Dialog with Andrey Volkov. Part III
24.09.2018

Eduard Galazhinskiy: In my opinion, the July session was a rather bold attempt to gather authorities, business, and universities around the projects of development. Why does it seem so important to me, why did we spend so much time working on it? Because if we do not create universities’ ecosystems and do not engage our partners in them, we will not be able to grow. We have run out of growth potential inside universities. The next step is to pool human, organizational, and other resources together. It was the purpose of our pilot sessions to create communication patterns and to bring together representatives of the three key actors of the Triple Helix.

Andrey Volkov: I would also like to clarify once again why we need to do such a hard work. A university can no longer be considered just an educational institution. A leading university has no chance and even rights, to remain only in this paradigm. Otherwise, it will become poor, small, and outdated. It will not get good students and staff. From this point of view, any elite university, which I consider TSU to be, is obliged to run forward faster and faster. There is no such thing as a calm mode, as there is no such thing at any globally recognized university - Stanford, Harvard, or MIT. Universities must be able to produce knowledge. Why is it universities’ job and not only the Academy of Sciences’ responsibility?

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If you do not know how to produce knowledge, you cannot know the difference between truth and lies. To be able to see this difference, you yourself must be on the frontier of science (besides teaching, publications, and everything else). And second, a university should be able to transform knowledge into modern technologies and products. And such knowledge and technology can be produced as a result of research. But to do that we need real partners. Signing memorandums of cooperation is not enough. Business has its own logic and goals, authorities and universities have their own logic and goals. They all have objectively different founders and different interests. That is why their cooperation is a very difficult problem and it can be solved only through effective communication based on compromises and constant adjustment of goals.

E.G.: We have known you for many years as a very strict expert who never avoids constructive criticism. As a rule, you reduce our theoretical constructions, visions, and discussions to powder, making us search for new, more successful solutions. Often these decisions come after our joint activities, which by the way seems to me quite normal. Therefore, in a way, we were not ready for your rather positive evaluation at the end of the July project-analytical session.

А. V.: It was one of our longest sessions, so there was enough time for both criticism and positive evaluation. Speaking seriously, I believe that there was a number of really good projects, focused on digitalization. Those were projects on training for the IT sphere, on technologies of advanced training, and on the “digital Transsib”. The idea of ​​creating a platform as a part of the talent management system is also close to implementation. I was inspired and pleased by those projects.

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E.G.: I want to thank you and your team. We came to such results only because of the high professionalism and commitment that you demonstrated as experts and moderators. I remember our first sessions: there was a lot of denial and radical judgment. Today, people feel the reality much better and respond to the latest trends and challenges much faster. So at the beginning of this session, we, as always, used intuition and had doubts. At the end we had projects that we would never come up with without understanding the general framework of the “digital Transsib”. In fact, we helped the region to realize once again that digitalization is an inevitable context for any future specialization. Two deputy governors who attended the session approved of most projects. The conclusion for me, as a rector, is: this design work makes you feel and reflect on a university as a place of designing the future of the region. This is one of a few situations where you can get rid of your routine thinking patterns. The fact that we did this allowed the region to understand where it stands today and where it can find itself tomorrow. A real university rebuilds itself every time.

A.V.: I think you are right. I often think to myself, “Why all this does not work by itself”. But it doesn't work like that anywhere. It requires a conscious effort “Will and Representation,” as Schopenhauer wrote. It means there must be a mental construction (representation) and the ability to communicatively keep the focus on complex mental objects (will). Therefore, it is always a collective work with all the complex technologies that we use in the process: objectification, schematization, and so on.

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E.G.: Such work often contradicts the usual university life, which is characterized by autonomy, self-organization, individual curiosity of scientists, and so on. If it leads to the transformation of the entire university, let it be that way. Like Humboldt, for example. It turns out that all the breakthroughs in this area, most often, are made by groups of people with their will and representation.

A.V.: It seems to me that now there is no more or less serious project that would be reduced to the plan and efforts of only one person. All great achievements are usually the results of group activity.

E.G.: Thanks to this group activity, a multi-level system of results is gradually shaping. Not all the results are visible at a glance. But such results help to develop the real potential of universities’ and regions’ transformations. As the number of people who share the philosophy and policies of such a transformation increases. People are ready to take responsibility. 18.jpg

Therefore, even if we do not always achieve serious results in terms of their implementation in practice, the brainwashing itself is extremely important. The ontologies of the main stakeholders of the future innovation ecosystem are coming closer. By the way, during the sessions, our ontologies also became close. It was originally thought that you are a classical technocrat, and I am a classical humanist.

A.V. (laughing): For me the word "technocrat" does not have a derogatory color. In addition, my main job is to communicate with people. And communication, in fact, is carried out through the humanistic cycle. But reducing communication to human relationships only slows down the process and reduces effectiveness. Technologies accelerate and increase the latter. Therefore, I want to make the communication technical, that is, effective, although it is often very difficult.

E.G.: Personally, I have always said that you are the last romantic who believes that it is always possible to find strength and resources in the most hopeless situations. In this sense, my humanistic basis is balanced by technological and efficient guidelines. In general, the ideal option when there are both technological effectiveness and humanity in communication. By the way, it seemed to some participants of the session that in our week marathon there was a lot of “large-scale” stuff, and the scale of an individual person was not seen from time to time.

A.V.: I must say that I share their concern. The modern world strongly threatens human beings. Staying human today is getting harder and harder. Mainly because modern management structures, information delivery, and content distribution leave little chance for a person to remain a thinking being. We are under pressure of ready-made images, knowledge, behavior patterns, etc. It is almost impossible to get rid of this pressure. This was well explained by Bourdieu, Habermas, and Foucault. A person has a feeling that he or she does not live their own lives, but television and mass media ones. This applies to everything: how people eat, what they wear, and what decisions they make... 19.jpg

E.G.: Dmitry Leontyev once said that “living as a human is a path of the greatest resistance.” However, project work in this sense is arranged in spite of the fact that sometimes there is “no human being” in it. Its task is to immerse people in the right context in order to activate a different way of thinking about life and about themselves. The next step is to define one’s own place in the project under discussion. This is a self-determination: to understand what you are ready to take responsibility for.

A.V.: Here is a paradoxical idea: our project activity is thoroughly human. Why? Because it requires a human decision. A project is not for the rector and not for SIBUR. Such an interpretation of project activities is not common. All this product management, graphics, infographics, etc., is about something else, about something “technocratic”. At our sessions, itis always a PERSONAL project, as well as a project of those people with whom I will implement it.

E.G.: And we have seen how difficult this work is. Often, people try to get away from personal responsibility. For us, as organizers of our project activities, it is important that those who developed projects were passionate about them and would like to carry them out. This is especially necessary for university projects. Today, it becomes obvious that the transformation of a university is, first of all, a transformation of people. And this is precisely the main problem: how to turn a “dashed person” (according to Dmitry Leontyev) into a person who independently creates his or her life and professional activity, who is able to set personal goals and design the future.

I am sure that the long-term cooperation between our university and you with your colleagues will be seen - as a school of the greatest resistance for the sake of a conscious choice of the future.

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