Italian good news: The virus marks the beginning of a new innovation society. Italy can be its leader
- WTI Magazine #131 Sep 19, 2020
We will hardly forget the year 2020. It will forever mark the moment when the Coronavirus entered our cities, our companies, our lives. Covid 19 is not only an enemy for our health, a threat to our society, a problem for our economies.
The virus is also acting as a catalyst and accelerator of change, making immediate and real phenomena that until a few months ago were only looming on the horizon. Difficulties that were being foreshadowed in a still gradual and indefinite way, suddenly appeared in all their gravity and clarity; problems that were thought to be managed in the next few decades, suddenly became knots to be solved in a few weeks.
Regardless of the developments and outcomes that the epidemic will have from the medical point of view, the imprint that the Coronavirus will leave on the world will be indelible. From both a social and economic point of view, nothing will be the same as before: the Coronavirus has suddenly turned tomorrow into today, the future into the present.
More and more often we read a quote attributed to Albert Einstein: "We can't expect things to change, if we continue doing the same things. Crisis is the greatest blessing for people and nations, because crisis brings on progress. Creativity is born from anxiety like the day is born from the dark night. It's in crisis that inventive, discoveries and great strategies rise. He who overcomes a crisis overcomes himself without being "Overcome".
The mourning, the pain, the difficulties, the worries, the fears of these months lead to perceive something improper, wrong, out of tune in this kind of sentence. This is no less true, unquestionably today with the Coronavirus forcing us to - and, in some ways, allowing us to - design something new and different.
The tragedy that we are going through must also bring with it, and spread among us, a greater awareness of the extraordinary peculiarities and unique potential of the country where we live. If there is a country that has the strength, characteristics and means to withstand the storm in progress and come out stronger, then heading towards a better tomorrow, that is Italy.
The Coronavirus, therefore, acts as a catalyst and accelerator of change, pushes us and forces us in every area to Innovation, to overcome existing models. And the Innovation that society urgently and absolutely needs presents peculiar characteristics that somehow differentiate it from the innovative processes of the past, from the schemes that were usual.
Today's Innovation must be open and shared, in order to give the promoter company or the developer a competitive advantage, but at the same time be made usable by the community as a whole, for the development and progress of the entire community.
Innovation, then, today can only operate within the horizon of environmental, economic and social sustainability. These are all connected and interdependent aspects that need a Circular Economy model that focuses on processes of sharing, reuse, repair, reconditioning and recycling of products and materials for as long as possible.
Among the many definitions that have been made of Circular Economy, that of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation so authoritatively reads: "generic term to define an economy designed to regenerate itself. In a circular economy the flows of materials are of two types: biological ones, able to be reintegrated into the biosphere, and technical ones, destined to be revalued without entering the biosphere".
An Italian company that is particularly avant-garde on the subject, Enel X, believes that talking about Circular Economy “means reasoning in a logic of eco-design, in engineering the solutions: it means working on Modularity, Longevity, Reparability and Recyclability of products and services offered and on consumption models based on sharing and product as a service. It is an economic model based on five pillars".
These pillars are summarized as follows: 1) Sustainability of resources. 2) Product as a service. 3) Sharing platforms. 4) Life cycle extension. 5) Recovery and recycling. A phenomenon of change and innovation as important and wide-ranging as the one we are prefiguring, of course, can only see the world of business as a protagonist.
But the company, in turn, is called to an important evolution, to take on functions in society in some ways of a public nature, which bring to completion and go beyond the traditional concept of Corporate Social Responsibility.
The Coronavirus, therefore, condemns society to Innovation, makes it necessary a sort of new design of reality, in the sign of Sustainability and Circularity, with the Company as a stakeholder of decisive importance. Such a scenario, as we were saying, sees Italy in the position of being able to play a real leading role.
The innovative processes that must be triggered, in fact, invariably provide a solid and deep cultural background, an essential condition to make possible truly far-sighted solutions, alternative and disruptive. And it is incontrovertible that our country - net of all the well-known problems of an economic, organizational and infrastructural nature - represents in the world an excellence and a point of reference for its heritage and its strength from the point of view of culture in the broadest sense.
