Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Firewalk and it's deep transformation power

What a week I had... Sundoor, Peggy and Steve, all their assistance and the beautiful international crowd of new Sundoor Firewalk Instructors - generation 2008, Sierra-Nevada mountains, passion, magic, love, connection, understandings, transformations, fire kisses, hidden links and insights into non-ordinary reality... I could go on and on about my inner call that brought me to this course, about my visions about new tools for social transformation, but my pal Moses said it all, so clear, so simple, so right that I would encourage you to click on this link and get the full story. It is worth it: than click on this video too ... this will give you a visual perspective... woouuu, I still feel all the uneasiness, pride, excitement and cosmic appreciation deep inside... Thank you life for these beautiful gifts..I hope Slovenia can benefit from these powerful tools as well, I will try to do my best... I might see you at one of my workshops or at any of the Sundoor workshops. It is worth it! Aho.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Business opportunities in the (financial) crisis

Is there a crisis or not? Are we on the verge of recession or already in it? Are all these questions necessary? The fact is that business conditions in the marketplace have changed. The space and time we live in are challenging us to reflect on the validity of our working methods and our understanding of the markets in which we perform. To go deeper in understanding, it is necessary to assess our strengths and integration and to expedite our steps in the light of sustainable development.

More about the challenges (problems and opportunities) offered by the year 2008, and to which we will have to respond in 2009, you can read below. This is my view.

Vibacom: When can we start talking about a crisis situation?
VB: A crisis occurs when you get a significant imbalance between supply and demand of one or more fundamental foundations that are necessary for development: material (raw materials), financial, human, or social capital. Today, we can say that we were forced by a financial sector to operate with a lack of development-oriented financial and human capital, or, as the director of Adria Mobil, Sonja Gole, stated: "/.../ If you look at the crisis more broadly, you find, that the financial system has wholly failed" (Journal Dnevnik, 18.10.2008). The director of Trimo company, Tatjana Fink, "There is a lack of competent people, who act properly and with integrity in a time of crisis, who are able to think, decide and act quickly."

Vibacom: What are the characteristics of (economic) crisis?
VB: On one hand, these are: deteriorating balances in the market; the absence of one or more of the development capitals; a dramatic drop in orders in one or more steps of value chain, a drop in consumer confidence and loyalty (customer defection) and a gradual transfer of the crisis on the entire value chain, vertical and horizontal. There are also panic, fear, uncertainty, and layoffs present. On the other hand, a crisis simultaneously offers new opportunities.

Vibacom: Where can we find the new business opportunities in the times of crisis?
VB: History teaches us that in a crisis we can look for solutions in the redefinition of the market, in new business partnerships, in new definitions of the value chain, in inter-branch relations, in new technologies and consequently, in new products.

Vibacom: What are, in your opinion, the fundamental areas to be managed in times of crisis?
VB: Innovation, evolution, networking (business and social networks), people, communication and technological breakthroughs.

Vibacom: What should the behavior of a manager in a crisis be?
VB: The worst response is to react with panic. Managers should establish an atmosphere of peace and focus. It is also important to constantly keep a balance and ensure the development of both views: short and long term solutions, reaction and sustainability. Only when they support each other, an organisation can prosper in the long run.

Vibacom: What is the content of the short-term point of view?
VB: The first important step in this direction is open communication about the situation and the consequences of the crisis to the company (among management and employees). The second step is to clearly define objectives and responsibilities. The third step is a true engagement of all individuals in finding a path to these goals and in exploring new opportunities. In spite of the crises there has to be an atmosphere of openness and trust that creates a favorable environment for creativity and innovation. The fourth step is to ensure the swiftest decision-making process on the effectiveness of ideas and the implementation of the selected ones.

Vibacom: What about short-term substantive emphasis?
VB: Attention should be focused on the market, on relationships with customers and business partners, on relations with employees and on the consolidation of internal power. In short, on people.

Vibacom: And the long-term prospect?
VB: The first important area is to ensure smooth development of the factors that allow sustainable development: innovation, human capital, social networking, social responsibility. Another important area is to ensure a smaller geographical dependence - the distribution of geographical risk and to ensure a common interest in a search for new development directions (for example: 30% local involvement, 30% regional and 30% global, 10% daring individuals). The third area is the systematic development of selected customer targets, those who notice, appreciate and pay for our key competences. And the fourth area is a continuing integration of new technologies into our daily business. However, a successful dialogue between the institutions/stakeholders is the key for the success of short and long-term prospect.

Vibacom: Should the manager lay off workers?
VB: Each crisis is also an opportunity to make selections among employees. You should lay off those, who do not participate actively, whose integrity and values are not in line with those of the company, who are not a part of key competences of the company, those whose energies are directed elsewhere.

Estera Lah, Violeta Bulc (Source: Vibacom)

Vibacom: What have we learnt in this crisis?
VB: How strongly we are all connected and how vulnerable the global economy really is. How important it is to have a spread network - more we are connected, more information we can gather and the faster we can react. This crisis showed us as well, how important is cross-branching - to keep information flow going not only vertically but also horizontally. How important it is to be really closely connected with your key suppliers and clients, which help to compensate for extreme fluctuations with a bonding based solutions. And finally, we have learnt (I hope) that economical and social freedom in the hands of irresponsible and immoral people, is a threat to all mankind. In other words, we have to invest a great deal more into the development of emotional, spiritual and social dimensions of people, not only into intellectual and physical (material and financial) to help globalization to really florish.

Vibacom: What challenges in the times of crisis do consultants face?
VB: To try to understand our clients and be a true partner at the right level, at the right time with enough different aspects that lead to (innovative) breakthroughs and right solutions. We also need to be well developed on all levels of human capital: physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and social.

Vibacom: So, where do we go from here?
VB: Please be interested in communication. Speak up, care, dare, act. Maybe you can start by writing your comments to my thoughts and we can together make a new step towards higher consciousness.

Vibacom: And the final thought?
VB: It is necessary to integrate, to cooperate more than ever before. Not only among economists themselves, but also all other social structures: political, social, artistic, scientific, media. Everyone counts. Strong inter-generational links are also necessary. Wisdom should meet with youthful boldness, best case practices balanced with the impossible. Strength is in networking. The more we are connected, the more we are free, the more strength we are able to collect, the more we calmly react. Anyone who knows, should teach and share, and be aware that his/her breakthrough is a result of collective consciousness in the space and time and therefore is part of the common good.

