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I admire people who are able to focus solely on the present

Roberto Biloslavo, head of technology transfer unit, main area of research: marketing

 

  • Where were you living in childhood and where do you live now?

I grew up on the Slovenian coast. Until I was seven-years old, I lived in Izola. Then I was in Koper, more specifically in Semedela, until the end of high school. I now again live in Koper, in Žusterna. I have lived here practically since I finished my studies if I don’t count those few longer absences when I was abroad.

  • What have you studied and what were the motives for your decision?

First, I decided for the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana where I received my bachelor’s diploma in energy engineering. This was somehow a logical choice because I finished high school for mechanical technicians. In addition, I wished to design engines for some well-known sports cars manufacturers. The end of my studies overlapped with the independence of Slovenia; therefore, some of my plans, including the idea of going abroad, floated on water. I also quickly realized that due to the restructuring of the economy and loss of markets in the former Yugoslav republics, mechanical engineers were not particularly “wanted resources”, so I became employed in the IT department of the Istrabenz company. I faced new challenges here that didn’t have anything to do with what I’ve learned during my mechanical engineering degree study. This is why I decided to continue my studies in the Business and Organization master’s program at the School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana. Later, I was employed at what was then called the College of Management; the PhD study from management that followed was quite obvious. In any case, I was more fascinated by research questions from the management filed, as a distinctly multidisciplinary subject, than those related to mechanical engineering and engines.

  • How would you describe your work to someone outside your field?

I have been employed as a higher education professor for many years, and I identify the most with this role. InnoRenew CoE offered me the opportunity to try a different role – as the responsible person for technology transfer. To simplify: I connect companies in need of concrete technological solutions and innovative products with researchers from InnoRenew CoE who have already developed certain solutions. With establishment of a start-up, some innovative research ideas can also be transferred directly to the market. This would make me especially happy.

  • What does your typical working day look like?

My typical working day is mostly spent behind a computer, unless I’m in a lecture hall or at some meeting. Working with a computer is even more frequent now because of COVID-19 as most lectures and meetings are now online. With this, we maintain interaction, but it is not as authentic as it can be in a physical space. Therefore, a computer is the central point that “connects” my pedagogical and research work. I do not have a fixed schedule – it is more or less spread throughout the day.

  • What makes you excited about your work?

I am most excited about solving concrete practical problems for individual organizations. Here you can quickly see whether your proposed solution is appropriate or not as well as if you are convincing enough in communicating with representatives of the organization. These problems may not be particularly “scientific,” but they are complex and challenging because they affect people, their work, relationships within the organization, effectiveness and efficiency in general. When you notice that you can put some concepts that you have developed from theory and literature into practice and that they work, you get confirmation of your own research. It is also exciting in the lecture hall when you manage to establish a real collaborative relationship with a group of students. You feel that you are passing on something positive to the students, and at the same time, you are learning from them. All of this gives meaning to my work as an educator and researcher.

  • And what is the biggest challenge at your work?

The biggest challenge is to overcome administrative barriers, which are sometimes really very stressful. I like well-structured and organized work, but it seems to me that some rules, forms, reports and so on are becoming an end itself and are meant for some kind of control rather than for substantive content.

  • Which scientist or scientific achievement are you fascinated by and why?

Considering scientists, I appreciate some only from a professional point of view and others as personalities. For a long time, I have been one of those saps who believe that scientists are open to different views and ideas because of the nature of their work and intellectual potential – that they are critical of possible negative behaviours in society and willing to help those who are victims of such behaviour. Eventually, I found that intellectual potential is one thing and moral or empathic potential is another. Otherwise, among scientists that are close to me are those who go beyond the scope of their narrow research field and connect ideas from very different fields. I think there are fewer and fewer of them among modern scientists because they are increasingly specialized. In the field of management, I would mention classics such as Peter F. Drucker, Henry Mintzberg, Peter Michael Senge, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Dennis L. Meadows as well as some younger ones such as Kate Raworth, Simon Sinek, Dave Ulrich and Roger Martin. There are also many scientists from non-management fields and some also from so-called border areas, such as Ervin László. Above all, I would like to draw attention to Nikola Tesla, who I consider as one of the greatest geniuses and scientists in human history. All of these scientists are capable of offering a new, different view on individual research questions while showing understanding for man and his role in the natural order of things.

  • Tell us about the work of art (books, music, movies, theatre, dance, visual arts) that has a special place in your life.

Many works of art are very dear to me, especially books. I also love music and movies. But still, I would find it hard to say that they have a special place in my life; this is somehow “reserved” for those closest to me. It also seems to me that at different stages of life an individual reads or listens to different works, and these change as he changes himself. What comes first today may not be the case tomorrow. For example, in my youth I listened to rock, pop and blues musicians and Italian singer-songwriter Fabrizio De André, who was especially close to me – and still is today. Now, however, I like classics, jazz and evergreens performed by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and others. The fairy tales and fables I read to my children could possibly be ranked among the books that have a special place in my life. When you read the same fairy tale for the hundredth time, it undoubtedly occupies a very special place.

  • What have you read, listened to, or watched lately?

I have been reading a lot about Jung lately because I am preparing a monograph in which, with the co-authors, I will connect his work with the transformation processes taking place in an organization. Otherwise, I watch a lot of documentaries, which can show some historical events or natural phenomena in really amazing ways and, at the same time, offer a lot of material for further discussion or reflection.

  • Which place on the Slovene coast do you like the most?

I would rather be quiet about it because my favorite corner is where only few people go. But I can say that from this place it is possible to see the sea – this is definitely a condition for a favorite corner.

  • What makes you enthusiastic?

Everything that is in some way different, new, connected with man and his understanding of himself and the environment that surrounds him, and is wrapped in a shroud of mystery.

  • Characterize your life’s guidance or an important realization (or epiphany) you have experienced.

Most important to me is the following life’s guidance attributed to Buddha: Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment! I think there are many of us who know it well, but we have problems with implementation in everyday life. At least for myself, I can say that my thoughts stray to the future. And yet: there are far too many unknowns and events that can happen without our influence – a focus on the future is thus in many ways a fruitless waste of energy. On the other hand, it is also sometimes difficult to forget the past. The more events from the past are intertwined with emotions, the more they remain somehow glued to what we are and what we do, even though it is rationally clear to us that we cannot change the past. I admire people who are able to focus solely on the present, but it seems to me that most of these people live a life that is separate from everyday reality. This takes us, like a wave from the sea, back once, forward the second time, and, in the meantime, we are in the present only for a short time.

  • What does the charm of wood mean to you?

Wood expresses the warmth that only natural materials possess. In addition, it is pleasant to the touch and creates a touch of nature in the room, which calms people down. When I compare wood products with products made of other materials, wood products always stand out with a kind of unique beauty.