OBIC 2021 – Glimpses

I’ve been going to the international conference of the Oriental Business and Innovation Center (OBIC) since 2018. That is whenever the world allowed me to do so. I couldn’t go last year, though I had bought my flight ticket and only went online this year. Online is not bad, but enjoying your coffee breaks and lunches in your own home is not as exciting as chatting around real food and beverages in Budapest.

And yet, it had been a great conference. Professional, warm, with just the right mix of local touch, in the perfect amounts.

The theme of the conference this year? And the programme? And Book of Abstracts? You can find all the information here:  or if you prefer Facebook –

What you cannot find, however, is the inner dynamics and chemistry of the event. That you can experience only by participating.

For example, after one of the plenary sessions, the speaker, Professor Voskressenski, was asked many questions mostly variations around what you can see in the picture below.

The answer, with a smile, was along the following points:

“Interesting question. Thank you. Russia has a very good relation with China, but this relation is not an alliance. It’s a partnership. They understand each other, it’s about economic benevolence. There’s centralization clearly, but it’s because of the uncertainties we have to face. So what should the US hinder?” (An approximate rendition of his words)

And as an echo, the words of David Morris during a round table on “The Rise of New Technologies and National Security Challenges”: Russia and China are comfortable together.

OBIC 2019 group picture.

These are only glimpses. However, I could not possibly skip our own participation in Panel C2 of OBIC – “Culture and Education in the Era of Digitalization” moderated by Professor Emerita Judit Hidasi. We had been blessed by the presence of some of our colleagues from home, thank you Dana Radler and Irina Ion. And possibly others. One of the disadvantages of this otherwise excellent cloud event was that we could not see each other. There’s no perfection, is there!?!

The discussions in our panel were vivid, with good questions and challenging answers. The only disappointment – more time for discussions. Again, real coffee breaks and meals are great for networking and continuing discussions beyond the programme.

My personal takeaways from this event? There are too many and too important to discard in a last few words. Therefore, I’ll write another post.

Another technical mystery – double images. Good for our egos though.


My daughter bought a map the other day. I thought it was for our grandchildren visiting for Easter. They have difficulties reading a paper map which is still required, for good reason I’d say, in school. No, she said, it’s not for them. It’s for me and Redmund, her partner, to signal the places we visited. Separately or together. It’s fun, mum, don’t you think!?

It absolutely is. Plus, it brings back my old concern about digital maps. I love digital maps, I’m often, though not always, grateful to Waze or Google Maps (in that order) for their existence. But, I can’t “think” without a paper map. I discover, however, that I’m not the only one.

In this article in USA Today you can find lots of reasons why people still prefer paper maps and why the industry is actually thriving. I resonate with a lot of them, but my favourite is “Paper maps for planning and GPS in transit”.

And today, a slow day even if it’s a Monday, the second day of Orthodox Easter, I can indulge in doing “useless” things, such as looking at maps. So, here’s a look at some fascinating maps. They are all amazing. However, I particularly like the following: 9. The Roman Empire vs. the Mongol Empire at their peak (ha, ha); 10. The most popular last names in Europe, and 14. The oldest universities in Europe that are still open.

As it often happens, from this article I was lured to the next one “Maps with Unusual Information”. I’ll leave you to discover what alphabets are used around the world or how welcoming a country is to strangers.

A great way to start a day – for me. Have fun.


Humour leadership?

Ever heard of humour leadership?

Naomi Bagdonas andConnor Diemand-Yauman, both from StandfordGraduate School of Business, and interested in creating more productive, connected, and joyful cultures in remote teams. They say there’s serious medical research behind their claim: the The neuroscience of laughter.

Leaders with a sense of humour are seen as 27 percent more motivating and admired. Their employees are 15 percent more engaged. Their teams are more than twice as likely to solve a creativity challenge.

Humour isn’t just for fun. It’s also a critical leadership skill, like communication and self-awareness.

