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Just another book on #innovation in #Italy

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book available in print- check on http://robertolofaro.com/innovation-italy for the Amazon link and eventually additional free material online

If you prefer reading it as a book online, please check on Issuu: https://issuu.com/robertolofaro/docs/just_another_book_on_innovation_ita

This mini-book is focused on sharing notes from my attendance to events in Italy since early 2018, along with background material that I think might be useful for the target audience, and some connecting-the-dots organizational development ideas.

Furthermore, as I am currently based in Turin, I will use it as my reference example to discuss specific data and then move onto the usual “connecting-the-dots” (also if some of the information was actually collected in Milan, a mere 50 something minutes by high-speed train): adapt to your location if needed…

This short book (or extended essay) is just part of a series of collected thoughts and analysis.

Focus: the impact of social and technological change on traditional management practices.

Aim: to raise informed questions, not to provide answers Join the discussion on http://www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro

This series has just a common thread: repeating that “connect experience and knowledge to initiate change” approach, but focusing each time on a specific issue.

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Just another book on #innovation in #Italy

  1. 1. Just another book on innovation (in Italy)
  2. 2. Copyright © 2018 Roberto Lofaro All rights reserved. ISBN: 1723163937 ISBN-13: 978-1723163937
  3. 3. RATIONALE In 2003, in preparation of my return to Italy, I registered a website called “PartnershipIncubator.com”, with a simple aim: to help smaller Italian (mainly digital) companies join forces to grow. The reason? Since the late 1980s I worked across my country and hence compared its local business habits with what I was to see first in UK (late 1980s), then in France (early 1990s), and for various reasons in USA (from the late 1980s), Germany and other Northern European and Scandinavia countries (from the early 1990s). If there was and is a common issue across the country is the inability to scale up by joining resources from different organizations focused on a shared purpose: we buy or sell, only in few cases we really merge, leveraging on the best mix of the existing corporate cultures (which does not mean getting “the best practice” from each component, but building the best blend). A cardinal sin in a country where most companies are small. As, except few companies, almost none provides on the market “training grounds” for abilities required to scale up. Therefore, this mini-book is focused on sharing notes from my attendance to events in Italy since March 2018, along with background material that I think might be useful for the target audience, and some connecting-the-dots organizational development ideas. Furthermore, as I am currently based in Turin, I will use my hometown as my reference example to discuss specific data and then move onto the usual “connecting-the-dots” (also if some of the information was actually collected in Milan, a mere 50 something minutes by high-speed train): adapt to your location if needed…
  4. 4. CONTENTS RATIONALE..................................................................................... III CAVEAT..........................................................................................VII 1 PRE-EMPTIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY ....................................................1 1.1. A review of reviews ..................................................................................2 1.2. Introductory courses on digitalization and business models...................2 1.3. Seven to start ..........................................................................................3 2 SHARING FEW KNOWLEDGE DOTS............................................5 3 CONNECTING THE KNOWLEDGE DOTS ...................................11 4 THE END OF THE BEGINNING ..................................................17
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  6. 6. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) vii CAVEAT If you followed my online reporting from and about Italy since 2008 (initially while living in Brussels), you might actually have a glimpse of what is my personal local experience. Nonetheless, this book is written while wearing my "analyst cap" to paraphrase Edward De Bono, and, as I do in all my posts online, I always do my best to differentiate commentary from data, analysis from feelings or personal aspirations, grudges, bias. Am I successful on that count? Well, most of the analysis on Italian trends that was mistaken for grudges a decade ago while in Brussels turned out to be confirmed (or even exceeded) by reality. And since I re-registered in Italy in 2012 when my Belgian residency permit expired, I can confirm from the ground that also locally I hear more often than not similar remarks in official events. Yes, there is always an element of "selling your own wares" ("Cicero pro domo sua", I would say in Italian- we love using Latin quotes also if often we have no clue whatsoever to what they means). But once you know what somebody stands for, you can sort out perspective based on motivation and data, from just biased distortion to "sell". As, in the end, as I wrote often in the past, any data-based analysis is first and foremost based on a selection of data, and therefore knowing the selection criteria is better than blindly be faithful that just because a "big" is prefixed to "data" that implies that your analysis covers all the bases. On the last point, have a look at robertolofaro.com/relevantdata (yes, another mini-book that is both on Amazon, if you want to support my writings and research, or can be read online for free). As usual: contact me on Linkedin, and any request for free advice that is answered goes online, so that all can benefit from the exchange.
