Published on newdiaspora.com
World Business Dialogue has been this one notion that most ‘disrupted’ my life for the past year. So, here is how it all started…
Last summer, on an unusually hot day for London standards, I prepared my application for ‘World Business Dialogue Ambassador’ (sounds fancy as a title, right?). I made a cute but, of course, serious video (!), in front of my university’s castle, full of enthusiasm and ambition, talking about why I am the right person to represent this year’s Convention on “Disruptive Innovation”, both in the United Kingdom and Greece. Except for one small detail I never mentioned to the OFW team; how ‘technologically illiterate’ I was. Proof of this, my ‘old-self’ who would definitely give ‘disturbance and annoyance’ as a synonym for disruption, and, who would be certain that there cannot be ‘Big Data’ that cannot fit in the Stata Data Editor. To make matters even worse, if I was asked what ‘trans-humanism’ is I would say it is some kind of afterlife condition! Despite these ‘minor technicalities’, and my high ambition relative to my abilities, the OFW Team selected me. And from that moment onwards, WBD started leaving its trace on my very own identity.
March 2014, and here I am, in Heathrow, waiting to board for Cologne, for second consecutive year, with a list of 16 brilliant Delegates from my areas, heading to WBD. Three days, during which hierarchies stop existing; well-known Speakers, Corporate Representatives, Academics, Start-up Founders and Students/Delegates fill the Convention area, they break the ice of the ‘generation gap’, they challenge the cliché of the two-way, pecuniar networking between student/potential candidate and recruiter. You can barely distinguish who is who, while people chat cheerfully, on top of espresso cups; Delegates, on one hand, seeking for somebody to believe in their ideas, and Speakers, on the other hand, longing to feel the ‘heartbeat’ of our generation. We have watched lots and lots of inspirational speeches and wise words, which I feel unable to generalize or summarize. In any case, what constitutes an inspiration can only be perceived and experienced on the individual level. The Dialogue, for me, is nothing more than the necessary framework our mind needs to give birth to an idea, expand, tailor, plan and maximize it. The truth is that during the Dialogue days, there is an explosion of ideas along with an over-supply of talent, trying to make its way to success. But you can find this in any kind of inter-generational and multicultural conference, irrespectively of the topics discussed and the field these topics apply to. Where the Dialogue differs is that it offers us a flourishing ground to move from simple conceptualization of ideas to strategic planning and gradual materialization of them. It converts us from passive listeners to pro-active creators.
All in all, the power of the Dialogue lies on its people: different Organizers and different Delegates, year after year, summing up to a unique cluster of people. People, who build and sustain a worldwide network which is by itself tangible proof of the international mobility of ideas. In business terms, the Dialogue has created a strong, self-perpetuating ‘brand’ for itself, while in economic terms, the Dialogue is a channel for the international diffusion of innovation, with positive spillover externalities for the production of further knowledge. In fact, there is this analogy, in our minds, of the Dialogue as an ‘Alumni Group’, a group, which is nourished from long-lasting friendships and love stories to business partnerships and co-founding of start-ups. A network, which in cases like Matthew’s effort from Nigeria, unites to enhance the production of innovation, in the pursuit of equal chances and canalization of technology where it is vitally needed.
As to Greece, nobody would doubt that Greek students have a remarkable potential to shine during international gatherings, as such. Indeed, my biggest reward as a representative of the Dialogue was to witness an increase in the number of selected Delegates from Greek universities, reaching number 4 this year, not including me, something that, to be honest, caused me a somewhat bittersweet feeling after seeing United Kingdom, rather than Greece, on my badge. Greece excelled this year, in WBD 2014, with its three brilliant Greek students, Panagiotis Xanthopoulos, Alkistis Daniil and Konstantinos Iliadis, and 1 Vietnamese exchange student in Athens, Hang Bui Thanh. Each one of them coming from different academic backgrounds, having in common their desire to explore the world, take advantage of the chances they are offered and bring ideas back to our homeland. Starting by Hang, I cannot but remember her emails, as one of my best ambassador memories. Her appreciation of the chance to study in Athens University of Economics and Business for her exchange semester, and her flattering words about the dedication of her Professors and the intelligence of her classmates, left me both speechless and touched. In the case of Alkistis, student of the Agricultural University of Athens, I would say it was her dynamism and self-determination that made her shine throughout the conference. As to Konstantinos, he is a student of Business Administration at University of Macedonia. I was rapidly convinced about his originality of ideas in a 2-hour workshop on design thinking, where I had the chance to cooperate with him. His proposals were voted as the most influential ones among our group peers, based on which we finally pitched our joint project. Talking about Panagiotis, I would never be able to imagine us attending WBD together, while still in our French high school. Studying Mining and Metallurgical Engineering in the National Technical University of Athens, he was one of the young engineers who enriched the Dialogue with their thought-provoking insights on disruptive innovation.
I should avow how happy they all made me with their selection and how much I learnt from our collaboration throughout the conference. All 4 of them definitely deserved a spot in WBD, just as all Greek students deserve a share of the pie in events of similar magnitude and significance. May their success be the stimuli to other ambitious students of Greek universities to pursue their academic and professional aspirations in the international scene. I am persuaded that a stronger Greek involvement in worldwide student events would restore our morale on a domestic level, while it would also continue inspiring the trust and respect of the international community to one of the most admirable human capital factors of our country, our students.
The WBD in a nutshell through the Greek delegates’ insights:
An inspiring, innovative and unforgettable journey! A chance to think out of the box and build strong relationships with people of your age from all over the world! That is a milestone of my life for sure!”
WBD was for me the most exceptional and spectacular experience in my life. The whole idea of people from all over the world coming together to exchange ideas and interact with other students, young entrepreneurs and “veterans” of the market is really incredible. And the most interesting part is that after the Dialogue you are changing as person and you become more useful for the society, a society that starving for open minded people and innovation.”
For me the WBD is a real time platform where you can converse and converge with selected individuals from almost everywhere in the world! It is a great experience and I would recommend it to anybody that is interested in widening their view and network to the worldwide economy.”