Out of the Box Thinking―Fixing Greece

Business Partners asked leading thinkers to suggest innovative ideas and suggestions on how Greece can—indeed must—reform a variety of its institutions to emerge successful from today’s deep crisis.
Our Thought Leaders have responded with bold and unorthodox solutions—out-of-the-box ideas—that Greece might adopt.


Building Civic Capital—One Step at a Time

Targets and Actions in Culture

From Tactical Fragmentation to Strategic Integration: The Open Innovation Diplomacy Concept and The Hellenic-American Innovation Bridge

Building Civic Capital—One Step at a Time


In the fall of 2009, I was asked which aspect of the developing Greek crisis was scaring me the most. I had replied, “The fact that this is viewed primarily as a financial crisis and not as a cultural one.” Since then, many things have occurred to confirm my fear. During the last two years, I watched my country’s collective behavior reduced to that of a drug addict. In our case there was no heroine involved; just quickly disappearing credit.  Credit so cheap in fact, that it has been utilized as a drug to hide the frightening ailments of an addicted society. Fortunately, we now clearly see the enemy and the enemy is us.

The lack of civic capital (and not monetary one) is what brought Greece to its current state of affairs and what will make the eventual recovery slow and painful. Civic capital can be defined as the collection of the necessary ingredients for a well-functioning society. The rule of law, institutional and interpersonal trust, cooperative ability, societal values and long term goals are core components of civic capital, components however that are only vaguely found in Greek society today.

While times like these require responsible and effective political leadership, it is not what will pull us out of the current quagmire. Instead, building civic capital, one simple step at a time, with all societal stakeholders involved is what will move the country towards progress once again.

One area of the society that desperately needs a transformation is Greece’s legal framework, which is not only inefficient, but creates a breeding ground for systemic corruption. One way to address these problems is to simplify processes. There is no need to “fast track” a few big foreign investments, instead what we need is to eliminate the need for “fast track” altogether.

Besides enforcing the rule of law, the government has to ensure that the legal framework itself doesn’t often prove impossible to comply with, as is the case right now.

It is also vital that society understands that a system that was developed over the course of several decades will not change in a year or two. Repeated protests against government policies and regulations are fruitless if not accompanied by realistic propositions. The protestors are often simply expressing blind destructive anger which is completely devoid of any reason.

We have to stop following or tolerating bad practices just because “everybody else is doing it.” Given the extent of the problem, it is often very difficult and unrewarding at a personal level to do the right thing, however it is extremely valuable from the perspective of civic capital.

We need to take a deep breath, exchange anger for reason, cursing for constructive suggestions, and not let what we perceive as collective behavior, take over our consciousness.

Targets and Actions in Culture


Strategic targets


In the context of this unprecedented social and economic crisis, it is urgent for both the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education to start developing dynamic and intensive collaborations—on diverse projects—with eminent Greek academics in the U.S. (see below).

Promotion of Sophisticated Cultural
Systematic decrease in the (currently almost exclusive) promotion of “popular” (in the sense of “λαϊκιστικός”) Greek culture (e.g. in art, music, etc.), which dominates the way in which foreigners see and think about Greece. Promotion of non-“popular,” sophisticated Greek cultural production, which has most often been ignored.

Although my current academic research mainly focuses on the complexities of social and cultural politics of Greek antiquity, I argue—in a rather unorthodox manner—that it is urgent that there be systematic and constant emphasis (not on the ancient Greek cultural heritage, but instead) on numerous underexplored aspects of medieval, early modern, and modern Greek intellectual history and cultural production and their contribution to world cultural heritage.


