Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How do we innovate?

IJ-5 THE FIFTH CONFERENCE ON INNOVATION JOURNALISM,
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