Dr. Ichak Adizes’ interview as guest of the
Scientific Meeting,
Serbia and Montenegr

Published in the magazine Politika
September 16th, 200

Dr. Adizes, the world-renowned management specialist, opened the 3-day seminar on “Technology, Culture & Development.”

“Every time I come here (Serbia-Montenegro), I ask myself why so many people stay in the cafes and restaurants all day; Serbs don’t do that in the United States. And then I conclude the reason for that attitude is general insecurity. Serbians who leave for foreign countries are motivated; they work hard because what they earn they can keep. During the last sixty years in Serbia-Montenegro, whatever man created has depreciated over time, due to the communists, the sanctions, the war, or inflation. That’s why people think that it is better to sit in the restaurants than to do something productive. They will work hard again once trust in the stability of the state is brought back.”

This is how Dr. Ichak Adizes, one of the world’s most famous management specialists, explains the phenomenon he has noticed during his frequent visits to Serbia, where he spent the first ten years of his life. Dr. Adizes delivered an introductory lecture at the scientific seminar, “Technology, Culture & Development,” which took place in Palic. More than fifty scientists from Serbia-Montenegro and abroad participated. As a topic for his lecture, Dr. Adizes chose “How to Create a Cooperative Climate for Successful Innovation.” The cooperation issue is the main problem covered in most of the topics presented during this year’s 11th scientific seminar. It was organized by society Technology, Culture, & Development, Economic Faculty of Subotica, Electro Technical University from Podgorica, and Belgrade Center for Scientific and Technological Development-Institute, “Mihajlo Pupin.”

During his numerous interviews with journalists, Dr. Adizes pointed out that Serbians are cooperative people, full of empathy and compassion. But, he says, the value system has been threatened by the long-term state neurosis. The communist regime was not based on cooperation, and the different wars that followed buried people’s hopes for better future.

“In reality, the Serbians are not introverted or cheating, and we witness adequate social conditions for successful cooperation. I would stress that Serbians are romantic people, and if an appropriate climate that would permit them more self-confidence is created, they would easily turn to cooperation,” says Dr. Adizes.

“I hope that this ‘Chicago phase’ situation, where people believe that in order to reach economic or political success you must be a mafioso will be soon replaced with a proper institutionalization phase. It is impossible for people to completely recover immediately after such a long-term sickness. Only the mafia and people in gangs — those who break rules easily and fast-reacting people — became stronger during the period of transition. I have no idea how long it will take for this situation to calm down, and whether the European Union is going to create a protectorate here in the meantime. But I am optimistic where Serbian people are involved. They are very clever, hard-working people, and I sincerely believe that they will overcome this crisis successfully and finally achieve the stability they deserve.”

Dr. Adizes says that the main reasons for the existing imbalance between the Serbian cooperative spirit and the political and economical reality are historical and hereditary in nature.

“Human behavior is based on the sense of fear or trust. As one sociologist says, ‘For the past 500 years, the Serbian Nation has been living in fear’. Serbs imagine conspiracies against themselves, but most of the time there is no basis for feeling that way. This provokes constant paranoia and, when it continues for hundreds of years, people simply lose their self-confidence. Human behavior, when based on trust, is completely different; therefore only nations with a built-in self-confidence are capable of being cooperative. But as I previously mentioned, I am very optimistic because Serbians are clever people that learn fast. Nevertheless, they must get certain therapy to stop living in fear and start living with faith. It doesn’t take too much effort and the government must play the main role. My impression is that this government is not doing that, as we heard during this seminar. This is a time of taking and sharing instead of building. Like a parent who takes from his children instead of building something for them. This is very dangerous. I don’t know if I will live long enough to see changes in this society,” said Dr. Adizes.

In this situation, Ichak Adizes thinks that it is most important for individuals to preserve themselves and their families; after that, their companies. Instead of waiting for government solutions, the solutions should be provided by individuals in their respective fields of influence. As he did during his lecture, he gives an example:

“I have noticed an interesting phenomenon here. When you enter someone’s apartment, you see that everything is in perfect order, nice and clean. But once you step outside, you see dirtiness everywhere. I have visited engineers, doctors, and other bright people and asked why they don’t mind this dirtiness. ‘The halls are not ours,’ they answered. That attitude is what needs to be changed. What doesn’t belong to me – is ours. Where I live in Santa Barbara , my neighbor, a Nobel Price laureate, goes out collecting trash from the streets and side-walks every Saturday. It’s how he relaxes, but it shows his concern for our street, which is a common property. Not all of us are in a position to make important decisions, but we can all start by painting our halls.

Let us do that first.”