  1. Creation of a dynamic network of eminent Greek academics/thinkers abroad, especially in the US (in the past several decades, Italy created such networks abroad). This network should foster the creation of international and Greek task forces as well as of coordination centers, which would plan major initiatives and systematic action for the promotion of Greek culture abroad.
    If possible, academics’ institutions (that is, the University departments these academics are affiliated to), or other sources (endowments/donations, NGOs and governmental subsidies)
  2. Promotion of works of important contemporary thinkers like Castoriades, Poulantzas, and Axelos (among others). Organization in the U.S. of international symposia and lectures on their work and on its impact on contemporary cultural and critical discourse.
    If possible, academics’ institutions (see above), or other sources (endowments/donations, NGOs and governmental subsidies)
  3. Establishment of transnational research centers together with other countries with important ancient civilizations (especially China) to investigate—in cross-disciplinary ways—parallel cultural phenomena and their diachronic and synchronic shaping.
    Governments, major Universities in the US, UNESCO, EU, NGOs, private funds
  4. Creation of a major interdisciplinary research center together with Israel to investigate the phenomenon of the Diaspora and its contribution to cultural exchanges and intercultural discourses. Collaboration between universities in the U.S. (like the Cultural Politics Program at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University), in Israel (like the Haifa University) and in Greece (like the Panteion University) to create academic research- and exchange-programs on the cultural politics of Diasporas and the construction/creation of national, regional, and international identities.
    UNESCO, NGO funding, Governments, donations/endowments
  5. Systematic promotion of Byzantine and Early Modern Greek architecture and other major cultural traditions – (not only of ancient Greek cultural traditions).
    Funds from the Church of Greece, GNTO, Tourist Agencies, the EU, Hotel Owner’s Association of Greece
  6. Translation of works written by Greek thinkers/writers between the 15th and the 19th century, which should become accessible to foreign scholars and readers.
  7. Subsidization of translation services supporting contemporary Greek scholarship in the Social Sciences and the Humanities.
    Donations/endowments, EU (e.g. GD Education and Culture), UNESCO, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education, NGO funding.

From Tactical Fragmentation to Strategic Integration: The Open Innovation Diplomacy Concept and The Hellenic-American Innovation Bridge


Developed and developing economies alike face increased resource scarcity and competitive rivalry. Science and technology increasingly appear as a main source of competitive and sustainable advantage for nations and regions alike. However, the key determinant of their efficacy is the quality and quantity of entrepreneurship-enabled innovation that unlocks and captures the pecuniary benefits of the science enterprise in the form of private, public or hybrid goods. Entrepreneurship and Innovation are human endeavors and socio-economic phenomena that are intrinsic to human nature as well as constitute both social and political engines of positive change and growth provided they are balanced and guided by effective and transparent regulatory and incentive systems in place.

Current local (Greek), regional (European) and global economic and financial conditions and trends make the need to trigger, catalyze and accelerate high quantity and quality entrepreneurial initiatives that are based on high quality and quantity innovations (low-tech, medium-tech and high-tech) even more clear and present as this is one of the major ways and means to target and achieve real, sustainable and eventually accelerating GNP growth. Such growth is much more likely to come from new and qualitative different and superior initiatives (from “sunrise” industries) rather than re-structuring existing (and perhaps “sunset”) industries. It may be strategically more prudent to invest scarce and precious resources in carefully calculated strategic “bets” rather than keep throwing them after waning industrial sectors and declining firms and in that sense, it may be best to provide aggressive socio-economic re-training, re-insertion and/or early retirement programs to allow for real growth strategies to be implemented.

Democratic Capitalism

Moreover, we believe that the concepts of robust competitiveness and sustainable entrepreneurship (Carayannis, 2008) are pillars of a regime called “democratic capitalism” (Carayannis and Kaloudis, 2009) (as opposed to “popular or casino capitalism”), where real opportunities for education and economic prosperity are available to all and especially the younger people (but not only).

This would be the direct derivative of a collection of top-down policies as well as bottom-up initiatives (including strong R&D policies and funding but going beyond that to the development of innovation networks and knowledge clusters across regions and sectors (Carayannis and Campbell, 2005).

In this context, linking university basic and applied research with the market, via technology transfer and commercialization mechanisms, including government-university-industry partnerships and risk capital investments, constitutes the essential trigger mechanism and driving device for sustainable competitive advantage and prosperity. In short, university researchers properly informed, empowered, and supported are bound to emerge as the architects of a prosperity that is founded on a solid foundation of scientific and technological knowledge, experience, and expertise and not in fleeting and conjectural “ financial engineering” schemes.