  7. 7. 1 1 PRE-EMPTIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY Usually, you have a bibliography at the end, not at the beginning of a book. Anyway, while attending events on various sides of the “innovation” divide, I saw that there was a significant knowledge gap between the audience and the speakers. Sometimes both sides were aware of the gap (e.g. in the latest event, a 1-day Executive master on innovation), and it was obviously up to those presenting to share references to background material that could make meaningful what they said. In other cases, presentations and panels took for granted a “lingua franca” when none was there. Unfortunately, within the management consulting we have recurring habit to “overload” everyday words with special meanings, assuming in the end that everybody shares the same meaning. Therefore, investing some time in ensuring that a shared lingo does really exist is advisable- or, otherwise, ensure that everybody apparently using ordinary words is actually doing so. In the next few short sections, I selected material that covers various issues and uses different media- it is up to you to choose (or maybe get inspired to find something else).
  8. 8. http://linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro 2 1.1. A review of reviews Over the last decade I shared online on librarything.com books reviews (from a mere “star rating” to publishing articles and essays “embedding” a book review). In early 2018 I started a page to select only the books that I consider having at least a 3.5 stars (out of 5) rating, and, whatever the subject, might be of interest in change management activities. http://www.robertolofaro.com/portal/books/suggested-readings I will keep more in the future, but already the list contains over 80 books. 1.2. Introductory courses on digitalization and business models I would suggest to look at few (free) courses delivered by SAP (http://open.sap.com) that discuss various issues related to business innovation and digital transformation. sbi2-1 Sustainability Through Digital Transformation next1-tl The Impact of Digitization on Leadership and Work If you have time, there is a longer course that covers instead also the “Business Model Canvas” and creating business models: bmi1-1 Designing Business Models for the Digital Economy There other courses that I followed within the same domain (from more “technical”, e.g. on IoT, to business oriented)- you can have a look at the catalogue. You can find here and there more advanced bits (e.g. look on YouTube for MIT and Stanford workshops and conferences). But from a business perspective the point is always considering impacts and sustainability of change, not just following the latest trend: and the courses listed above follow a systemic approach.
  9. 9. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 3 1.3. Seven to start Now, moving to books, I selected just half a dozen that might actually be a good introduction. I would split the list in two parts: Concepts, i.e. the overall business design of a start-up or initiative Tools, i.e. some approaches that could speed up your work Concepts Eric Ries “The Lean Startup” Peter Thiel “Zero to One” Federico Pistono “Startup Zero.0” (focused on lessons for Italy) Tools Nir Eyal “Hooked- How to Build Habit-Forming Products” Jake Knapp “Sprint- How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days” Alvin Roth “Who Gets What- And Why?” Matthias Schrader “Transformationale Produkte- Der Code von digitalen Produkten, die unseren Alltag erobern und die Wirtschaft revolutionieren“ The common thread? Being practical, by giving real examples. A note: as many of those books are from practitioners, here and there suffer from the “survivor bias”, e.g. by trying to present as a universal truth something that worked for them. Therefore, apply the same due diligence that you would apply before using a book built on case studies as a framework for change within your own organization.