Vibacom: Thanks!

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Academic Worldwide knowledge is "migrating" to Slovenia

In October MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) transferred their educational online service with video content to Slovenian VideoLectures.NET web portal, the world's leading portal of this type.

VideoLectures.NET service is a result of a team of researchers at the Center for knowledge transfer in information technologies, that operates as a part of the Slovenian science Institute Jozef Stefan (IJS). MIT will be followed by Berkeley, Yale, CERN, Oxford, Cambridge, University of Ljubljana, and Harvard, which are already in a process of signing an arrangement with the Center. The Head of the Center, Mitja Jermol, told us something more about the extraordinary success of Slovenian researchers.

Mitja Jermol at Stanford after Stanford Conference in 2008, Ljubljana
(source: Vibacom)

VIBACOM: What is the Center for Knowledge Transfer? Which are your achievements?
MJ: The Center for Knowledge Transfer at the Josef Stefan Institute deals with educational, promotional and other infrastructural initiatives which connect the research side of academia and the industry. The main goal of the Center is to promote knowledge, research achievements and new technologies through various distributional models and channels. The aim of the Center is, at the same time to become an important and recognizable factor in the field of knowledge transfer and promotion of high quality educational content in Europe and the world.
We are building a "virtual learning" community to contribute to a more efficient relationship between science and industry, and promotion of Slovene knowledge within the world community. The two main projects that we created are VideoLectures.NET and IST World.
The Center develops and prepares carefully designed educational events, such as seminars, workshops, conferences and summer schools. Next year we will organize the "European Conference on Machine Learning and Principles and Practice of Knowledge Discovery in Databases (ECML PKDD)". At this event we will host 500 researchers from the field of Machine Learning. We are also on the list for hosting the 2012 major World Wide Web Conference.

VIBACOM: Universities across the world are deciding on transferring their video educational contents on your portal VideoLectures.NET. Why is your portal of such interest for institutions like MIT, BERKELEY and YALE?
MJ: Our portal is interesting mostly because no one in this field of work has such advanced technical solutions which are at the same time supported with high quality academic content and vice versa. A strong point is that all the content is freely available.

VIBACOM: What is the key advantage of your portal?
MJ: The solutions and technologies we are developing together with our partners, the links to major institutions in the field, a solid financial backbone which is provided through the EU research projects and the trademark which we provided in the last two years.

VIBACOM: Who are the main users of the portal?
MJ: The user as such is actually the worlds learning community; students, teachers, professors. Together with the technical aspect we work on establishing a network of servers within different universities around the world. With this we would like to provide easier access of these contents to students in Africa, South America and wherever the accessibility to these contents is, at the moment, just a dream.
We regard VideoLectures.NET as a "YouTube for science". The main function of both portals is quite similar, both work as web portals for video contents. The difference is that the VideoLectures.NET initiative is of high quality academic nature. We try to promote only those contents that are editorially proven through different channels like curriculums at universities, editorial boards at conferences, etc. The portal has many functionalities and has many innovative contents.
CT3 team (source: Vibacom)

VIBACOM: What was the development time span, and which were the key points?
The development of the portal had three phases, the first one being the enthusiastic beginnings and the first attempts with the camera eight years ago. After this followed an incubational period from 2005 where we built up the portal with the help of resources for educational purposes within the EU projects in which the Center was involved. Later the portal got its current appearance in 2007 and we regard this as the third phase where the major world universities decided to cooperate with us. These are Yale, MIT, Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Ljubljana.

VIBACOM: What are the next steps?
MJ: We are transforming our conceptual idea into a "state of the art" model of contents and knowledge, which are comprised of intelligent knowledge subjects, and concentrated around lectures on video. We want to support the videos with new technologies from the field of semantic and contextual web based solutions. Strategically we want to stay at the top as providers of educational contents and in the league of video providers alongside YouTube and iTunes. We want to show the world that Slovenia has many interesting people, great professors and crazy radical ideas.

VIBACOM: What does your success mean within the Slovene scientific sphere?
MJ: For the Slovene scientific scene our success is proof that Slovenes are capable of many things and that high quality science can be found here, and simultaneously is at a world level. It is a confirmation that Slovenia's mind set is not behind, but in a leading position of active trend - setting in the educational sphere. In other words as our partners at MIT commented; "We have learnt a lot from these guys!"

The CT3 team with their enthuziazm and uniqueness opened the door to Slovenian innovation on the global scale. Their success is in global integration of various stakeholders of innovation space (scientific and academic sphere, economy, law and the EU structures, ...) on a realy high-quality educational content. Their service also has a wider social dimension, as it allows access to scientific data, including those at the other end of the world, which otherwise could not be accessable.

In the name of Vibacom team.
Violeta Bulc and Estera Lah

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

From Timidity to Boldness

Mag. Gabrijela Hauptman, the headmaster of Primary school Litija, is aware of the importance of the whole concept, and also understands the strengths of individuals, the strengths of bonding and networking. She systematically encourages active relationship between parents, pupils, teachers and local community. She is a person, who creates the conditions, where children’s timidity can be transformed into boldness, into creativity and open dialogue. This is an inspiring story of a school that found an effective formula for success and happiness.

VB: Who is Gabrijela Hauptman?
She is a person of discipline and order. Her actions are clear, determined and sometimes severe. But still, in her eyes you can see a harmonious interweave of discipline, love, devotion and wisdom of a crone. When you see her eyes looking into the distance you can see that she sees beyond the immediacy of the moment. That is when you can experience her magic of the manifestation of her visions. She often stresses: " I operate within my mission. As a manager and a leader I try to emphasize and exercises values that I believe, lead to prosperity and progress.”

Miss Hauptmann manages a primary school of 500 pupils, that includes youngsters with various disabilities, physical, and mental, and also with a teaching staff off about 100. Her active approach is systematically encouraging development of active relationships with, and between all the key participants: pupils, teachers, parents, experts and local community.

VB: What is the mission of the school?
GH: The development of open environment and stimulating work conditions for all the participants, based on respect, mutual cooperation and motivation with the best possible development of potential and self respect for every individual.

VB: You have stressed the importance of values, especially a deep respect for every individual. How do you develop values in school?
GH: We work with pupils in the main school as well as within the areas of the special needs program.