How? Bagdonas and Diemand-Yauman tell us their version:

1. Become remotely humorous. Laughter impacts our brains and our behaviours in profound ways. Laughter is more valuable than ever in the world of remote work.

2. Embrace other’s humour. Notice your co-workers’ small attempts of light-heartedness, and accept them. Build on them.

3. Actively cultivate your rituals and your stories. Create new rituals that help you stay connected and promote humour at your organization, even when you’re remote. And tell your companies’ stories far and wide.

For more watch them here:


Pandemics to remember

The World Memorial to the Pandemic, not only the present one, in Montevideo, Uruguay is another wake-up call. Humans are not the centre of the universe and certainly not its masters as we’ve learned for so long.

Remember: “we tamed nature, we harnessed the energy of the atom, we conquered space and outer space”. We are so arrogant as a species and the universe so indifferent to us.

We are subordinate to nature and should constantly remember we are on borrowed time. The underlying philosophy of the project is presented by its lead architect:

“Although its construction stems from the experience of this pandemic, its purpose is to build a collective consciousness that reminds us that mankind is not the center of the ecosystem in which it lives but that we will always be subordinate to nature itself.”

Can we ever learn?


Statues – fallen or standing

We go (again and again) through a period of demolishing statues. In Romania, but not only, we’ve been somehow used to tearing down and wiping out parts of our history. It’s a primitive mechanism of both revenge on what had been unfair and oppressive to those who are now in the position to be able to order the offensive pieces away and of “if I don’t see it, it never existed”.

It’s just that this happens today in places which we used to admire for their balanced, objective and generally democratic capacity to discuss, analyse and preserve public records so that history does not repeat itself. Well, not anymore it seems. And I do hope I’m wrong. This article, on “What the Removal of a K.G.B. Statue Can Teach America”, raises some thought-provoking questions.

However, what happens to the statues that are no longer desirable? According to Joshua Yaffa, a Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker, they are dumped or, if you prefer, preserved in the Muzeon, the Fallen Monument Park. Is this because they are nostalgic, or just want to revive the old times or … you can imagine as many scenarios as you are capable of imagining.

However, in another article, another journalist is quoted as having said that waging war on bronze men doesn’t make your life any more moral or just. “It does nothing really.” An interesting point coming from an anti-communist expert.

But the most interesting point is made by the granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, Nina. “Denouncing Stalin was Khrushchev’s greatest achievement, but removing him from all public spaces, trying to delete that history, was a big mistake,” Nina Khrushcheva said. “Once you demolish somebody’s hero you only incite hatred and force feelings underground.”

And the article goes on giving the example of the Ukraine who tore down the statues reminding them of the Soviets, but the effects has not been beneficial. On the contrary it seems.  

We have our own stories of dealing with our past. The three pictures above are emblematic. The sources for them are below.

However, have we learnt our lesson/s?






Business internationalization and globalization – one of the mini-tracks of the 14th International Conference on Business Excellence – Business Revolution in the Digital Era co-chaired by Luminița Nicolescu and myself. An excellent academic event proving that internationalization and globalization are adapting to the new world realities. Great participants, thought-provoking discussions, and the realization that there are more questions than answers. Which is indeed a sign of intellectual achievement.

Online is possible and in great conditions. Online is good for a number of important reasons. However, nothing can match a great exchange of ideas during the conference dinner that the organizers of ICBE always organized impeccably. The future may still be great!


On plagues and other … hopes

This is a long, but rewarding story. It can be also listened to. While you do your walking around your flat, or do something else than watch some kind of … screen.

Every story of an epidemic is a story of illiteracy, language made powerless, man made brute. A plague, says Jill Lepore, the author, is like a lobotomy. It cuts away the higher realms, the loftiest capacities of humanity, and leaves only the animal.

Every plague novel is a parable of the human condition. Albert Camus defined the novel as the place where humans are abandoned to other humans. Lepore goes on saying that in plague novels all human beings abandon all other human beings. She quotes some wise words from Camus, particularly doctor Rieux’ thoughts at the end: “He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good . . . and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.”

