Delia Dumitrescu, the fascination of a curious mind

For the young Romanian Delia Dumitrescu (31) “innovation” could be her middle name. She has a job with a funny name – Lead Innovation Architect, but her work is very important because innovation means helping companies come up with meaningful ideas, and turn trends into business concepts. And in times of crisis her work could be gold. In other words, Delia Dumitrescu is responsible for developing and delivering TrendWatching’s innovation methodology.

She is a published trend and innovation expert. Among the books she wrote: „Road trip to innovation”, „Secondhand and vintage Berlin”, and „Nativi Digitali. Pregătiţi-vă!” (Digital Natives. Get ready!). Moreover, she is also the co-author of “Trend Driven Innovation”. So, innovation all over the place!

She has been living abroad for many years, and her personal road trip beyond Romania’s borders started with an Erasmus in Perugia, Italy. This was only the beginning. She moved and traveled to many cities and countries, and for now she is settled in Vienna, Austria. Although she could easily be called a “citizen of the world”, Delia kept her Romanian habits.

Delia Dumitrescu, Photo credit: personal archive

Cristina Dobreanu: Your job title is Lead Innovation Architect. Could you „translate” the meaning for us?

Delia Dumitrescu: I help companies understand trends, prioritize them and apply them to their business in order to innovate in a meaningful way. So I am supporting them in the architecture of their innovation process.

When did innovation pop into your life?

I started out by being a trend spotter, looking at what’s cool and why but I only connected the dots between trends and innovation when I wrote “Road trip to Innovation”. Then I realized, spotting trends is only the beginning but the harder and most interesting part is to extract the right meaning for a specific context (business, brand or project) and turn it into something meaningful of your own – innovating!

Are we ever ready for innovation?
Yes. It’s a mindset that we can train: being open, flexible, focused, playful.

Are you a leader in deciphering innovation trends?
Me or TrendWatching? TrendWatching is definitely a leader in spotting consumer trends and innovations with the help of TW:IN, our trend spotters network. I am focusing more on helping companies translating these trends for their context, industry, business or brand. In the past 4 years, I worked with more than 40 companies from all over the world, from various industries. Some recent examples: Marriott Hotels, Johnson&Johnson, Safilo, NN Group, Autogrill.

How did your international experience help working in spotting innovations?
I studied Coolhunting at IED (European Institute of Design) in Barcelona and that was how things kicked off for me. Beyond learning about trend spotting techniques, I learned about a new mindset of absorbing what is happening around me and asking “why” and “so what” does this mean for me or for the customers or for the brands.

Life made you travel from Barcelona to Berlin and then to Vienna, what have you learned from all these experiences?
Travelling and every city you live in contributes to building your personality, network and opens opportunities but there is no place like home.

Is the description „citizen of the world” the best for you?
Not anymore. I am at a life stage where settling somewhere and feeling that I belong to one place is more important than travelling.

When did you decide you were ready to settle in a foreign country?
I didn’t decide, it just happened. Both personal and professional opportunities came along and I allowed them to happen.

How did Vienna become your hometown?
One would think it’s because Vienna hits number 1 in the quality of life survey every year in the last 7 years. In reality, it happened thanks to my husband who is Austrian.

What do you miss most when you are away from home?
Home is where your heart is. Now my home is where my husband and my 1 year old baby boy are, in Vienna.

The most beautiful day since you are far away from home was…
When my son was born.

One of the biggest problems when living abroad is to fit in. Was it difficult for you?
It always takes a few months to immerse yourself into the context when living in a new country or a new city and it all depends on who you have around you.
Yes, it was difficult but it was all worth it.

You consider your greatest success abroad to be…
Writing my first book, “Road Trip to Innovation”, was the best way to deep dive into the world of trends and innovation, learn and expand my network. It was indeed an actual road trip because I traveled to meet trends and innovation experts, interviewed them and put together all my findings together with the actual narrative of the road trip in the book. It’s all written from the perspective of a curious mind and not from the perspective of an expert which I think makes it easy to digest and informative at the same time.

What do you do when you come back to Romania for visiting?
Spend all my time with my family and friends, checking out all the new hot spots in the city and travelling to other cities as well. As I have Matei now, we spend a lot of time in parks and me-drinking coffee. And as I am a coffee lover I make sure I check out all the new places in town where specialty coffee is prepared. “Steam” is by far my favourite.

You now live in the capital of a former empire, how important is it to speak the local language? And how much did it take you to learn it?
It is essential to speak the language of the country you move to if you want to truly be part of it. Language is culture. Of course you can almost always get away with English no matter where you’re in the world but going beyond that, if you really want to get to know a country, language is essential.Oh, I am still learning every day.

Your favorite German word is …
“Genau” (“Exactly”, in English). Because it’s the most versatile word. You can actually get away with it in a conversation even if you don’t speak proper German.

What Romanian habits did you take with you abroad?
They’re all somewhere in the subconscious and part of who I am but some things are definitely overrun by the new local habits. I think the most obvious one is when it comes to kissing to say hello – it’s more about shaking hands or giving half hugs here.
Apart from this, I keep all the ones related to holidays and blend them with the local ones.

Where are your „roads” leading you next?
Well that’s something I also look forward to seeing. What I’m sure of is that it always gets better. It’s exciting.

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