Transforming Tradition into Competitiveness and Innovation

Tuesday, 25/05/2021

The co-existence of tradition and innovation at the heart of the 2nd Annual Symposium of the SEV Center of Excellence in Creative Leadership

Stimulating discussions, distinguished speakers and high participation were the elements of the 2nd all-day Symposium in Creative Leadership that was rolled out in hybrid form and broadcast live from the Lighthouse of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center on May 13.


The event was themed “Transforming Tradition into Competitiveness and Innovation” and organized in the context of the “Learning Alliance” in cooperation with Alba Graduate Business School, The American College of Greece. The event coincided with the third anniversary of the Center’s operation and featured a wide selection of Greek organizational examples of transforming tradition into creativity and innovation.

In the total of seven sessions that took place, top executives from Greek enterprises, which have left an impressive mark both domestically and abroad, analyzed the history and vision of the enterprises they are in charge of and shared their perspective and experience on the power and inspiration that entrepreneurship can draw from tradition in combination with creativity and innovation.

The Symposium opened with welcome remarks by the General Director of SEV, Alexandros Chatzopoulos, who —commenting on creative leadership— said: “One of the greatest prerequisites in order to upgrade the country, and not just the economy, is the continuous and lifelong quality learning, as well as the upskilling of people, which, in our days, encompasses all generations regardless. From transitioning to sustainable growth, which is not only a title but demands consistent work and changes on the part of the enterprises, to technological developments that are constantly evolving, creative leadership, that is our ability to change, to create and to innovate, is the thing that will give us the possibility to reposition ourselves in a multi-faceted and highly competitive world.”

In his remarks, Chairman of the Alba Board of Directors, Stelios Argyros, speaking about this year’s Symposium, commented among others: “It may sound contradictory to discuss tradition at an age where so many technological and entrepreneurial disruptions take place, however tradition and creative leadership and the value advantage of excellence mesh/blend in the best possible way in order for us to create innovation and competitiveness. What we are trying to convey to the business world is the need to identify tradition with creative leadership and the content of values.”

Speaking on the value of lifelong learning, the President of The American College of Greece, Dr. David G. Horner, said: “We believe that education must play a key role in equipping individuals, organizations, and, ultimately, societies, with the abilities to adapt, to reimagine, to reinvent themselves.”

During the Symposium’s first session themed: “Organizational tradition as an enduring relationship” coordinated by the Director of the SEV Center of Excellence in Creative Leadership and Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Alba Graduate Business School, Dr. Charalampos Mainemelis, the Vice President of ION S.A., Mr. Efstathios Loizos, and Marketing Director of Papoutsanis S.A., Ms. Eirini Chatziioakeimidou, discussed the role of creativity and innovation in the evolution of iconic brands. The two speakers agreed that the successful maintenance of the enduring relation between iconic products and consumers is built on trust, which in turn relies on the consistency and effort of enterprises to remain relevant without losing their authentic elements and values.

In the session that followed themed “Research and new knowledge”, Director of Research and Development of Apivita S.A., Dr. Konstantinos Gardikis and Mr. Yannis Mandalas, CEO at Mediterra SA, and the Chios Mastiha Research Center, exchanged views of the role of research in the evolution of traditional production techniques and the transformation of traditional raw materials into innovative forms of new products. Moreover, they discussed how the research of tradition can create new forms of knowledge that allow in turn enterprises to leverage the development of a distinct identity and calibrate their competitive depth.

The third discussion with the topic “Greek tradition as a competitive advantage” was coordinated by Ms. Angeliki Karavasili, Research Fellow of the SEV Center of Excellence in Creative Leadership and Alba Graduate Business School. The discussion panel consisted of the following guests: Ms. Afrodite Florou, co-founder of Anassa Organics, Head of Security and Front Desk Department at the Museum of Cycladic Art, Ms. Barbara Karpodini, and the Marketing Director of Grecotel S.A., Mr. Yannis Tsichlis. The speakers highlighted the value of creativity in the promotion and leveraging of cultural works, natural resources and other timeless elements of the Greek tradition, as well as the importance of showcasing the Greek tradition as a complex nexus of experiences and meaning.

Professor Charalampos Mainemelis took once again the co-ordinator’s seat for the fourth discussion, themed “Tradition as an entrepreneurial reorientation” featuring guest speakers Messrs. Vasilios Papagiannakos, Winemaker and Owner of the Papagiannakos Winery, and Zafeiris Trikalinos, Owner of Trikalinos Co. The two speakers discussed the dual role of creative leadership in maintaining and revisiting tradition, as well as  the importance of bold leadership decisions in the re-orientation of entrepreneurial tradition towards new, sustainable and competitive horizons.

Alba Dean and Professor of International Business and Strategy at Alba Graduate Business School, Konstantinos Axarloglou, co-ordinated the following discussion, themed “The long tradition of Greek entrepreneurship.” The panel discussion featured Director for Employment and Labour Market Affairs, Mr. Christos Ioannou, Sustainability Director of ELVAL S.A., Mr. Ioannis Koufopanos, CEO of M.G. Chryssafidis SA ., Mr. Alexandros Makridis, and the Director of Group Innovation and Technology and Member of the Executive Committee at TITAN Cement Group, Mr. Fokion Tasoulas. The speakers referred to the decisive contribution that the organization’s value tradition makes in the empowerment of its distinct identity. They also analyzed the traditional characteristics and new challenges of Greek entrepreneurship.  

Director for Employment and Labour Market Affairs, Mr. Christos Ioannou, said: “We are here for the second year and are trying to offer answers together with the market protagonists and enterprises – together we can profile the production history of Greece in order to have imitators. Ιt is important to support the novel entrepreneurial tradition as it is the one that has created growth.”

The next session focused on “a Greek case study of creative tradition since 1879,” namely Boutari Wines. Professor Charalampos Mainemelis welcomed Dr. Yiannis Vogiatzis, General Manager and Chief Oenologist, Mr. Constantine S. Boutaris, President and CEO, and Ms. Marina Boutari, Commercial Director of Boutari Wineries. The speakers discussed in depth the role of research and development in the promotion of indigenous grape varieties and the connecting link between tradition, locality and global orientation. As the speakers highlighted, the company insisted systematically on the research for the development of qualities that are acceptable by Greek and foreign visitors, incorporating tradition in the new trends, and leveraging tourism as an alternative means to exports.

In the seventh and last session, titled “Tradition as creative revival”, Mrs. Lydia Vousvouni, Head of Design at Zeus + Δione and Mr. Alexandros Efklidis, Theatrologist, Director and Artistic Director of the Alternative Stage of the Greek National Opera, discussed with the co-ordinator, Professor Mainemelis, about creative ways of refreshing and reexpressing tradition. During the discussion, the speakers presented their experiences related to reworking elements of the past with fresh eyes and then incorporating them into what is new.

Watch the full 2nd Symposium of the SEV Center of Excellence in Creative Leadership

Download the Symposium's booklet with the agenda & speakers bios (in Greek)


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