The Italian journalist Antonio Calabrò, commenting on the "relations between Italian industry and humanistic and scientific culture", speaks of an "Industrial Humanism", which "lives and grows in the relations between technologists and philosophers, scientists and artists, architects and writers, in a relationship often dialectical, certainly still creative. It would not explain, on the other hand, the resilient competitiveness of the best Italian company, if these relationships were not topical".
Italy is also a very peculiar and interesting reality from the point of view of the creation and management of Innovation at company level. Our country, it is well known, sees the presence of a few large industrial groups, while it is characterized by a wide and widespread diffusion of medium-sized companies of a specific type, which distinguishes in a qualifying way our productive fabric. We are talking about medium-sized companies, which compete successfully on international markets, usually against much larger competitors, characterized by a strong innovative charge and a real rootedness on the territory.
This means that in Italy Innovation is not concentrated within a few large groups, armored within the walls of a small number of multinational companies, but is widespread throughout the territory, in line with the requirements of sharing and community required by the dynamics of the most advanced development.
Our country, then, has been working for a long time on the concept of the role of the company in the social sphere, as evidenced by the experience of the Italian school of business economics of the twentieth century, one of whose major exponents - already in the first decades of the century – described the company as "Economic coordination in place, established and righteous for the satisfaction of human needs".
Adriano Olivetti, who anticipated many of today's dynamics in a very surprising way for those times, said this when the twentieth century was still at its turning point: "The social attempt of the Ivrea factory, an attempt that I have no hesitation in saying is still completely unfinished, responds to a simple idea: to create a new type of enterprise beyond socialism and capitalism, because our time urgently warns that in the extreme forms in which the two terms of the social question are placed, one against the other, they cannot solve the problems of man and modern society".
And then Olivetti continued: "Our society therefore believes in spiritual values, in the values of science, it believes in the values of art, it believes in the values of culture, it believes, finally, that the ideals of justice cannot be alienated from the still uneliminated disputes between capital and labor. Our society believes above all in man, in his divine flame, in his possibility of elevation and redemption" (From the speech given for the inauguration of the Olivetti Plant in Pozzuoli, Naples, April 23rd, 1955).
One of the most qualified Italian managers of our days, Francesco Caio, affirms with conviction that "on ethics and profit, Italy is already a laboratory. We Italians, for our history and our cultural environment, already have an extra gear in the social value of enterprise. We can play it on equal terms with everyone. If only we could use our human capital and the assets that have made our country great".
According to Caio the Italian way of doing business can be summarized in the concept of "attention to the person", translatable in five points: 1) To have a strategy of competitiveness to create value. 2) To build the enterprise around the person and his/her desire of realization. 3) Attention to the territory. In this sense, the factory is close to the community that it must feed and respect. 4) Beauty, which translates into the Italian ability to create quality products and raise attention to style. The design of Olivetti when Steve Jobs was not yet born. The cities of art, history, landscape. 5) The software: creativity, Italian genius, mix of determination, intuition and innovation.
In short, according to Caio, our country "can make it and it can play in the same league with big companies and big countries, if we talk about the central value of the company; Italy can be leader despite the system difficulties, high taxation, regulatory uncertainty and all the problems with which an Italian entrepreneur is accustomed to operate every morning".
Italy, therefore, is the ideal homeland to give impetus to the phase of change made unstoppable by the Coronavirus, and in this delicate juncture put itself in a position of leadership on an international scale, on the basis of its unique and unrepeatable heritage of Culture, by virtue of its absolutely unique and widespread deposits of Innovation, thanks to the legacy handed down to us in terms of vision of the Future and the World.
Despite the problems, worries, fears of the moment, we must feed our daily action with confidence and courage, in the knowledge that our country - while taking into account all its limitations - has the characteristics and potential to successfully overcome the difficult challenges we are facing.
It may be considered a cliché, a mere motion of affection, but personally I really believe that another element to look to tomorrow with conviction and hope lies in the spirit of the Italian people, who at crucial moments have often been capable of surprising reactions and unexpected recoveries. On the other hand, to conclude without falling into the most blunt rhetoric, Giovannino Guareschi (one of the greatest and shrewd Italian writers and humorists of the last century) said: "Italians, if they really put their mind to it, do not die even if you kill them".