Meet the InnoLabbers: Sorin Dan


Image: This picture was taken during the Wasa Future Festival co-organised by InnoLab in August 2019. I spoke about digital transformation in the public sector and argued that real transformation is difficult to accomplish in practice, although usually many speak about it in favorable terms. I believe it’s important to understand the multiple effects of digital technologies and use systematic methods to assess these effects.

This series introduces the members of University of Vaasa’s InnoLab research platform. Today we’re meeting Sorin Dan.

What are you?

I am someone: a unique being, possessing some good qualities and many weaknesses (if you don’t believe me, ask my wife). An academic interested in public sector innovation and renewal who likes, through systematic research, to explore how organizations and policies change in contemporary societies.

Your title at InnoLab is postdoctoral researcher, but what exactly do you do?

I read, write, publish, communicate and apply for almost anything that is worth applying! If you were to ask me how many ‘applications’ I’ve done in my life, you would soon get bored at me talking. In addition, I will soon teach a course on how to design and write a systematic literature review for University of Vaasa’s doctoral students and interested researchers.

Sounds like a lot of work. Why bother?

I am fascinated by big ideas and their implementation in practice. I want my work to be relevant and useful, in addition to just interesting. It’s also exciting to see that by using my knowledge I can discover new things and uncover at least a bit of the mystery of this world.

Imagine your phone rings. It’s the call you’ve been hoping for – what is it about?

Hmm, the President of, say, my home country, Romania. He is concerned about the lack of progress with public administration reform and he wants to meet me for advice.

Just kidding, it’s actually a journalist. They’re finally doing a story on that one topic you’ve always wanted to give an interview on! What do you say?

Over the past years, some of my work dealt with research and professional advice on public administration reform, including one year and a half spent working at the OECD. The interview would be about my experience working on advising countries how to make the most of their reform efforts.

Good job. Too bad you can’t be the resident expert on every topic. What would you like to learn more about?

I’ve become interested in tennis, particularly WTA over the past two years. This is mainly due to the Romanian star, Simona Halep. However, I don’t remember ever playing tennis, maybe except ping pong but that’s a totally different ball game. So taking up tennis would be interesting though it may not come in handy for a formerly die-hard, but currently only occasional, footballer like me.

I’m sure any sport is better than no sport. Do you think others should share your passion?

What, tennis? Sure. Football? Even more so, now that Finland has finally made it to the Euro. Let’s hope we will still have the chance to see it play at some point. I think connecting big theoretical ideas, such as change, emerging technologies, reform, and innovation with practice is intellectually stimulating and socially relevant. We should not be afraid to aim high. We should be captivated by discovering the truth through our research and teach others to do the same through our teaching (even in our current postmodern world in which even the existence of truth itself is contested).

Okay. Now recommend me something – anything!

Take time to talk to thyself (6Ts).

Esoteric, but sure. Any last advice for being both an effective researcher and a happy office worker?

Pause in order to take time to talk to thyself.

From the perspective of Sorin’s colleagues: What is Sorin like as a co-worker?

“In addition to being very nice and friendly, Sorin is cooperative, communicative and helpful. He stands for what he believes is the right thing even if everyone else has a different opinion.”

“Trustworthy, systematic, flexible and an incredible team player! All in all, very easygoing!”

“He’s kind, productive, and a great team player!”

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