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  11. 11. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 5 2 SHARING FEW KNOWLEDGE DOTS As discussed before, I attended events in Italy, but the reason why this mini-book is in English is quite simple: there is untapped potential that the local socio-economic structure is currently ill- equipped to use, just when events such as Brexit create opportunities. My birthplace, Turin, in Piedmont, used to be a company town, with a focus around the automotive industry. To make a long story short: if you merge an economy based on small, often family-owned companies, with the presence of a large manufacturing company that, at its peak time, would have been more appropriate to label as a “conglomerate” and was the largest employer, you generate at least few side-effects. From training, to logistics, to banking, to public services, it was common to use the key company as a reference and catalyst for the definition of what was provided to other companies. E.g. I remember in my first days on my first banking project receiving an explanation of the “tasso FIAT” as a benchmark for interest rates charged to business customers. And, obviously, if the services sector is structured about a large presence, when it is reduced, even across decades, it takes a while to adjust all the ancillary services and industries, as well as the public services- and you are still left with the assets to keep up.
  12. 12. http://linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro 6 Over the latest couple of decades, statistics show that Italy (and not just Turin and its region) suffered what some would be more direct and say in Italian that it was “deindustrializzazione” (shrinking of the manufacturing base). I remember from my times in Rome an interesting statistics from more than a decade ago about new company formation: immigrants created proportionally more companies than Italians. I will not enter into a discussion on which company should be called a start-up (see the bibliography in the previous chapter), but generally here any new company is considered a start-up, also if some more restrictive definitions are considered abroad. In Turin, there are still plenty of unused or abandoned facilities available in town, all relatively well connected by public transport, while the town needs to actually expand its tax base to sustain both renovation and maintenance of existing public services and facilities. As I said in the late 1990s to my partners abroad in information technology, actually the cost of skilled resources in Turin is competitive, if you consider the total costs incurred when you have to bring people from outside Europe, or salaries paid to locals in, say, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Zurich, or even the costs involved in doing quality assurance and audit checks to suppliers based in other continents. Over the last few months I met start-ups in Italy covering various elements of “digital innovation”, or creating new products and services, but often trying to reinvent an organizational wheel. Too many start-ups sounded as grounded in, by, for academia, and their teams reminded me of those movie directors that watched too many movies instead of focusing on doing their own movie. While abroad, I saw a completely different environment (more about this in chapter 3). I will skip long lists of case studies and presentations that I attended since March, and will summarize some key elements in the next page.
  13. 13. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 7 Since the early 2000s, there have been many attempts in Italy to improve the infrastructure needed to enable more digital business (e.g. broadband), and countless incubators, accelerators, grant programmes, but, frankly, none really produced what any would consider (outside Italy) a success story. Or: how many Italian “unicorns” (start-ups valued more than 1bln USD) do you know? Do you remember any? None? Welcome to the club. If a university churns out X graduates per year, Y Masters, and Z Ph.D.s, the expectation is that organically (i.e. without any special programme or funding) this should result in a number of companies. More than a decade ago, that was a criticism that I collected from visiting foreigners at a European conference related to transportation and tourism (two of the areas I have a lifelong personal and business interest in): that you needed at all something “extra” to generate the numbers shown was met with disbelief. On June 12th at a workshop on innovation for small and medium enterprises the moderator (not an Italian) stated that employee retention is higher in Italy than in other countries- a positive sign. I actually think that the information within the Italian context has a different meaning, but will share my ideas in the next chapter. Another element that was often discussed is that the death ratio of start-ups is too high for the local business culture to stomach. Closing down a business still carries a stigma in Italy, and actually might impede starting a new one, also because most funding comes from banking credit lines, not from a start-up ecosystem. Yes, “angel” investment is slowly developing also in Italy- but not as much as posts on Linkedin announcing this or that convention or prize would make you believe. At the same workshop an equation was presented, stating that innovation = invention x commercialization In Italy, we are surprisingly strong on invention, but always weak on commercialization, and I collected examples in various industries.
