretched and trained” our competences, our performances and changed us into better people, we celebrate our success as a team, together with our conductor. Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

Blockchain – de ce și pentru cine?

Vorbim tot mai mult despre blockchain. Cu ceva timp în urmă am și scris ceva despre ceea ce se numește tehnologia încrederii. Într-o lume tot mai plină de falsuri și manipulare blockchainul promite siguranță.

Numai pentru cei care înțeleg despre ce este vorba, cu alte cuvinte sunt educați. Mai multe detalii aici.

Dezbatere organizată de ASE, CCREI, Modex și INACO, 13 noiembrie 2019, Aula ASE.
Dezbatere organizată de ASE, CCREI, Modex și INACO, 13 noiembrie 2019, Aula ASE.

Comunicare 4.0 sau o carte cu 31 de autori

Păi, ce … aia-i carte? Mda, poate că este, poate că nu este! Cine suntem noi autorii să judecăm? Răspunsul stă la dumneavoastră, cititorii! Dacă va fi citită, da, putem vorbi de o carte!

Sau … poate nu! Citim azi atât de mult, citim constant pe telefoane, oriunde ne aflăm, pe ecranele în fața cărora ne petrecem tot mai mult timp, da, chiar liber, nesiliți de constrângerile unui proiect sau ale unui angajator! Dar nu vreau să explorez idea de carte, deși desigur merită făcută.

Vreau să vorbesc despre cartea noastră. Pentru că noi avem o carte: adică un obiect fizic, destul de atrăgător, destul de voluminos, destul de impozant – aș zice spre vreo 750 grame, adică un text (aici este o cu totul altă poveste) la care pe lângă autori  au lucrat cei din Editura ASE, apoi cei care au tipărit cartea, cei care au fost martori la lansarea ei la Târgul de carte Gaudeamus pe 24 noiembrie 2019. Afișul anunțând lansarea și numele celor care au avut amabilitatea și plăcerea să vorbească despre carte este mai jos.

Și s-au spus cuvinte frumoase, cuvinte pline de emoție, cuvinte care ne-au răsplătit pe noi, autorii, și restul echipei pentru efortul susținut și adesea iritant de a face ca această carte să apară. Și iată că a apărut! M-am sculat azi dimineață cu o lipsă acută a unei presiuni care a fost cu mine câteva luni și care, acum, a dispărut brusc.

De acum înainte această carte va avea viața ei, independentă de a noastră, dar legată intim de noi. O carte de acest tip este, așa cum au spus și vorbitorii de ieri, importantă și necesară pentru că adună o experiență esențială a 31 de autori diverși ca formație, dar uniți de specificul domeniului comun: comunicarea în afaceri internaționale! Și așa cum spunea ieri Andreea Paul, Președinte INACO, fiecare putem fi participanți la afacerile internaționale care au o mare diversitatea formală și geografică, mai ales azi în era inovării și creativității accelerate! Și cum spunea și Daniela Palade Teodorescu, jurnalistă cu mare experiență, este o carte importantă pentru că prezintă structurat, cu exemple utile și, mai ales, relevante României de azi competențe practice de care avem nevoie toți, în orice moment al vieții. Iar Dumitru Miron, exprimând în mod personal și inconfundabil experiența sa de lector autentic al cărții, a subliniat că este o carte care clarifică, mobilizează, invită la reflecție dar și ridică probleme legate de cel mai potrivit mod de comunicare într-o lume aflată într-un exponențial proces de digitalizare și de căutări ale unui nou model de business.

Restul a fost o mare emoție și imaginile redau mai simplu aceste emoții decât cuvintele.

Muțumiri tuturor celor care au fost prezenți și, mai ales, cititorilor prezenți și viitori care ne vor ajuta să îmbunătățim această carte.