The key values of our school are captured in so called Golden Rules, which are a part of the education plan. These are: respect for all people, good mutual relations, mutual help, tolerance, nonviolence, attention, diligence, knowledge, respect for rules, interweaving.

VB: Can you point out an example of interweaving?
GH: At our school, art and the academic work walk together. This is exemplified in numerous activities: vocal group, composed of pupils and teachers, a teachers` choir, composed of teachers of the school, parents and other members of community, art group for adults, in which teachers as well as other members of community are included, active participation of pupils presenting and defending their ideas in our school parliament, in school projects and more.

VB: You can not develop that kind of a relationship over night, can you?
GH: Of course not, we have been developing the value system systematically for about 15 years and are finally becoming “of age” in way of collaborating. Because this kind of initiative may not be a common one, we encourage pupils that, when they continue their education and life journeys, they continue their experiences, cognitions and values to their new communities and into new educational environments.

VB: How do you plan your programs?
GH: The main vision for planning is our manifesto "Primary school Litija - sport and cultural center", that enables pupils to gain access to top-level achievements, excellent knowledge, rich culture, pleasant atmosphere and the right conditions for personal development for every pupil." However, our new direction is to become a life-learning center, where every pupil achieves their maximum development in his/her field of interest. To be more precise, by implementing our new program, we give a huge emphasis to individual interaction with children, encouraging their strengths and development. We work in teams using the power of networks within a specific subject area as well as on the level of a school as a whole. The proof of our successes are the results of our children in high school, and the comments of employees, and even of children that come back to our school and again include themselves into our activities.

Visible achievements of the school:
  • Winners of the Slovenian competition “Europe in school”;
  • 10 golden awards in knowledge on the state level;
  • Yearly top-state team in basketball;
  • State award for school theatre;
  • Over 90% of children at least in one of the interest activities, that are more or less free for pupils;
  • 65% of children in more than 2 interest activities;
  • 80% of children captures the reading badge yearly.
VB: You are known for the program for talented students. Could you tell us something more about it?
GH: For the systematic work with talented students I have hired a psychologist, who leads work in the 1st and 2nd phase of their development, whereas in 3rd phase a pedagogue leads the work. We try hard to follow our commitment that ensures no student should be overlooked. For every identified talented student we make an individual plan, which is co-formed by parents, psychologists, pedagogues and teachers. In the 1st triad (1st, 2nd and 3rd phase) we observe all the students. We include them into activities and keep yearly records of them. Some pupils are than identified, to attend workshops for the talented. We have also started to conduct workshops, for the parents of talented students. This part we conclude with the end-of-the-year trip, where parents also participate. The key emphasis for the 3rd triad (6th to 9th grade) is on including pupils into all kind of competitions.

VB: As you have already mentioned, teachers play a key role in the success of the school. How do you motivate them?
GH: The first important step is made in the process of employment. I look for different type of people. People with diverse life experiences, who enjoy their work and who can, beside expert knowledge, bring also some extra knowledge and expertise for additional development of interest activities. I take my time with each of them; I have started with yearly discussions, I visit them personally at hospitalizations. We talk at length about the value and content of their work. We also enable their own education, regarding personal and expert development.

VB: You also invest a lot into the relationship with parents and local community. What are your experiences?
GH: An important contact with parents is our "School for parents". Among social meetings (picnics, different appearances and meeting actions) and regular expert meetings at school (5 times per year) we use also public media as an educational channel, for example local TV. About 1000 people gather at the traditional end of the school party. An important part of a good relationship with parents is also regular surveys about satisfaction, analysis of their feedback and constant program improvement based on the results.

VB: What about local communities?
GH: We try to be included in the beat of the heart of the local community as actively as possible. I work a lot on adjustment of our programs with The Center for Development Litija, Chamber of trade, local high school, local media and local companies. Above all, we participate at all local events and happenings. I motivate experts, employed at our school to take action based on their expertise also on a local level, e.g., the English teachers translated promotional leaflet for the neighboring community, on parental appointments we invite external experts, professors of the Subsidiary with special needs programs and the rest of the experts run holiday workshops with handicapped grown-ups (association Symbiosis). We cooperate with the local Youth Center, e.g., visit of the 9th grade pupils, a part of pupils and teachers artistic performance, our pupils and staff are regularly included in all kind of performances at community level.

VB: Everything you describe so far is an excellent basis for the development of an innovative environment. Is innovation among teachers and among students conscious or is it spontaneous?
GH: We try to develop it consciously. We point out all the time that we are different. Together with teachers we try to upgrade the required programs and directions and exceed them with optimal support of all talents we have. We are proud of our supplementary program where work is focused on innovation as a value. We work a lot in mixed teams with professors of different profiles. That is how we enable our children to achieve a wider and more holistic insight into themes and working areas we cover with our activities.

I encourage teachers and other co-workers to develop their basic field of work as well the additional school activities they cover. It is recommended that they continue their formal studies and go work to achieve higher qualification.

VB: You are the first school in Slovenia that has opened the door to InJo program (innovation journalism) for primary schools which has started three years ago as part of the "Litija, innovative local community" Project. What made you decide to do so?
GH: The program is very appealing to us. It is executed well and answers to our true needs. Weak point of the schools is communication. Here, InJo gave us a helping hand. Through out the program we learnt how to observe the environment, which are the good stories, how they happen. InJo has shown us that children need to be encouraged to be open, connected and daring. As a consequence I notice improvements in our communication techniques, and skills. What is especially noticeable is our relationship with the (local) media. We have a chance to remodel potentials from timidity to boldness with kindness. Children have gained self-esteem and understanding of the space and time they live in.

Forms of internal communication in the school: Checks of efficiency program execution, yearly conversations, morning briefings with assistants, weekly staff meetings and twice weekly general meetings, weekly meeting with the head teachers of all programs, yearly team planning (we gather ideas throughout the year), theme circular letters for employees, monthly meeting of the teachers` choir, weekly “open door day”, a mail box for each teacher, written (electronic) communication between 08:00 am in 12:30pm, while the declared “peace in school” is in progress and we have undisturbed time for work.

VB: What would be your message to Slovenian managers?
GH: We are the first phase in the process of development of knowledge, behavior and skills of each individual, e.g., the future employee. It would be useful, if we cooperated more and better with future employers. I would like to use this opportunity to launch an initiative for an organized meeting of business managers and managers in education and training to exchange ideas on good practices, techniques, tools, and development initiatives.