  14. 14. http://linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro 8 The July 12th workshop was an interesting 1-day Executive programme on innovation, organized by the Turin Chamber of Commerce for Small and Medium Enterprises within the framework of the national initiative to disseminate industry 4.0 knowledge, in collaboration with the European Innovation Academy. The first surprise (for myself) was the small number of people from larger companies attending- a stark difference from conferences that I attended abroad since the early 2000s. If an elefant wants to learn to dance, has to attend a dance school. The focus was really on innovation and digitalization, to show how also smaller companies, using technology and Internet, could actually project themselves globally. I will not summarize that event- you can actually soon find the material on Slideshare, so have a look at the link to the event. https://www.to.camcom.it/executive-innovation-40-masterclass The interesting part of the event was the types of questions that were asked, and the commentary during coffee breaks and other pauses. Obviously, also if the event was free, the registration process already screened many, and therefore, as in many other cases, those attending were already highly motivated for other reasons. As per the applicability of what was presented (again, see the link above): I shared the bibliography in chapter 1 as some of the material presented and some of the speeches actually referred to what you will find in that list (e.g. from the business model canvas, to the “Lean Startup” book). Another event that would like to highlight was organized by Cerved in Milan on July 5th- and in that case too you will eventually find the material online. https://www.cervednext.com It was actually focused on data-centric businesses but, frankly, which business in the future will not be data-centric?
  15. 15. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 9 In both cases, the events are actually annual events. Being in Turin, I also attended few events presenting research on the socio-economic environment of Turin and Piedmont. I will share some commentary in the next chapter but if you are into number crunching while deciding where could make sense to do something, these are the reports (available online for free, I think) that I would suggest to download: From Banca d’Italia (www.bancaditalia.it) Economie regionali – L’economia del Piemonte 2015/1 ISSN 2283-9933 Economie regionali – L’economia del Piemonte 2017/1 ISSN 2283-9933 Economie regionali – L’economia delle regioni italiane 2017 ISSN 2283-9933 From icom and orti (www.osservatoriorti.com) Piemonte – L’economia della regione e i rapporti tra le amministrazioni territoriali e le imprese A recent book worth reading to understand and compare the Italian economy with other EU countries: Giunta – Rossi “Che cosa sa fare l’Ialia” Laterza 2017 ISBN 978-88-581-2677-6 In the future, I will post more articles in Italian with similar material (and some number crunching) on: http://dirittodivoto.com Instead, the articles in English will be available on: http://robertolofaro.com/portal/rethinking-business
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  17. 17. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 11 3 CONNECTING THE KNOWLEDGE DOTS Turin, that used to be called “the Italian Detroit” actually transitioned better than its USA counterpart to a new world. This was also thanks to early 1990s reforms within the banking industry that created non-profit pools of financial resources, with two of the main “Fondazioni” being based in Turin: Compagnia San Paolo http://www.compagniadisanpaolo.it/eng/The-Foundation Fondazione CRT http://www.fondazionecrt.it/en/fondazione-crt.html Converting a town that used to have more than 1.2 million inhabitants focused on manufacturing and supporting services into a smaller town of less than 900,000 and with a focus on services, culture, tourism isn’t easy. You can e.g. expand local universities (not too long ago at a conference I was told that Turin now has approximately 100,000 university students with 25% “foreigners”- which locally could just mean “from outside Turin”). Unless you create reasons to retain talent locally, you are actually using the existing capital to fund somebody else’s new ventures, a net transfer of resources.
