This year’s sym­po­sium was based on the prin­ci­ples devel­oped by John Collins in his wide­ly pub­li­cized book “From Good to Great”, 2001, which aim to gen­er­ate top results in eco­nom­ic as well as social orga­ni­za­tions. In nation­al and Euro­pean rank­ings Upper Aus­tria is above aver­age both as a busi­ness loca­tion and as a liv­ing envi­ron­ment for a mod­ern soci­ety. This posi­tion can only be main­tained and fur­ther improved if com­pla­cen­cy and sati­ety do not spread and if it is not tak­en for grant­ed that the con­di­tions for high per­for­mance are self-evident.

„Inevitable changes and sur­pris­es will chal­lenge regions over and over again.”

The future posi­tion of Upper Aus­tria will be chal­lenged by unavoid­able changes in the envi­ron­ment of the province and, again and again, by sur­pris­es. It would be unre­al­is­tic not to expect struc­tur­al weak­ness­es. There­fore, it is log­i­cal to seek strate­gies for excel­lence in cer­tain areas where Upper Aus­tria has good con­di­tions or can pro­duce them.The ques­tion of how to get „From Good to Great” was first illu­mi­nat­ed in in-depth inter­views with a num­ber of guests who achieved inter­na­tion­al­ly high­ly regard­ed top per­for­mances in very dif­fer­ent areas and who were will­ing to share their expe­ri­ence and to inter­pret it, a pro­ce­dure that has become a very fruit­ful tra­di­tion at the Sur­prise Fac­tors Sym­po­sium: The guests this year were a con­cep­tu­al and instal­la­tion artist (Nor­bert Brun­ner), a sci­en­tist whose research on vac­cines against Ebo­la cre­at­ed a world­wide stir (Her­ta Steinkell­ner), the very suc­cess­ful man­ag­er of the British sports orga­ni­za­tion (Sue Camp­bell), and a politi­cian with a focus on eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy (Oswald Met­zger), whose par­lia­men­tary work is great­ly respect­ed in Germany.

Two of the guests were respon­si­ble for large insti­tu­tions (sports man­age­ment, par­lia­ment). The oth­er two – the artist and the sci­en­tist – were more con­cerned with ques­tions of per­son­al moti­va­tion that make achiev­ing excel­lence pos­si­ble, as well as suc­cess­ful coop­er­a­tion and teamwork.

The guests’ var­i­ous areas of exper­tise – pro­fes­sion­al­ly as well as in their nation­al and indi­vid­ual char­ac­ter (an Aus­tri­an woman, an Aus­tri­an man, a Briton, a Ger­man) – made it pos­si­ble to move from spe­cif­ic cir­cum­stances to more gen­er­al insights. The dis­cus­sions were fur­ther stim­u­lat­ed by the stu­dents, who rep­re­sent­ed the younger gen­er­a­tion. Hence, also age-spe­cif­ic diver­gent views came to light.

Spe­cial atten­tion was giv­en to three key issues:

  • the ques­tion of the pre­con­di­tions for excep­tion­al cre­ativ­i­ty and great inno­v­a­tive ability,
  • the ques­tion of how to spread the effort to achieve peak per­for­mance and how to intro­duce it into insti­tu­tions, soci­ety, and politics,
    final­ly, reflec­tions on strate­gies that can ensure qual­i­ty of life in a future with social and demo­graph­ic change and hence for younger generations.

As has been a tra­di­tion at the sym­po­sium for years, in a dis­cus­sion with Gov­er­nor Josef Pühringer and State Min­is­ter Michael Strugl con­clu­sions were drawn for Upper Austria.

Repeat­ed­ly and in sev­er­al stages of dis­cus­sion, con­sid­er­able atten­tion was giv­en to oppos­ing the­ses: One was whether crises, dis­ad­van­tages, short­com­ings or even emer­gen­cies trig­ger off spe­cial achieve­ments and, in con­nec­tion with this, whether per­son­al and social dis­ci­pline are a pre­req­ui­site for suc­cess. Or, on the oth­er hand, whether the empha­sis on indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and the pur­suit of non-con­for­mi­ty lead to the expec­ta­tion of suc­cess­ful inno­va­tions and whether pub­lic fund­ing and ade­quate facil­i­ties – such as sci­en­tif­ic research – cre­ate more favor­able con­di­tions. The lat­ter could indeed, as sus­pect­ed, con­tribute to the exhaus­tion of effort and to sati­ety. In any case, there was agree­ment on the fact that with­out strong per­son­al moti­va­tion and per­se­ver­ance in cre­at­ing some­thing spe­cial, extra­or­di­nary achieve­ments would not be achieved.

Nei­ther com­pa­nies nor an orga­ni­za­tion or a province can be „great” in all areas. The task of strate­gies is there­fore to devel­op cri­te­ria for selec­tion on the one hand and to avoid frus­tra­tion on the oth­er. In those areas where the con­di­tions for inter­na­tion­al excel­lence are not yet avail­able today, encour­age­ment, learn­ing from the best, and longer-term per­spec­tives should be offered.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the younger gen­er­a­tion cam­paigned for Upper Aus­tria to dis­tin­guish itself as a province with a high lev­el of hap­pi­ness. The term „hap­pi­ness” seemed prob­lem­at­ic for the elders because it could lead to loss of moti­va­tion. They rather took the view that suc­cess­ful achieve­ments led to per­son­al sat­is­fac­tion and qual­i­ty of life.