VB: What is your message to the wider community?
GH: The most important thing, especially when you are a leader, is the heart. If you work sincerely, success is inevitable. The reason for the great successes of Slovenia as a new state is the development of inner motivation. Slovenian schools are, in comparison to foreign ones, smaller. We all know each other, therefore it is easier for us to cooperate and we also consult faster and introduce changes more swiftly.

VB: Being small can therefore be an advantage, too?
GH: Certainly.

Yet another story that opened the door to recipes of success. Behind the pragmatic models, structures and diagrams there is an immense source of creativity, a desire to develop, to progress and act in an integrated way. This is another proof of the importance of the need to search for good in ourselves, our partners and members of our communities. If we only had more opportunities to listen to ourselves, to genuinely connect. That would strengthen our social capital even more. Every part counts. Perhaps the initiative towards stronger horizontal networking of all actors of (innovative) space will inspire you as well. Maybe you will respond. Walk in peace.

In the name of Vibacom team.
Violeta Bulc

More we are connected, more we are free.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

An innovative breakthrough that breakes down Slovenian taboos

Image representing Zemanta as depicted in Crun...Image by Zemanta via CrunchBaseZemanta. The story before you could be yet another interesting high-tech story. However, it is much more; it is a prime example how progressive thinking and new generation approach can seamlessly break local and national taboos and move a start-up straight into the global arena. The following ranks them amongst the greatest examples of Slovenian innovative breakthroughs:
  • The founders have been thinking global from the beginning. They didn`t start looking for confirmation at home, just the opposite, they went international right away. Like we would be listening to prof. Jose Santos`s advices (IEDC, ISEAD), who was encouraging students to firstly succeed abroad and therefore exceed the old model of needing firstly to succeed at home, then copy the model globally.
  • They started developing a product, that would satisfy global target markets and make foreign seed and risk investors enthusiastic. The solution, they were developing, didn´t grow from passion or from inner inspiration, but as a combination of rational, pragmatic thinking, viability, youthful enthusiasm, a wish to succeed and understanding the needs of those, they were trying to draw in their business cycle - customers. This is a goal of all progressive business environments: "Understand your capabilities, understand your target market and start feeding it with products and solutions, they will notice, appreciate and pay for."

This interview happened at the beginning of May 2008. The dynamics of everyday rhythm held the text in background. Meanwhile, something big, something worthwhile happened. Amongst others, their story was published in the web-newspaper VentureBeat, an interesting article about them was published by Finance, furthermore, they were members of a round table on the conference about Innovation Journalism and Innovation Communication "Stanford after Stanford 2008". We still decided to add another impulse for understanding their story. We left out some business details that you can access on their web page, or find then on the Internet. We also left out the general known truths about success, impressive financial injections. Here is "Zemanta", a team that you have possibly never heard of before.

The Zemanta team

VB: Who are the Zemanta team?
Z: The team was founded a year ago by me (Andraž) and Matjaž. When we went international, we strengthened ourselves with extra members. First with Aleš, the director, whom we needed for our growth strategy. We got news of a possible director from Great Britain, where we were also trying to get the attention of financial investors. We were a little too young and therefore we needed someone with some business experiences, to complement our energy. There are ten of us at the moment but we daily employ new people (the interviews were at the beginning of May 2008, and today there are over 40 in the group). As a group we are aware of our relative "youth" and are fully aware of the need to balance this with the experience of others longer in the field. Youthful drive and enthusiasm helped us to break through some tough walls and obstacles, but for sustainable stability we need far more than this alone.

VB: What binds you?
Z: Each of us has their own motivation. However, the vision of making a global story is very appealing to all of us. In addition, an opportunity of co-creating and manifesting our vision in a socially responsible long-term way, motivates us strongly.

VB: How to produce an innovative idea?
Z: The first joint project with Boštjan was at RTV Slovenija. There we had an opportunity to go deeply and explore the issues and challenges of mastering texts, a huge amounts of texts! A turning point for us was certainly the project called "odprti kop"(open digging), where we discovered the challenges of subtitles for the deaf-and-dumb. When we arrived at a solution, we discovered, that no one in the world had ever produced something similar before. At least not at the level of production we sought. When we sold our project we knew that the logic and knowledge, we had gained and developed, would also be useful in other fields. We developed the idea and after some interactions we managed to come up with a tool, that helps every writer of Internet content, to enrich their texts automatically (automatic connection with similar content on the Net).

VB: How do you make it happen?
Z: Ideas aren´t for free, but there is a lot of them. However, that´s not enough. It takes a great deal of commitment to carry out an idea. What is more, you have to be very persistent and strong-willed to hold onto the tempo necessary for achieving the desired results; especially team commitment to the idea was crucial for building trust by investors in order to come to a successful ending.

VB: Such projects seem to be much more than a regular job....
Z: Yes. Is is typical project work. Months of focusing yourself just on one task, constant adaptation to the latest developments in the field, to new tools, to the Net evolution. Net is alive, all the time transforming. I prefer not to mention all the sleepless nights and the parties we missed. When an idea draws you in so hard, like it dragged us, there is no time for anything else.

VB: How can you gain necessary knowledge for such an innovative breakthrough?
Z: One of the most important factors is certainly a lot of practice, and the working environment. These were two primary sources for our technological and organizational knowledge. Together we strengthened ourselves at RTV, in Kiberpipe and also with smaller projects, where the income was a bit low. We have gained knowledge from almost everywhere: at the faculty, at the Institute Josef Stefan, we read everything that fell into our hands and we believed that it would fit into our concept.

VB: Do you and Boštjan share a common background?
Z: No. Our diversity, (Boštjan is a philosopher and I´m from the Faculty for Computer Science and Informatics), was crucial for the development of ideas and response to challenges: different sight angles, experiences, models of thinking. On the other hand, both of us constantly test ideas and visions, we seize and take advantage of every opportunity that leads into something new. We also both believe that you constantly have to be open to new, crazy ideas, you have to dare to look a long way forward. Soon you realize that everything in some way, somehow, and at the right time can be manifested.