  18. 18. http://linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro 12 Or: if you use your existing capital as collateral for investments whose results do not generate local cash-flows large enough to sustain the regeneration of that pool of capital, you are not investing. You are accelerating the convergence toward a point where your model will be unsustainable, and are de facto “dumping” your assets into somebody else’s lap, while retaining the maintenance costs. And the debt of the local authorities is a witness to the costs incurred when you have to sustain the costs of a large city with a smaller tax base and with lower average salaries. But it is a trend that can be still reversed. What does it take? First, to become less obsessed with keeping happy incumbents by creating more and more “paid soapboxes” (what in Italian are called “strapuntini”) that would have a half-life of one-two decades. Or: long enough to turn the occupants into “international experts”, but, again, using existing capital to externalize benefits. Not just because it is a waste of resources, but because, then, those occupying those paid soapboxes are inclined to remember everybody of their right to exist by adding further bureaucracy, or “must do” activities- generating entropy for the entropy sake. Turin still retains universities and, in the surrounding areas, research facilities that previously supported the manufacturing industry (not just in automotive- also telco, machinery, etc.) The point is keeping that “human capital” alive, e.g. by finding a way to retain top students (and lecturers, researchers, etc.) in town. While the legal and tax framework in Italy still generates a tax and bureaucracy overhead that makes the country less competitive, the release of massive space while infrastructure has been expanded around the Winter Olympic Games of 2006 generated opportunities that could actually be useful for other companies (not just in Italy). The presence of the above mentioned facilities created also in Italy a trend toward the creation of more and more “coworking” spaces, generally with the target of supporting start-ups.
  19. 19. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 13 Now, is that the right target? If you add into the picture the underused airport of Turin, just between one and two hours of flight from major towns in Europe, it might actually make more sense to adopt a different model. I will not list all the events that I attended between Turin and Milan even just from March 2018, but one element that is common is the concept to promote the creation of companies, or making them grow, with limited or no reference to integration within the “ecosystem” of other countries. In my activities around Europe, I worked for English, American, French and other non-Italian companies. I will skip the theory, and give just a small example of what I mean by “integrating within an ecosystem” as enabled by having an underused airport that is barely 1-2 hours from major European business towns. While working in Paris with the EMEA branch of an American software company, I was told what really means being within an ecosystem where large companies are around the corner from start- ups and are used to work with them. It was time (1990s) to add the web side of the software, and at the time the obvious choice followed by many was to use Java. The company I worked for in Paris had offices close to those of Sun, and being around the corner allowed them to do something more than the usual licensing- I would call it “co-engineering”. But as I wrote within the introductory pages, in Italy since the late 1980s I saw few cases of successful of cooperation. And often were mainly due to the need of the large company to integrate innovation by creating an “innovation oasis” that was shielded by the overall structure. Reason?
  20. 20. http://linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro 14 Despite being culturally ill adapted to grow large companies (if that even were to make sense, nowadays, and should not be considered a 1950s-1960s idea), Italian companies are built on the Italian social culture. Italy is a relationship-based economy since well before the Italian Republic was founded after WWII. My point is: if there is a lack of local companies able to sustain a start-up ecosystem that could be potentially thriving, look elsewhere, don’t waste resources on trying to build new ones by mimicking in few months what others did in decades. The interesting part of current technology is that enables any company to reach way beyond its local customer base. So, it would make sense to focus on that, but, as someone remembered in another workshop, what we are talking about is a cultural shift that is akin to a revolution, and there is no revolution without collateral damage. Remember: history books are written by winners, so what you probably were told about revolutions (or, in Italy, our own “risorgimento”, a kind of renaissance on a national level) in school is a little bit biased: adding a little bit of “heroic” elements within the recipe makes for an easier sell. For the time being, I sadly have to concur others said in that convention in Turin over a decade ago that I referred to in the previous chapter, and recently uttered again by others (e.g. see the Pistono books listed in chapter 1). Instead of creating start-ups that develop and turn “unicorns”, we turned the “start-up support industry” into yet another career opportunity, no matter what the results. Therefore, too many new companies turn into “lifestyle businesses”: attend a party for start-ups, collect a prize once in a while, but never do enough to expand, just enough to keep being a “potential success” forever (and to keep busy the cottage industry that developed around start-up events in Italy).
