Q&A with Ina Parvanova

This is the third installment in our series of highlighting PSEngage Speakers.

Ina Parvanova Public Affairs Director, at Mayo Clinic has extensive experience working in a fast paced environment. Ina started her career as a reporter, working for Reuters and Canadian Press. In 1998, Ina joined the Public Service and spent a number of years at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada before joining the Privy Council Office where she was responsible for the international communications files.

In 2008, Mayo Clinic recruited Ina to establish its Research Communications function to support $540 million in research operations at Mayo Clinic. Ina is currently part of two leadership teams. One is a reflection of Mayo’s new strategy to make a global impact in healthcare called Global Bridges – a Healthcare Alliance for Tobacco Dependence Treatment. The other is statewide effort called Decade of Discovery: A Minnesota Partnership to Defeat Diabetes.

At this year’s event, Ina will be speaking on innovation at the Mayo Clinic and how Mayo is adapting to current challenges while staying true to its nearly 150-year old mission and values.

We asked Ina about innovation, adaptation and managing when you aren’t a subject matter expert. Here are Ina’s very thoughtful replies.

1. You’ve had a varied career that has covered a wide area of subject matter. What do you do to be confident about the decisions you make, even though you may not be the subject-matter expert?

In Communications, you’re as good as your knowledge and understanding of the audience. If you know your audience, you know what questions to ask the subject matter experts (because you know what questions your audience would ask) and you know how to deliver the message to your audience so it has the desired effect.

I think that’s where my varied career and diverse background come in – as a journalist, I’ve been fortunate to talk to people from all walks of life, to understand how they think. Having lived on two continents/three countries broadened that experience and allowed me to relate to allophones, to immigrants, to single parents – a multitude of audiences. I’ve always been a student of human nature and that’s what gives me confidence as a communicator – along with the belief that with an open mind and empathy one can identify with any audience and then build a bridge between them and the subject matter experts.

2. How much of the innovative process is creative and how much is about defining the business case and making the concept tangible?

You are right that you cannot have one without the other. But in what proportion? I think that depends on the stage you’re in. In the beginning, an idea is just that – an idea, a spark, and the process of implementation seems to take a backseat. But as you go forward, the ratio changes, and no matter how brilliant the idea, it needs a solid rationale and institutional buy-in in order to get implemented. And the more innovative the idea, the more creative you need to be in defining the business case and making the concept tangible.

3. What are the qualities you look for in people to work on innovative files?

Natural curiosity, open mind and tenacity.

4. Resilience is often identified as a key element in one’s ability to accept change. How does one develop resiliency?

Interesting question!

You know, to the extent that experience can teach us, the more changes you’ve lived through, the more resilient you should be. Think of someone who has lived their entire life in their hometown, worked at the same workplace for over 30 years (yes, there are still people like that) – if they are forced to go through a significant change, it can be a traumatizing experience.

On the other hand, if change has been a regular part of your life, you know what to expect and you know you will survive and will be fine.

But experience is only part of the answer, because many would argue that there is a limit to how many changes one can go through without burning out. So can we develop resiliency to prevent that? Is it like a muscle, that as long as you exercise it, it will serve you?

I think so. Especially because it is already in us. We are born with it, it’s a basic survival skill. Kids are resilient. The question is how to maintain it and not lose it after life has dealt us a few blows.

As we go through various experiences – especially hardship – some of us lose that resiliency and start dreading change. Perhaps the key to accepting change in stride is having a healthy self-esteem. As children, we all start with a healthy self-esteem. Along the way, some of us become more fragile, more insecure, and end up finding solace in the past – the old way of doing things, the previous workplace or the last relationship. But if you have a healthy self-esteem, you know who you are, and the past – while it may have enriched you – does not define you. Even when you mourn something that is no longer there, you know that you will survive and the new circumstances are simply a new opportunity. In that sense, to me, self-esteem is the source of our resiliency, the magic ingredient to accepting change.

See Ina live and in person at PS Engage, November 22, 2011 in Ottawa.



I am a strategic information management specialist that brings together knowledge from diversified fields to deliver value driven solutions to meet client's business objectives.
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