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.


Women, science and poetry

I just love Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. I always browse through her newsletter with the curious anticipation of the amazingly interesting connections she offers her readers. For her a constant labour of love, for me an amazingly serendipitous discovery.

As in this announcement of “a charitable celebration of science and nature through poetry”. How does she announce it? Intriguingly:

<“The Universe in Verse” is going West! (April 18, California)

UC Santa Cruz
Quarry Amphitheater
1156 High St, Santa Cruz, CA 95064

Doors: 6:00PM
Show: 7:30–10ish PM
Rain or shine, news-hyped virus panic or sanity. Dress warmly for outdoor springtime, wash your hands with soap, hot water, and critical thinking.>

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

For someone coming from a culture which does not necessarily appreciate time, except one’s own obviously, giving a time for “Doors” and then another for the actual show hints at profound social differences. The best part, however, is the last – a strong, unapologetic promise that this is a serious event which requires not only passionate love of science and poetry, but also a clear sense of humour and in-depth critical thinking. Lovely indeed.

Happy women’s day every day!


Brexit – where to?

Photo by Jannes Van den wouwer on Unsplash

A tragedy, a drama or a comedy – depending on our point of view. Too much has been written on the subject of Brexit. And yet, somehow, this article moved me more than I thought it was going to.

What I find most relevant for myself is what Cohen says about Brexit as being “an act of the imagination, inspired by an imaginary past, carried along by misdirected grievances, borne aloft by an imaginary future. The age of impunity is also the age of illusion turbocharged by social media.” And as if echoing what is happening in many other parts of this world, he continues explaining how the real British problems have been transferred by the Brexiters on the country’s membership to the EU. And if “inequality, poor infrastructure, low investment and inadequate schools” are real problems for the British society what can we say over here, in Romania, about the same issues? The pattern is, however, the same: the blame is somewhere else, not on us, not on our politicians.

And the verses of W.H. Auden written In Memory of W. B. Yeats are so haunting.

 In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;
Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

And yes, do read the Comments. Not all the 402, just the NYT picks.


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.


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 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.

ENGLISH, Uncategorized

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!