  21. 21. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 15 As for the “higher talent retention rate” in Italy, I hinted to my doubts in the previous chapter. Granted- might be a positive element, if I compare with turnover data that I was given in a job interview in London for a post in China. Albeit the data from the ground that I have are different: it Is not that employees stay because they are happy- but because there are fewer opportunities and more volatility than in other countries, and, anyway, start-ups usually can access a large pool of university students, graduates, Ph.D. candidates at low (or no) cost. Compare the salaries offered in London by start-ups to retain or attract talents with those offered in Italy, and you will see also why there are less “job leavers”. I met many that would like to start their own business, not work for somebody else’s business, but have no access to funding and mentoring resources that could help them start. Another set of dots to be connected: you cannot reap all the benefits of industry or business 4.0 unless you embed into your corporate culture a different approach to service and product design. If you want a thriving start-up and digitalization ecosystem, you have to let go of control and allow some entropy to enter your ecosystem. This implies that companies have to get used to active talent retention and career planning. And also to cooperate with start-ups providing talent that they will need only on a specific initiative, talent that then might go and instead work for a competitor, or even end up creating a new, competing business that identify a niche work developing before you do. In the end, a more open market also for employees would enable a faster allocation of skills where needed. An element that might be useful is to create more informational opportunities for continued professional education.
  22. 22. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 17 4 THE END OF THE BEGINNING This mini-book was to share material, notes, and of course ideas. Frankly, communication on 4.0 in Italy is still too weak and too fragmented: we still operate an “industry of a thousand gardens”. In Italy this is routinely described as “we do not have a ‘sistema italia’”, i.e. we do not have a comprehensive, systemic pooling of resources. But this usually is said by many just before creating yet another soapbox. I believe that we need to think outside the box, not creating new ones. Currently I live in Turin, and therefore discussed the local opportunities, but probably something similar could be written for other locations. Each location is unique, each one is a mix, what matters is assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your existing socio- economic environment, and build on that but thinking on a systemic change approach, without being delusional. Being delusional is creating something and then assuming that you are the only one that can do it.
  23. 23. http://linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro 18 As an American colleague decades ago reminded me, it was common in Italy to hear “we had an empire”- meaning the Roman Empire (actually, it still is). If every product and every service is turned into a replicable commodity (think about the use of “standard” components and sensors as required to enable interconnecting different devices, cars, etc. in “smart cities”), you can still make a difference. But, as I said decades ago to other fellow Italians and foreign friends, what we often forget is that the “genius loci” is not something embedded in a specific “race”- that’s XIX mumbo-jumbo that is never going to become true, not matter how often is repeated. Personally, I think that at least since I started working abroad in the late 1980s, I saw that some foreign communities understood that this quite well. Instead of replicating Italian products, it makes more sense to “implant communities” in Italy, so that the next generation adapts to the “genius loci”- albeit, then, you have to find a way to build a blend of elements, not to turn, say, Chinese and German into Italians more Italians than Italians. We already have in Italy e.g. designers who are second generation Italians, and are able to blend Italian culture with modern technologies and a cultural ability to scale up. Let’s say that the current and continuing expansion of facilities to train and develop human capital in Turin is fine if its internationalization increases, so that, instead of following the old XX century model of a town focused on its surrounding areas and, at best, becoming “the manufacturing heart” of Italy, Turin and Piedmont can leverage on something else. I keep meeting tourists surprised by the architectural quality of the centre of Turin, the quantity of new cafés and restaurants, and the overall availability of public transport. And actually the “small dimension” of Italian companies, if decoupled by the habit to avoid collaboration outside their own “tribe”, would be more appropriate for the demands of a XXI century social and economic environment.