VB: Do you have any mentors, role models?
Z: Of course. You can`t work in a vacuum. You lose perspective. We spoke (and still do) to different branches (finance, investments, management, creative people that know how to evaluate users' experience). It was especially important to us to find right people for the areas of expertise where we felt weak, where we were lacking our own experiences.

VB: Why did you decide to internationalize right away?
Z: Opportunity. That was the idea from the very beginning. We saw the opportunity only in a global approach and international networking. We knew we have a great product, so we could afford to make that move. Systematically, we turned up at various fairs, venture fund events and competitions. We really made it big in London. It was a springboard into the world. It was followed by the RedHerring Award. Than the snow ball started to roll and here we are. The company is growing, our product is developing, we are reaching out to our customers.

VB: Can you gain attention from investors just with an idea?
Z: When there is money involved, you always have to show something; a prototype, something that works.

VB: Is work for you a passion or just one of the activities that you do?
Z: As a team we try to find the right relation between passion and common sense. Therefore, when we try to avoid risks we seek common sense responses; when we decide that the risk is worth taking we enter with a lot of passion.

VB: Who were your initial clients? How did they react?
Z: We had a new technology and an idea about the target customer groups. That`s how we also defined the potential investors, all the necessary connections and the generic target segment. They all responded favorably.

VB: What's next?
Z: The circumstances and target clients are now more or less settled. Our focus are now scenarios. It is essential for us to take a look at all the possible scenarios on the market and find out, where added value is maximal. We count on having all the necessary data and findings till the end of the year. And than we will move on to a new business cycle with a new focus.

VB: What does your solution bring into the Internet environment, to bloggers? Does it have any wider consequences for the Internet development as a concept? Have you been used as a reference for other developers?
Z: We are at the point, when computers are starting to understand people's needs and that is what makes the technology even more useful. If we look a bit wider: there is a lot of data about people and their work on the Net, therefore it is possible, that the computer itself will send us to an interview for a new job and suggest to us a vacation. We solve the part of the process, that enables all this, and at this point a reasonable question arise: what kind of a computer do we in fact want? A computer that needs the same explanations (what we want, how much...) all the time, or a computer that needs just a suggestion and then comes up with a solution by itself?

VB: What about you? Where are you heading?
Z: At the moment I try to function more or less on the operational level. I try to help to consolidate the business and set very clear strategies. However, we learned that we can plan just about 6 weeks in advance. After that the conditions change in a way that decisions made earlier become obsolete. Our desire is to assure our point of presence at the US west coast with the help of financiers and our nets of partners.

VB: What is Internet for you?
Z: Internet has enabled people with selected interests to cooperate as a group on the global market (there are exceptions on the local level, globally they are a group). The first bigger example was Linux, whereas Wikipedia is even a greater phenomena. One of the major challenges of the Net is not to sell itself out and get chained between the public interests, countries, companies and individuals. That has to be followed and observed all the time otherwise it can lead to monopolies (oligopolies), that would crush all existing innovation. Today we already know that there is too much information, that has to be filtrated and organized... And that is where we see our role, we won´t be out of work.

VB: What about copyrights?
Z: Copywriters and directors of networks. There are two major points of gathering the "bridge tool" on the Net. By using our solution we certainly face both daily. When we propose a connection on our clients´ blog, we have to be sure that the users can use it without breaking copyrights. We warn the blog owner, that in the case of use, it is essential to put them in order and to define the terms of usage. The users of the Net have to learn slowly that not everything is for free, but there is still a lot of work and a lot of business opportunities.

The real strategy in real hands. If only time would serve them. The approach of the team is pragmatic enough to succeed in long-term growth and development. Their mayor challenge will probably be HR; how to find the right people, those who will understand and identify itself with common sense and passion that the Zemanta team has integrated into their core. It`s worth following their story. And it is certainly fun to use their product.

Violeta Bulc and Vibacom team

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Straight from Silicon Valley

Customer Internet traffic has for the first time exceeded the Business Internet traffic, successful Internet (media) portals have 80% aggregated and 20% original content...More on that you can read on the latest from Silicon Valley in the interview with Tony Perkins. Here is his story:
Here is a video insert from the interview:
Q: Who is Tony Perkins?
Just a local boy (from Silicon Valley) trying to make a living…

Photo: Nataša Koražija

Q: How did "you" come about?
My first job was with a bank, where at a young age I was a manager of the IT department. I ended up working a lot with venture capitalists, trying to get money from them for my projects. So, I had to write a lot of documentation for them and as a result discovered I was good at it. After a few items, the way opened for me to become a journalist.

Q: Yet that was not your biggest project!
The first big media project was "Red Herring" which I sold at its peak and moved on to a new wave of Internet media. I created AlwaysOn. Yet, the global visibility I attained with my book in which I predicted the .com boost that brought me global recognition (because I was right).

Q: Your famous statement is "It is great to be an Internet entrepreneur today…". Why do you say this and, what do you really mean?
I have lived here (in Silicon valley) my entire life and I have never seen so much innovation happening at once. There is simply so much happening, and it is fun, too.

Q: Why now?
The major challenges for the first years of the Internet were to get people online, to connect them. Now it is a different story, now we can do things, invent, create…

Q: Yes?!
I can see, that we still largely use the Internet in an unimaginative way. However, lately, this has started to change. We have started to cover on the Net so many areas: feature movies, videos, text, and instant posters…. Whatever is happening in the world, we start by seeing on the Net… and that has created endless opportunities. So, yes, it is great to be an entrepreneur on the Net today…

Q: Can you give us one example of the progression you are talking about?
Check the… their latest interface is almost perfect… the quality of the picture on the Net is the same as on a TV.

Q: What is the biggest reflection of that?
Advertising on the Net is getting big… you can see it in the Valley. We have more companies involved in advertising than ever before; and that creates opportunities to make money.

Q: So, what is your latest project, AlwaysOn, all about?
It is a concept. That is my leading brand: 8 conferences, quarterly paper magazine, and daily on-line community. The idea is to combine group blogging with a social networking environment.

Q: What was your biggest challenge when you started?
Well, there was no quality software, so we first had to develop it. I did it in India. I spin it out. Now we are back in the valley. I am there a chairman. We are doing well. Our first customer was Forbs (CEO network)….

Q: So where are you heading with this?
At its core we are in the business of innovation. We follow where the VCs (venture capitalists) are investing. Currently, that is community software. We are building up a network of networks, geographically independent, a so-called, social network. It will allow you to keep your own profile, thus your own personal area will be your network. You'll be able to create your own space and at the same time this will allow you to integrate content from other networks that share the common social network.

