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2019: Bulgaria and Europe in focus

· Innovation,Design Thinking,Service Design,Bulgaria,Customer Experience

At the end of 2018 just before all of us went out on holidays, we had the pleasure to welcome in Sofia a group of MBA students and professors from Stanford University. One month before that, when we received an email from the dean of the Business School we almost ignored it as another spam message. The email turned out to be quite real and the students’ desire to come to Bulgaria during their annual business visit was not only real but carefully thought of.

The annual business visit is called Global Study Visit and aims at enriching students’ knowledge of business conditions outside the USA. Every year students get to choose a destination that excites them and for which they would like to learn more. This year students unanimously chose Bulgaria! They were fascinated by its transition from planned to market economy. The more they read about the topic in order to prepare for their visit, the more interested they became in how, despite the turbulent transition, right now Bulgaria is one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union and a preferred destination for business in industries like IT and BPO.

We are glad that the students distinguished as one of the factors for the development of customer-centricity and innovation in Bulgaria and chose to meet with us. The honor is enormous, knowing that during their stay the students met with the former President of Bulgaria – Rosen Plevneliev, Steven Sullivan – President of American University in Bulgaria - an institution that educates world-class leaders since 1991, LAUNCHHub Ventures – Bulgarian fund that invested 30M since its establishment and attracted over 20M follow-up investments, and Managing Directors of some of the largest banks, IT and BPO companies in Bulgaria.

Realizing that we are in the league of the big ones, with whom we can’t compete on years of experience or investments made, we decided to stick to what we do best - experience design.

For the event venue we picked the fantastic reception room with the murals in Cosmos Co-working space. With the help of archive photographs and one of the best contemporary storytellers – Dimitar Kenarov, we took students back in time when during the communist regime the building housed the Bulgarian Writers Union, about which the dissident writer Georgi Markov himself said “We were paid not to write”.

Through the history of liberalization of speech and publishing, we came to the liberalization of business, the entry of Bulgaria into the European Union and the contemporary conditions for business in Bulgaria. We then split in three panels moderated by us and our partners. We called them fireside chats in order to invite free flowing conversations and we talked about entrepreneurship, about policy making and business, and of course about the place of good design in business.
To make the fireside chatting experience complete, we welcomed students with mulled and spiced rakia - a signature cocktail of the incredible Desi Slavcheva from SoGood, with whom we worked on building the entire brand and portfolio of products and services, but this deserves a separate post for another time. We bid farewell to Stanford with a modern twist of traditional Bulgarian Christmas dishes, again by SoGood, and of course some of the finest Bugarian wine, as always selected by our friends from GrapeCentral. It turned out to be a real happy hour!
Gratefully Stanford wrote to us:
"Happy New Year! We are back starting winter quarter, and the buzz about the trip is still going strong from our students! We very much enjoyed our time in Bulgaria – what a welcoming, beautiful, historically rich place. Again, thank you for your time and wonderful insights on design thinking, policy, and entrepreneurship in Bulgaria - our students highlighted the fireside chats and happy hour as a highlight of the entire trip. And the food - absolutely incredible and a great take on traditional Bulgarian dishes! We are so lucky to have you make our trip so memorable!"
We wrote them back:
"Happy New Year to you too! Choosing to do your Global Study Visit in Bulgaria was an acknowledgment of our efforts to promote good design in all sectors of Bulgarian economy and an inspiration to work harder and do better in 2019. You chose Bulgaria, we choose it twice!"

So, in 2019, we choose Bulgaria and united Europe. We will focus on helping even more organizations to build internal capacity and execute projects that significantly improve customer experience and develop meaningful innovations all to distinguish them on the open and dynamic European market.

Photos by Mihail Novakov

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