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“SPOZNAJ” – Relaxed Discussions about Science: “A competent person is liberated by responsibility!”

It is glaringly obvious that our society is facing a crisis of competent leadership, especially when it comes to politics but also in public institutions, the economy, etc. The focus of this conversation that took place within the framework of the “SPOZNAJ – Relaxed Discussions about Science” organised by the Science and Research Centre Koper and the Koper Theatre, was the question of competence expressed as the possibility of using one’s own knowledge, experiences, and values in the process of achieving a goal or resolving a challenge or a problem, both in the professional and in the private environment – in the field of economy, the private or the public sector, politics, sports, etc.

Young people are provided with extremely poor examples of what knowledge and competences are for, and why they are needed. Numerous are examples where the knowledge obtained is no longer reflected in the appropriate financial compensation, which causes further decreased motivation for acquiring competences. The exploding development of information technologies and artificial intelligence dictates new and urgent adjustments of schooling, employment, and remuneration.

This past Thursday, Professor Rado Bohinc, PhD (Law Institute, Science and Research Centre Koper), Ms Marta Kelvišar (CEO of Adria Dom, 2023 Manager of the Year), Iva Jurov, PhD (MD, Clinical Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine), and Professor Roberto Biloslavo, PhD (Institute of Behavioural Economics of the Science and Research Centre Koper and the Faculty of Management at the University of Primorska), as well as other participants present in the Koper Theatre, held a critical discussion about the future role and importance of knowledge and competence as a crucial lever of general social responsibility. The conversation was steered and moderated by Professor Rado Pišot, PhD, CEO of the Science and Research Centre Koper.

The introductory address was given by Mr Aleš Bržan, Mayor of the Municipality of Koper.

The discussion initiated a critical reflection on the necessary relationship between knowledge and behaviour, while focusing on employment, personal, social, and emotional competences, since the possibility of collaboration and teamwork, willingness to cooperate with and help one another, and the readiness to transfer one’s knowledge to other members of the group are just as important as employees’ professional competences when it comes to creating a successful, socially responsible and content society or company. The participants were interested in the competences of a good manager, especially in terms of values as an integral part of these competences. Social responsibility as a lever of the quality of life and satisfaction of citizens was presented through the prism of competences.

“At their core, competences are a combination of what we know (knowledge), what we can do (skills), and how we approach tasks and interactions with others (attitude). They shape our ability to operate effectively in a given context. When individuals use their competences for the benefit of the broader society and not just for their own personal or commercial gain, they can become agents of positive change. The challenge, however, is how to cultivate these competences in a world where individuals often act irrationally because of cognitive biases, emotions, and social influences. In terms of social responsibility, behavioural economics draws particular attention to the strong penchant towards the current situation, in which people disproportionately prefer to choose smaller, immediate rewards rather than more important ones that would come at a later point in time. All this can discourage the adoption of the steps necessary to reduce environmental risks and take social responsibility,” said Professor Roberto Biloslavo, PhD, Head of the Institute of Behavioural Economics of the Science and Research Centre Koper and tenured professor at the Faculty of Management at the University of Primorska.

Iva Jurov, PhD, MD, a specialist in the field of occupational, traffic and sports medicine working at the employed at the Clinical Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine, touched on the competence in the field of health during the post-COVID crisis; according to her, “some individuals appreciate health even more after the COVID crisis, which is especially true for people who have fallen ill themselves or whose loved ones got sick, while others, on the contrary, appreciate their health even less than they used to. This mainly includes individuals who considered the crisis from the point of view of everything that has been taken away from them.” She believes that the COVID crisis would be significantly easier to get through if all individuals were acting responsibly towards themselves and the society at large.

“Competence is extremely important for the development of society. Part of the competence is established by the society itself, with the education system at all levels. In Slovenia, we can boast a sufficiently high-quality education system, and we can also claim that a large part of the population is involved in higher education; in this regard, we are ahead of the curve compared to other OECD countries. It is true, however, that competence is taken into account to a much greater extent in the private sector, compared to the public sector. In the private sector, company managers follow the development of human resources and treat those resources as best they can, which is related to their efforts to maximise profits. In the public sector, especially where the State represents the majority, the situation is unfortunately dissimilar: the deformation that are occurring are most often understood as examples of political staffing, where the key criterion for choosing people for positions of responsibility is not their competences but something totally different, for example their political affiliation. This can have a significant impact on whether the right people can perform the right jobs,” said Professor Rado Bohinc, PhD, Head of the Law Institute of the Science and Research Centre Koper.

Marta Kelvišar, CEO of Adria DOM and 2023 Manager of the Year, also spoke about the importance of human resource development: “As a society, we have been neglecting the social aspect for centuries, only prioritising knowledge (certificates), which led to losing talent, creativity, behavioural qualities, etc. When selecting employees, the energy of the individual is a crucial component, and their motivation and passion are equally important, since this is what they will contribute to the company. If an individual lacks knowledge-related competences, this is less of a problem.”

“A competent person is liberated by responsibility!” was the final thought of the moderator of the evening, Professor Rado Pišot, PhD, which challenged his interlocutors in front of the packed hall of the Koper Theatre. Marta Kelvišar agreed, saying that “the more responsibility we take, the higher up the ladder we climb”. “Responsibility itself doesn’t liberate you; responsible actions do,” concluded Professor Rado Bohinc, PhD.