Photo: Nataša Koražija
Q: Are you creating some sort of a pyramid?
The hierarchy is recorded at the back and is used for profit sharing from advertising. We noticed that this year a shift has happened, consumer traffic is exceeding the business. This is a significant change for the future development of Internet and the businesses on the Net.

Q: What is the future of Silicon Valley?
Ipod, Iphone, media related businesses.

Q: And the future of Internet?
One is "intelligent web" that will be able to predict your needs based on your track network. Here is a big potential. Another is an emerging customer segment – IM G (Instant Messaging Generation) that stands for "posting and sharing is cool". And finally consumer based innovation. That's where we are going….

Q: And the future of media?
80% will be aggregation (finding the right sources and collating different perspectives) and 20% original content. There is a growing part dedicated to personal opinions, dialogues, podcasts, video content seems to be the major driver of change… from a technological point of view – telephone seems to be the key consumer interface.

Tony is a simple boy from the Valley, indeed. However, at the same time, he is one of those visionaries that puts his visions into action; who puts his money in what he believes, and who makes things happen… We all have that sparkle within us… let it shine.

Tony Perkins is Creator and Editor in Chief of AlwaysOn. Tony earned this distinction as the creator and editor in chief of Red Herring, which he founded in 1993, and the AlwaysOn network, his current venture Even as Red Herring's revenues were soaring along with the rest of the technology sectors, Tony co-wrote The Internet Bubble: Inside the Overvalued World of High-Tech Stocks (HarperBusiness, 1999), a book that foretold the dot-com bust and warned investors to get out quick. The Internet Bubble became an international bestseller; a sequel was published in 2001. AlwaysOn ( is a highly interactive online network for technology insiders. Tony continues to chronicle the technology world in a regular column for the Wall Street Journal and as a television commentator for MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNN, CNBC, BBC, and Bloomberg Television. His prolific editorial output consistently lands him on the list of top ten technology business journalists by AdWeek's Technology Marketing magazine. Tony's public activities include serving on President George W. Bush's Information Technology Advisory Council. He co founded and chaired Silicon Valley's premier business and technology forum, the Churchill Club in Palo Alto, California. Prior to launching Red Herring and AlwaysOn, Tony was founder and CEO of Upside Publishing and vice president of business development at Silicon Valley Bank.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How do we innovate?

Stanford University
, 2008, day 1: How do we innovate?

The topic itself is attractive enough. However, the speakers really helped to nailed it down. I really enjoyed moderating it and here are the key points I'd like to share with you.

Innovation process evolves differently in different environments depending on:
- the issues that it is addressing,
- geo-social characteristics of the groups that are addressing it,
- eco-political situation of the environments they operate within, as well as, of the ones the needs are addressing with the innovation processes.
In addition, when talking about an innovation space, one should not overlook the following elements:
- focus funds need to be available at all stages of the innovation process,
- new business models need to be created based on the bundling networks concept and cooperation across different industries, expert groups, cultural environments,
- better managed and modeled innovation processes are needed, based on a net of networks of different experts and users needed for the completion of the process,
- new mind set needs to be encouraged, inspired (more willingness to risk, higher tolerance to failure, more playful spirits, understanding and managing the fact that the life travel of an entrepreneur is quite a lonely one – get people ready for that),
- higher cultural integration and support and higher innovation culture support.

In all of the mentioned issues, media can play a profound role, if they want to. However, they need to cooperate more on a global level (there is a need for global journalist networks – InJo is addressing just that) and they need to show more interest in understanding the technology that is in most cases the generator of change in societies. If journalist won't see a chance in this newly created global need for efficient and prompt reporting and predicting about the global disruptions, somebody else will. Is there an opportunity for a new profession based on these global needs?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Networking, profundity, playfulness –A ticket for success (even in media!)

Ljubljana skyline including Ljubljana CastleImage via WikipediaJournalism is one of those profession that, like it or not, plays a very important and profound role in the progress and development of any society. Journalistic words create value in space and time where they resonate with the readership. But, as with any other profession, the contribution and the impact of a journalist has, largely depends on the stage of his/her own personal development, wisdom, and connections. And also like any other profession, among journalists, there are many and diverse levels of personal integrity and reputation.

Nataša can seem to be a bit distant when one first meets her however, a very powerful energy and presence permeates the space, moreso when she senses the right story is in the air. She goes deep; she takes time,and engages a very systemic thinking that goes far beyond superficial understanding of the subject matter. She “does the job” before she goes public. This is her story.

VB: Who is Nataša Koražija?
NK: She is Deputy Chief editor of the business monthly publication called “Manager”, and is also the winner of the first InJo award in Slovenia.

Nataša Koražija from Manager Magazine is the first winner of the InJo award. She received the award for the best journalistic contribution on innovations in Slovenian media in year 2006. Her winning article was called »Tekstil je lahko high-tech« (Textil can be high-tech). As the award she will participate at IJ-5-The Fifth Conference on Innovation Journalism at Stanford University in California, USA in May 21-23rd 2008.

This year InJo award will be awarded at the Conference Stanford after Stanford 2008 on 2nd of June in Ljubljana, Slovenia. More on conference.

VB: How do you take care of your personal development (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual)?
NK: Is personal development, dependent on physical fitness and buying properties? I have an apartment in Savlje. If the cost of property really came down (as our mayor is promising), I would like to buy something with a garden and/ or a big porch, where my cat could freely move. My material situation also depends on the condition of the Asian stock markets: I've bought some shares in Asia and I am counting on the legendary work ethic and productivity of the Asian people. They may be lacking innovative attitudes, in which case my investment may be in trouble. Then I will be comforting myself with the thought that the progress is not based on material acquisition but on moral matters. On a more practical level, I attend yoga lessons once per week and take long walks through the fields at the north part of the city. The rest of my personal development I support by watching movies. Sometimes I watch so many movies that I even get them mixed up, but I love them.

Foto: Andrej Križ, Manager

VB: Is there any particular movie you would recommend?
NK: I recommend “Juno” due to it being an innovative view about a family and parenting. I would also like to point out »Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises« and »No Country for Old Man« by the Cohen brothers. If you skip the violence and the cruelty you can recognize quite an optimistic view. Commonality to all three movies is a child with a new perspective.

