The Power of Challenge.
This was the theme at 2017 EuRA International Relocation Congress in Warsaw, Poland.
Prior to the event I didn't give it a whole lot of thought. Perhaps it was just another empty buzz phrase, a flavour-of-the-week tagline that would do the trick in a pinch as well as any other.
Coming out the other end, I know Warsaw to be a living, nay, flourishing before-and-after, and contemporary case study of mastering the Power of Challenge, as apropos for a nation and its capital, as for the organization and the industry that descended upon it last week.
Gone were the turquoise waters and blinding sun of previous conferences; because that's not challenging. Warsaw answered the call with grey skies, cold wind and hard rain.
I'm a relatively recent convert to the gospel of perceiving constraints as advantages. As one of the business tomes I read illustrated, "Say something funny" is a paralyzingly difficult demand to put to someone. "Tell me a knock-knock joke" is an almost insultingly simple request.
The Polish people appear to have continuously applied this maxim, albeit in a more serious context, to their unique history straddling ideological, military, cultural and socio-economic pivot points.
Despite the staggering impact of the exhibits, it's genuinely difficult to stay crestfallen after a sobering visit to the Warsaw Rising Museum (Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego).
Once our eyes adjust to the light, uplifting evidence abounds reflecting the indomitable spirit of Poland, and its many contradictions. Poland has thrived existing at the cross roads of not only east and west, but old and new, freedom and suppression, war and peace, yesterday and tomorrow.
Warsaw as a city is the embodiment of architectural schizophrenia, but it somehow comes across as stylish flare and originality in the same way the city embraces its many other contradictions.
The myriad avant-garde skyscrapers that have sprouted up over the past decade are even more striking to the extent that they signify a bold statement thrust alongside the repetitive rows of low-rise concrete housing and administrative abominations from the communist era. Both are poignantly juxtaposed against the meticulously restored accents and adornments of the Old Town.
Dziękuję Ci for the (Foggy) Memories
As far as languages go, Polish is one of the more challenging I have encountered. In three visits, I've come away with only two words which is a sad reflection on so many levels.
Like most Slavic languages, vowels are used with extreme economy and pronunciations are not entirely intuitive. It was days before I realized the phonetic "jen-kwia" I'd awkwardly been offering up as "thank you" all week, is apparently spelled "Dziękuję Ci".
That wouldn't have been my first guess. Or my tenth, to be completely honest.
There are exceptions and some words are easier than others. Tragically, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the second word, "alkahole", I deduced (all by myself) is Polish for Alcohol.
After a night sampling local spirits, it might also be a cautionary moniker for what certain among us came dangerously close to becoming. As in, 'What an alkahole'. Or, more precisely, 'Don't look now but here comes that tall alkahole from Canada. Is he singing about insurance?'
Buns of Steel.
Some years ago EuRA instituted a recurring session to foster dialogue between Destination Service Providers(DSPs) and Relocation Management Companies(RMCs) - each suitable proxies for any industry where small passionate business owners seek respect and understanding from the corporate multinationals who contracted their services, who in return demand a base level of professionalism.
An inspired-idea, that, the RMC DSP Forum when first introduced in Edinburgh required more tactical security forces and medical field staff than anyone ever imagined.It was a veritable bloodletting.
In certain circles, it was henceforth casually referred to as The Bun Fight, a UK colloquialism for an unsupervised melee such as one might have experienced at in an elementary school dining hall.
EuRA Growing Up So Fast
In a previous article here I may have inferred that my attendance evidenced a noble desire to develop a comprehensive understanding of the industry, the evolving needs of clients and prospects blah blah blah…
While there may have been a grain of truth at one point, today I confess that a good part of me was there for the sheer entertainment of it all. Like an erstwhile Roman spectator cheering on the lions I sat ringside being entertained at a relatively safe distance wearing a suit that I was probably going to replace soon anyway.
Subsequent years were undermined by tone-deaf, ham-fisted and decidedly non-entertaining efforts to avoid Bedlam. If Edinburgh was a toddler's tantrum, one could make a case that Porto was cute-but-ineffectual child-like innocence and Malta was annoying-adolescent-insecurity.
In Warsaw, on theme, EuRA rose to the challenge an everyone acted like an adult. A veritable rite of passage for the organization and perhaps a bellwether of a coming-of-age for the industry.
Despite all of this decorum and composure, it was as entertaining as it was informative. Although I wouldn't have objected to some good old fashioned eye-gouging.
I suppose we can look forward to some sort of mid-life crisis next year. The only question how does one personify extravagant purchases and infidelity in a conference seminar. Perhaps the metaphor ends there, as it should.
But the again…it's in Dubrovnik, set location of Game of Thrones, so blood may not be entirely off the menu, so to speak.
Like Poland, EuRA has exploited the Power of Challenge and embraced its contradictions.It has surviving the Icelandic volcano the name of which I can't remember, pronounce or spell,and harmonized large and small business interests, developed and emerging economies, and northern and southern conference venues.
It's now abundantly clear to me that both the theme and venue were as intentional as they were insightful.
The weather, on the other hand, was just good luck.