Open Innovation Diplomacy

Building on these constituent elements of technology transfer and commercialization, Open Innovation Diplomacy encompasses the concept and practice of bridging distance and other divides (cultural, socio-economic, technological) with focused and properly targeted initiatives to connect ideas and solutions with markets and investors ready to appreciate them and nurture them to their full potential. More specifically, Open Innovation Diplomacy leverages Entrepreneurship and Innovation as key drivers, catalysts and accelerators of economic development and envisions in particular the development of efforts and initiatives along the following axes concerning in particular the socio-economic condition and dynamics in Greece currently (excerpted from Carayannis, Keynote Lecture, BILAT, Vienna, Austria, March 2011).

The What

  1. Re-engineer mindsets, attitudes and behaviors in Hellas to help people—and especially the younger ones —realize the true nature and potential of innovation and entrepreneurship as a way of life and the most powerful lever for and pathway to sustainable growth and prosperity, with positive spill-over effects staunching the braindrain, reduced cynicism and increased optimism and trust in the future and each other, reduced criminality and social unrest, higher assimilation of migrant groups and similar effects.
  2. Engage in sustained, succinct and effective dialog with stakeholders and policy makers within Hellas as well as the European Union to pursue the reform and as needed re-invention of institutions, policies and practices that can make flourish entrepreneurship and innovation in areas such as related laws, rules and regulations, higher education, public and private Research and Development, civil society movements and non-Governmental organizations.
  3. Identify, network and engage purposefully and effectively with the Hellenic Diaspora professional and social networks around the world to trigger, catalyze and accelerate their involvement and intervention in a focused and structured manner to help with goals 1 and 2 above as well as help establish, fund and manage entrepreneurship and innovation, promoting and supporting initiatives and institutions such as business plan competitions, angel and other risk capital financing of new Hellenic ventures, mentoring of and partnering with said ventures to ensure their survival, growth and success both within Hellas and in the global markets. Of particular interest and importance would be communities of practice and interest among the Hellenic Diaspora that would include the shipowners, large trading concerns, and technology entrepreneurs in countries such as the U.S., Canada, Australia as well as the European Union and the rest of the world.

The How

Greek companies (especially small- and medium-size firms) need to begin with as high quality tools and expertise at their disposal (in terms of business planning, risk capital financing guidance and sources as well as strategic partners, complementors, suppliers and customers—in short a business ecosystem they can thrive in both locally, regionally and globally).

  1. This should begin with a mindset shift from only short-term, survival mode thinking which is normal for entrepreneurs especially in their early business stages to more strategic, globally as well as locally attuned thinking and acting which nowadays could be greatly enabled and empowered via social networking tools and methodologies as well as blended (real/virtual) teaching/learning./consulting/mentoring environments.
  2. Moreover, in the case of a country like Greece, a local, regional and global perspective would be critical, given the small size of the local market. In this regard, Greece should pursue an effective and efficient strategic integration of its knowledge-generating assets in the universities (this is also further discussed) as well as its industry and its government sectors and leverage them fully along with EU and Greek Diaspora resources, expertise and experience to promote the creation of a new breed of start-ups (preferably—but not exclusively—as high technology as is sustainable technologically and commercially).
  3. These start-ups would aim to form a critical mass of an entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem in the form of locally and globally inter-networked and competitive firms that would more organically and sustainably allow Greek innovators and entrepreneurs to tap and expand into the world’s markets while remaining, researching, and creating in Greece.
  4. I have called this concept “co-location” in the sense that it aims to retain the knowledge creators and potential entrepreneurs based in their mother country while enabling them to set up a bridgehead and become active in larger markets such as the U.S. I have been doing this for the last five years with some success with Hellenic high tech spin-offs from Research and Development Centers and Universities in Greece co-locating in the U.S.
  5. A balanced approach with a win-win-win mindset is key, combining short-term with long-term considerations. People, culture and technology need to be organically aligned so that resources used lead to results obtained in as short-term a context as possible to establish credibility and gain cooperation and support from civil society.
  6. For that, top level champions are needed as well as a strategic leveraging of social networking structures and infra-structures. In the past, regions around the world—whether the Silicon Valley in California, or the Route 128 region in the Boston area or others—have been identified as success benchmarks for innovation and entrepreneurship—however, simply emulating those has not always led to successful results as people and culture are finicky and there are higher order inter-dependencies and complexities involved.