VB: They say that printed media is seriously challenged by the present time (with new business model, strategic potentials). Do you agree and how does this reflect in your work?
NK: Competition is growing in the entire media business. You can feel it at work all the time. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It allows progressive, innovative media people to come forward. I do not think that the printed media will disappear entirely. Even if that does eventually happen, the content will be re-directed through different/new channels. There will always be people that wish to know more: who would want to follow the stories behind the screens, to hear an independent voice. We are yet to see the type of business model that will be needed to reach out to those kinds of people. I think that we are in a paradoxical situation right now: there is a growing interest for independent information, yet, more and more people expect to get that information free of charge.

VB: What do you think about the cyberpunk saying: »Information Must be Free«?
NK: I personally like the idea behind it. One of the manifestations of this idea are »freebies«, but they have their weaknesses, too.

VB: Who in fact is a journalist? What is he/his role in a society?
NK: I like the segmentation of journalists into »lap dogs«, »watch dogs« and »rottweillers«.
You can find them in any society. Some always follow the stream of power and try to align with it. Their advantage is that they are always well informed. Some think that the only good journalist is the » rottweiller«. I prefer the »watch dogs«….. I can sense your next question… »What should they guard?” Shortly, the interests of common people, taxpayers. Watch out for them against the self interest of politicians, state apparatchiks. Watch out for the interests of free spirits and human rights.

Foto: Andrej Križ, Manager

VB: What about the independent media?
NK: Independent media should be independent from the state, political parties and corporations. In real life that is almost impossible. Yet, even if the media is not independent, journalist should be. That is the only real recipe for staying in the competitive game. For the time being the readership are still willing to pay for independent, high quality news. That might not be the case in the future. I do not consider this as a threat, it is more of an opportunity for new players, new models. I am following with great interest just how the music industry is responding to this »new world order« where the flow of the Internet concept seem to be even more revolutionary.

VB: How do you see the role of a journalist evolving in the future?
NK: The role has been constantly changing and evolving, yet, the core stays pretty much the same. I think that a major shift is happening in respect of content, the themes we write about. They relate to our day-to-day concerns and opportunities, therefore, today’s topics are shifting towards globalization, global warming, population migration, pollution (of mother nature and our mental space), and direct and indirect political and corporate pressures. Our approach to those topics could be an optimistic or pessimistic one. In any case it is crucially important that we are well informed about them.

VB: You received the first InJo award in Slovenia. Where does this unique approach, writing style come from? It was “InJo Writing” even before the InJo concept became known in professional circles.
NK: Thank you for thinking that way. I just try to do my job the very best way that I can; constantly seeking new perspectives that others might have overlooked. I am just lucky that that resonates with the InJo concept, as well.

VB: Does the award help you with your work? And if so, How?
NK: The biggest benefit that came out of the award was the international network that I was able to enter through the InJo Society. For example, due to the award I was invited to moderate one of the round tables at the international conference about innovation and clustering in Stockholm. I met there, people from the Stockholm School of Economics, people from the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova, and journalists from the EU that are officially covering these two topics. Some of them I've already met at the pre-conference workshop in Copenhagen. Such networks are very useful. And nevertheless, while being in Stockholm I was able to hold an interview with Harvard professor Michael Porter, which is a good thing for your CV. Yes, I can say that the award was very useful for my work and my personal development.

VB: Do you relate to the InJo concept? Do you see any point in establishing the international networks that InJo is trying to establish?
NK: Networking makes a lot of sense. Connecting people that share common interests is a ticket for some crazy ideas, some extraordinary solutions, and some new views and visions. I always welcome opportunities to learn more, i.e., how to recognize innovation in different context, how innovation processes are changing and evolving, etc. If that is InJo, then I am interested in it. I would say for myself that I am a neophile, big fan of new things, new approaches, and different points of view. That is probably a good starting point for writing about innovation.

VB: Do you see journalists as creators of critical observersation of innovation space?
NK: Both.

VB: We hear critiques that journalists consider to be a good story (and write about it) but only when it causes a lot of noise. Do you agree?
NK: I found these very generalized comments amusing. What is wrong with popularist stories? Who can judge what is a real story and what not? I like criticism when is justified and not just »out of the blue«. I know many journalists that are discovering real stories. At the same time, there is a media industry out there that is constantly producing stories about “undressed”pop stars and there will always be an audience for that, too. In every profession there is market segmentation and more and more it is becoming important for an individual to be able to choose, to select for him/herself relevant information and recognize information garbage and pollution.

VB: For whom do you write? Do you have in mind a market segment, and their specific their needs?
NK: Most of my time I have been writing for business media, with an exception that in my early days I was writing for the “local daily”. So, I try to relate in my writing to business people that are following different sources at the same time. People who are or want to be well informed and have a need for a quick, reliable and accurate information. It is crucial for my work that I do not underestimate the readership.

VB: How often do you deal with trust? Who do you trust as a source? How do you develop trust without it turning into an influence?
NK: There is always a possibility that a source will try to influence me. Therefore, it is really useful to secure comments among the opponents, a contrary view. You also have to understand that nobody passes information on to you without some sort of personal interest, or bias. Therefore, it is essential to investigate provided information from the scource and as much background evidence from enquiries as is possible.

VB: In a previous interview that I conducted, a leading wine maker Ales Kristančič said that if you want to be successful you need to be passionate about your work. Is passion present at your work too?
NK: That is quite a good marketing statement. Kristančič knows what he is doing. I do not work out of passion but with a very pragmatic approach. For every article I work very systematically, step by step. With a passion I do other things.

Nataša Koražija, is a very open-minded person, in search of points of view and visions that make a real difference. This is not only a good attitude for writing about innovation but also for life itself. While conducting and shaping up this interview I could feel all along a mixture of pragmatic, critical and what is even more important,- playful energies. It is quite likely that this last energy is the one that makes her work compellingly interesting, profound, and different.
Thank you for the inspiration.

Violeta Bulc and the Vibacom team

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wine maker with a passion and a vision

Aleš Kristančič was selected from among the top 12 wine creators in the world. His wines are present in some of the most prestigious restaurants in Napa Valley, New York, and many places in Europe. Despite the fame, he stays devoted to his inner calling, and the whispers of guidance of his soul. Without recourse to big words we entered his inner corridors; we talked to his heart, and I hope he awakens your inspiration and dreams, as well. This is his story.