The conclusion is that men will always become, again, rats. If you think that is bleak, think again. I just cut out the parts I wanted from this story so I might be wrong. Plus, there’s always hope in the wisdom of books. And we do change the world as we do our best to survive. Even though Riux “knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers.”

Listen or read – there’s no better time as now. And even read “The Plague” by Camus.


Authority and leadership

An article about the influence authority figures have on ordinary people. How they change our perceptions, sometimes even values, and what we can do if we think the authority is wrong.

The ” tendency to extrapolate the opinions of others from the opinions of authority figures” works everywhere. And we need to be aware of it. As leaders and as followers.



Leaders – changing us to what?

We are facing incredible challenges – AI (artificial intelligence), dataism, health issues, the food we eat, the water we drink, the drugs we take, the life styles we adopt, the jobs we pick, the organizations we work for, the competition among states, organizations and individuals – all those and a lot more make our everyday life quite hectic and our future … relatively unpredictable.  And yet we live in the best of times – we live longer, if we are lucky, we live clearly and undisputedly in a much safer and friendlier world than the one that made Hobbs write the Leviathan. The state of nature, do we still have one?, is no longer “the war of all against all”, we seem to have a clearer and stronger understanding of what we need to do to continue to thrive as a species and as a world! Or … do we?

We are told that AI is changing the world – jobs will disappear, education has to re-invent itself, to teach soft skills, not knowledge, robots might become our overlords if we do not become creative and insist on doing the routine jobs they, the robots, can beat us at very easily. And if we still want a meaningful life for ourselves and our children we’ll have to drastically re-invent ourselves. It seems that this is easier said than done! At all levels. We are after all human beings irrespective of the hierarchical ladder we are on.

Tony Schwartz, the CEO and founder of The Energy Project, and Emily Pines, managing director of the same company, write an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review about why leaders are not embracing the skills needed for the future. Even if their talk is “correct” and they know and use the right words, leaders don’t seem to do what they talk about. They do not walk their talk. And Schwartz is very good at asking questions. Not any kind of questions, obviously, but those which are difficult and uncomfortable to answer. Such as “What am I not seeing?” and “What else might be true?”. Schwartz says that those two questions are the most powerful ones that leaders and through them their organizations can ask themselves. He also says that during the last ten years, 87% of companies have undertaken a business transformation, but only 25% of those transformations succeeded. Why? Because they do not ask the right questions, so how can they give the right answers?!? Unless we challenge our current beliefs and see through our blind spots we have no chance at success.

So what makes us behave like this? Some cognitive factors and some emotional ones. We tend to use strategies and behaviours that proved to be successful in the past, we “know” they are good. We are also afraid to try new ones. It seems that our thinking is not up to the fast changes happening in organizations. And therefore Einstein was right again: “we can’t solve our problems from the same level of thinking that created them”.

And if we look at what is theoretically required of organizations today we understand why there is this unwillingness or rather this incapacity to do so. So what exactly are we talking about? Creativity and innovation – as we live in a knowledge based society and the mantra is to become better and faster in innovation. Then agility – to move fast in the market which becomes more and more difficult in the highly regulated environment and with tensions among the variety of stakeholders organizations face today. Collaboration, at all levels even with your competitors, is also an important requirement. And, of course, the courage to change the organization (which is a shorthand for the people in the organization) to comply with those requirements.


Leadership in higher education

Leadership in higher education – this was the general topic of the international seminar organized by the International Association of Universities at SNSPA Bucharest in the period 14 – 19 October 2018.

“Leading Globally Engaged Universities” (LGEU) is a programme launched in 2015. It is organized twice a year in a member institution of IAU.

What do they debate? How is this different from other programmes? LGEU looks at the large, global picture of higher education from a local perspective. It also looks at the issues of both the academic and the administrative challenges leaders in higher education face today. Which means that academics and administrators get together and discuss. Not easy, is it?