“Free­dom is a mys­tery.” – Anna Kamen­skaya said this sen­tence dur­ing our dis­cus­sions of the sixth SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM.

Dur­ing our two work­ing days we inten­sive­ly dis­cussed this mys­tery and tried to find answers. Because for all of us, free­dom still is the most impor­tant asset we have. We fight for it, may it be on a large scale or a small one. For us per­son­al­ly or for the inde­pen­dence of our coun­try.

This exact­ly was the moti­va­tion for us to dis­cuss from dif­fer­ent points of per­spec­tives the ques­tion: “Where does free­dom start and where does it end?”. In the dis­cus­sions it became quite clear: Free­dom in all its facets con­fronts us with chal­lenges, because we are close to dis­rup­tion of ”the old“: of old ways of think­ing and old ways of act­ing. This col­lapse rais­es new ques­tions for which today we do not have any answers yet.

„Free­dom and secu­ri­ty, it’s kind of a tense rela­tion­ship.”

This year we again have been inspired by per­son­al­i­ties of dif­fer­ent back­grounds who have point­ed out new guide­lines for our future work at ACADEMIA SUPERIOR, so that we can con­tin­ue to live in free­dom in the future, inde­pen­dent of what free­dom means for each and every one of us indi­vid­u­al­ly.

Taking freedom for granted

Dur­ing the dis­cus­sions the dif­fer­ence between inner and out­er free­dom was addressed. This is a very impor­tant thought when you try to define the term free­dom. Because if you think about the young gen­er­a­tion in par­tic­u­lar it seems that per­son­al free­dom and self-dis­cov­ery is the most impor­tant thing in life. A com­pre­hen­si­ble wish, since we live in times in which we have all pos­si­bil­i­ties on the one hand, on the oth­er we are shaped by our upbring­ing and stig­ma­ta or clichés of our back­ground. We are often con­front­ed with meet­ing expec­ta­tions of oth­ers rather than being our own self.

A con­se­quence seems to be that indi­vid­u­al­i­ty has become the high­est goal. “I” comes before “we”. Why wor­ry­ing about the big pic­ture as long as I am well? Have we real­ly for­got­ten how priv­i­leged we are that we even have the pos­si­bil­i­ty to strive for this per­son­al devel­op­ment? We live in abun­dance. We live in free­dom. And yet, we must not take this priv­i­lege for grant­ed. Thus the chal­lenge for the future will be to find the bal­ance between what we need as indi­vid­u­als and what soci­ety needs. Because free­dom of one per­son ends where it starts lim­it­ing the free­dom of anoth­er.

The fear of freedom

The last decades defined the word free­dom anew. Today we have total­ly new pos­si­bil­i­ties which seemed unthink­able a cou­ple of years ago, and which still are in some coun­tries today. Even if we just think about such appar­ent­ly banal things as the free­dom to trav­el. But above all we have the free­dom to express our­selves. Or at least we have the free­dom to choose between many options. Exact­ly this free­dom, the diver­si­ty of pos­si­bil­i­ties, how­ev­er, also caus­es fear. And fear makes you unfree. What we have learned from the dis­cus­sions is: If you want to be free, you need to be coura­geous; coura­geous to take deci­sions and stand up for them; coura­geous to have an opin­ion and artic­u­late it; coura­geous to take a path and not to turn and walk back half way.

“Free­dom is just anoth­er word for noth­ing left to lose.” This sen­tence by Janis Joplin accom­pa­nied us through­out all our dis­cus­sions and demon­strat­ed very well the range between free­dom and fear. Because if we want to attain a spe­cial goal, we need to give up some­thing else – and take respon­si­bil­i­ty for it.

Of freedom and responsibility

We can only real­ly be free, if we are ready to take on respon­si­bil­i­ty for our actions. How­ev­er, it some­times means to take on respon­si­bil­i­ty for oth­ers when they are not able to them­selves any­more. Often we hear about a lack of polit­i­cal guid­ance. But is it real­ly the respon­si­bil­i­ty of pol­i­tics to guide us? Or is it rather their task to cre­ate the frame­work con­di­tions in which we can devel­op freely?

„Free­dom is not an absolute quan­ti­ty”

If we del­e­gate all impor­tant deci­sions to a high­er lev­el, back out of the respon­si­bil­i­ty to decide our­selves, how free are we then actu­al­ly? That’s why we see it as one of our key chal­lenges to cre­ate a sys­tem in which respon­si­bil­i­ty is of impor­tance again. How­ev­er, this also means to cre­ate a sys­tem in which it is per­mit­ted to make mis­takes. Because the fear to make mis­takes is yet anoth­er rea­son why we shy away from tak­ing deci­sions – it could be the wrong ones.

Entrepreneurial freedom

Rethink­ing error cul­ture is espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant when we are talk­ing about entre­pre­neur­ial free­dom. We still live in a cul­ture in which errors stig­ma­tize us, which is dif­fer­ent from oth­er cul­tures in which errors or what you learn from them are seen as a sign of devel­op­ment. It should also be allowed for entre­pre­neurs to devel­op. To found a com­pa­ny is risky. No busi­ness mod­el, no sophis­ti­cat­ed busi­ness plan or entre­pre­neur­ial tal­ent pro­tect us from fail­ing. Peo­ple who would like to start a busi­ness in Aus­tria nowa­days are hin­dered and irri­tat­ed by bureau­crat­ic obsta­cles.

We should encour­age young entre­pre­neurs to cre­ate new busi­ness mod­els instead of chok­ing ideas with fear. We need to pro­mote entre­pre­neur­ial free­dom and guar­an­tee the free­dom to be able to devel­op as an entre­pre­neur, even if this means to make mis­takes. Because the young entre­pre­neurs of today cre­ate the work­places of tomor­row.

The value of freedom

For two days we dis­cussed the term free­dom and the dis­cus­sions have at least risen as many ques­tions as they pro­vid­ed answers. How free are we actu­al­ly when we are scared to take deci­sions? How free are we actu­al­ly if “I” comes before “we”? We are in front of a par­a­digm change after which noth­ing will be the same again. And like all unknown things, this future caus­es fear. We need a com­pass to point out the right path to us so that we are not sac­ri­fic­ing our free­dom to this fear. Val­ues which guide us and show us the right direc­tion.

May it be courage, respon­si­bil­i­ty, grate­ful­ness, respect, under­stand­ing or humil­i­ty before what we have. These are val­ues which will be of sig­nif­i­cant impor­tance in the upcom­ing years and which will guide us the way for our devel­op­ment in how we are going to live togeth­er in free­dom in the future.