VB: Who is Aleš Kristančič?

AK: Alora. A father, a husband, a wine creator.

VB: Father?
AK: Maybe not an ideal one. I know I do not have enough time for them. But, when I am with them I enjoy in their games, I am really with them. Just today we made a secret door to their secret place that they use for hiding from their friends. I get really pulled in by something like that.

VB: Husband?
AK: My wife is my Queen. And I really treat her that way. When we have our private moments I am fully present with her. I travel through life with passion and I try to show that in all situations. Because of the special type of work that we do (ps: farmers, wine makers), we have predefined days off. We go with the flow of nature. The fact that we can work together and share this flow is a very special gift of life. Since we are both part of the same story it is easier for us to coordinate our daily activities.

VB: Wine creator?
AK: Wine is my life. Even if you ask me about my hobby I would choose wine again. When I see wine I have a feeling that I hold in my hands something that belongs to my soul. There are no substitutes for things like that. Even when I was a child and I helped my dad, I always, from the first day when our farm was still a classical old farm, believed that vine was something above the rest of farming. I was always saying to my dad that the day would come when we would be opening a bottle of our wine in the best restaurants in New York. This vision was in me all the time. It was a great motivation. And it happened. For me it was a natural step.

VB: What is your motivation today?
AK: A "Spiritual" dimension. I believe that if you enter the natural processes of wine you cannot get addicted to it, you start living its cycle. We find wine in nature; and, closer to the wine of nature we become, closer to the mission of wine we are. The road to a perfect grape is through hands not through the use of chemicals. I consider myself a wine cavalier, because wine needs people that understand its character, heart and soul, someone that lives with it through the entire production cycle.

VB: Where is this vision and passion coming from?
AK: If you walk the path I have described above, the passion is an integral part of it. You live with it and you are constantly improving it. Without passion I doubt that you can be a good father, husband or wine creator. Passion is a special energy that you need to wake up in yourself. And if you focus this passion into something you love real things start happening..

VB: Who is MOVIA?
AK: My brand. Originally, Movia is the name of our farm that has successfully responded to all the challenges of times she has lived through. It is based on a last name of the original family that build the house. In 1820 the first Kristančič married into the family. I am the 8th generation. Yet the farm kept the original name - Movia. I continue this tradition and used it also as the top brand for my wines.

VB: How about your personal identity in a relation to the farm identity?

AK: When I started, the unique name of the farm helped me to differentiate myself from the rest of wine makers that had the same last name as me. At the same time I had a chance to bring fame and recognition back to the farm again. In the past it was always something special, independent, not part of the nobles property.

VB: What is innovation to you?
AK: To me innovation means trying to get back to the roots, bringing to the wine the position it really deserves. Yet, I do not think that the makers do the same. I think we should speak much more critically about the way wine is made today, how certain tastes, colour and smell is achieved, what is the true content of the process of making it. We should ask our self if the process has really been a natural one, or if chemicals have been used. We should speak more about its structure, true content. I wish that we would speak about the wine more critically, with a higher level of consciousness. Especially for the wines based on grapes. Wine is a product of nature. If we achieve it in a different way then it should be called differently as well.

VB: What about bio-wines?
AK: Bio is a symbol of certain standards that were used in a process; it represents a set of parameters that are used for evaluation. However, it does not mean that the wine is good. It just means that it was produced in a certain way. I am interested in creation of the original story, nature based taste, scent, colour.

VB: Who is then, a wine creator: innovator, an artist, or engineer?
AK: A wine maker is an artist, an artist, an artist.

VB: Movia is also part of a successful regional story. What is a secret of the success of the Medana region?
AK: In Medana I was the first to start making changes. Medana has been pushed aside for a long time. Our parents were all just there to keep the area an agricultural area. However, there was a crucial moment when I was persuasive enough to get my father to transform a classical farm into a wine farm - a vineyard. We were soon followed by 3or 4 other farmers. In a few years there were 10 farms dedicated to wine. We understood at that point that only if we are helping each other to grow can we succeed. In our "Medana group" it probably happened for the first time in the history of the region that usually stubborn farmers, with very diversified opinions decided to follow the same vision and with common goals. Today Medana is even more successful than similar regions in Italy - our model worked better.

VB: What is "puro"?
AK: This is my joy. The latest one. I believed in this wine from the very beginning. This is a sparkling wine made by a special, new type of method. It allows that even a sparking wine is a product of ripened grapes. Wine based on the method, can be ageing for ever. It can reach 100 years of age and more and still maturing. If we dedicate a little more time to it, even in the of opening of a bottle, we can give people a purity, innocence, a beautiful clear wine without a use of any sulphur. It is a perfect fellow of our life. His life cycle is longer than ours.

VB: Where next ….
AK: Seeking the path towards the real spiritual wine as described in the Bible...

I conducted this interview with Aleš in his office on the Movia farm. It was a full moon. And the senses were all opened up by the aromatic scents of he Movia kitchen, and the light breeze that was playing with magical decorations that his wife had created in the main room. There was a glass of wine too. Of puno wine. It was quite mystical, almost as Aleš himself. Farmer, wine creator, artist, a man of passion and vision. A person, who is proving at every step that he takes, just how beautiful and magical we are, and how important it is to follow the inner calls when walking the path of life.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Small moves can lead to big steps

Ouu. I am really glad that small steps are bringing big results. Small networks help the big ones to initialize the process. And it is for the purpose of learning that had initiated the following comment.
On January 22nd and 23. 2008 a conference called “European Presidency Conference on Innovation and Clusters” was taking place in Stockholm. Initially it was suppose to be done under the Portuguese presidency. Yet, it happened successfully under the Slovenian one.
In January 2007 a “small” meeting, that happened in Ljubljana under the umbrella of the European Task Group on Innovation Journalism (Sandres, Nordfors, Lund, Bulc, Ruetten, Snoj), facilitated the initial process for this conference… yes, the small groups and networks matter and they are needed as a base for the big stories …. It feels really good when you see the manifestation, when you see the results… it shows the purpose and reconfirms that the butterfly effects are happening everywhere…
In addition, the InJo winner Nataša Korajžija from Manager was invited as a guest moderator to the conference.