    Ministry for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  7. Here are some ideas as to how to set up policies and frameworks to provide as conducive as possible conditions for the creation of a sustainable and competitive Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ecosystem:
    • Advocate the need for a non-political, institutionally and meritocratically established entity that would function as part of the government in Greece and all other EU countries and could be called “Ministry for Innovation and Entrepreneurship” but set up in a flexible manner to avoid becoming part of the problem.
    • Advocate the need for an “Ombudsman for Entrepreneurs and Innovators” with proper authority, visibility and resources to intervene and resolve barriers to Innovation and Entrepreneurship (E&I) in Greece and across the EU (this is the institutional civil society role in support of E&I as part of the Quadruple Innovation Helix concept (Carayannis and Campbell, International Journal of Technology Management, Spring 2009) – government, university and industry working effectively with civil society to support and promote E&I).
      Global Hellenic Diaspora Angel Investor Network and The Global Hellenic Diaspora Bond Issue for Entrepreneurs & Innovators
    • Advocate the need for high caliber volunteers among the Hellenic Diaspora as mentors as well as potential risk capital investors and strategic partners—in this context, I would propose forming a “Global Hellenic Diaspora Angel Investor Network” and “The Global Hellenic Diaspora Bond Issue for Entrepreneurs & Innovators” and to have the funds managed by a professional entity that is subject to the Diaspora members in a transparent and efficient manner. The intent would be to allow for a pooling of resources, so along with large scale donations, many small-size but cumulatively substantial contributions could start being made on a streamlined and sustainable basis and always focused on supporting and promoting Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiatives and efforts (a working case of that can already be seen in Denmark where a micro-finance and micro-enterprise fund—“My C 4”—is already succeeding to pool thousands of investors with thousands of entrepreneurs leveraging social networking and clear vision and execution (www.mc4.org).

    Entrepreneurs of the Mind

  8. My descriptions of entrepreneurs and academics, based on 20 years of experience working with academics as well as entrepreneurs, are as follows:
    • that entrepreneurs exhibit strongly the attributes of “obsessed maniacs” focused on realizing their vision and “clairvoyant oracles” seeing the opportunities and how to exploit them ahead of all others and being able to share that vision effectively with their key partners, investors and other early stakeholders (Carayannis, GWU Lectures, 2000-2010, Carayannis and Formica, Intellectual Venture Capitalists, Industry and Higher Education, 2008)—case in point is someone I met at the Innovation-driven Entrepreneurship conference in Vilnius recently—Daniel Williamson and the venture “Connections” he is helping develop further (www.cnx.org).
    • that academics ideally should be “entrepreneurs of the mind in the business of growing people intellectually and spiritually” (Carayannis, Higher Education Manifesto, Industry and Higher Education, 2007)—facilitators of a lot of “happy accidents”, that is knowledge exchanges and partnerships being spawned in the context of this event.
    • Based on these descriptions, one should aim to inspire, empower and liberate the individual aspiring entrepreneurs (whether academic researchers and/or graduate students in science and engineering as well as other fields) to dare to dream big and dream in scientific/technological as well as commercial terms and to dare to take the next huge step of forming a company and asking people to invest in their dreams.
    • One of the ways to do so would be to establish across all of Greece’s universities inter-linked, complementary and reinforcing, cross-disciplinary graduate degrees focused on Entrepreneurship and Innovation with emphasis on practice and aiming to produce at their conclusion working prototypes in the related science and engineering fields of the participants (from medical devices to agricultural techniques to software programs) and provide support and guidance for proper follow through leading to the establishment of intellectual property rights (patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets) as well as the formation of companies to commercialize those prototypes. These companies should be supported by Advisory Boards as well as potential investors from both internal/domestic networks as well as the Hellenic Diaspora including the Global Hellenic Diaspora Angel Investor Network and others.

(Includes excerpts adapted from a longer version published in the Springer journal of the knowledge economy, September 2011 as well as the international journal of innovation and regional development, December 2010)

One Response to «Out of the Box Thinking―Fixing Greece»

  1. May 06, 2012 at 12:22 am, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Sustainable Growth and the Role of Universities | Alive Learning said:
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