  24. 24. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 19 Business models are not anymore something that is cast in stone for decades. Look at e.g. the typical 1950s-1960s behemoths, such as the automotive, or steel, or power plant industries: they too are turning their products into commodities, and constantly morphing their production facilities. If we consider small companies as “focused”, and give them support so that they can actually converge on specific initiatives, it might actually be that we will get used to “business models on demand”. This might happen sooner than later- but it relies on building up a different set of basic business skills . To repeat once more: the internationalization dimension of Turin and Piedmont doesn’t imply creating yet another collection “of paid soapboxes” abroad, as e.g. I saw while living in Brussels, that are detached from the local economy. It makes more sense to have visiting professors or experts and then build reasons for recurring connections, to create a two-way communication channel. Whenever I went abroad to work, live, study, I ended up staying away from Italians who were there, for just one reason. Instead of integrating, or acting as “informal diplomats” (as some country wrote on its passports), Italians abroad try too often to replicate Italy, and end up confirming all the stereotypes. As my Baltic friends said, usually the Italians they met were seeing Italy as “all black” or “all white”, so it was unusual to hear somebody talking about lights and shadows. I quoted just SAP free courses and hinted to Stanford and MIT, but other universities and other companies deliver plenty of training material online- build your own learning track, if needed. We Italians still do rely too much on person-to-person attendance in training sessions, while it would make more sense to flip it the other way around, following a kind of “open university” model.
  25. 25. http://linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro 20 Meaning: before attending an event, you have to have developed a “common lingo”, by attending online training. This “pre-requisite” should be delivered in Italian, as even basic English language skills are still not so widespread, turning away many potential innovators who focus on product or service. Many of my colleagues would say that most of the previous pages lacked specific material on “how”. More than a decade ago, as part of my “PartnershipIncubator” concept, considered also following what I wrote above, i.e. take the complexity away, and find “product” or “service” oriented companies who lacked digital skills to help them set-up e-commerce, as there were incentives and new regulations in Italy. I did agreements to externalize the infrastructural part (meaning: so that all the “technicalities”, after the e-commerce was online, would be… maintaining product pictures and pricelists, something delegated to the customer). I found potential customers and a first pilot to confirm the process and then make it scalable (to follow a pipeline of concurrent customers, and then expand). There was a little issue: having lived too much abroad and, since the late 1980s, worked too much with foreign companies, I did not consider that most of the targets, micro-companies, were used to let’s say “limited fiscal transparency”. In the end the real issue was that, in order to deliver legally e- commerce, companies had not just to register with local authorities (we would support that phase as well), but also… have complete transparency on their purchases and sales. It was probably too early, as over a decade later it is more common to have that level of transparency (albeit I still see that, when I go in open air markets, I have been told that when I am there everybody gives a tax receipt, while it is not so customary). Why had I designed that service in that way?
  26. 26. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 21 Because I had worked using either an outsourcing or “virtual business” model since the late 1980s, and the point was to let small businesses to focus on what they knew best, not having them to create an IT department or having to juggle between half a dozen suppliers, or having to learn how to manage software projects. Fast forward to today, you can actually have infrastructure for free (up to a point) from the likes of Amazon and Google), so that you can develop a service or product and only later incur running costs. And also machine learning, both from the above mentioned and Intel, is available on the cloud. Probably soon there will be plenty of offers to take off-the-shelf machine learning and artificial intelligence services, maybe by presenting your process to a website by answering few questions, used by a machine to create what you need. But those are technicalities, that I already discussed in articles that I posted on http://robertolofaro.com/portal/rethinking-business - and more articles will follow (as I am on both Amazon AWS and the Intel neural networking platform). I would suggest to start with the SAP courses that I listed in the first chapter, so that you can have a better perception of what is really relevant to your business and explore possibilities, before even spending a single Euro on consultants (myself included). Thereafter, if you are in Italy, look for the nearest “Punto Impresa Digitale”, e.g. https://www.to.camcom.it/pid-digitale-e-innovazione
  27. 27. http://linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro 22 I would like to close this short book with the closing remarks of a short book published in 1996 by Laterza, from Ludovico Incisa di Camerana, on the need of a different approach to foreign policy in Italy: “I maggiori schieramenti, nel concordare la linea internazionale italiana, debbono evitare, come finora non hanno fatto, i condizionamenti spesso stravaganti delle loro frange marginali. Debbono egualmente abbandonare quella gara nel perbenismo europeista rapidamente e vergognosamente disertata, proprio all’inizio del semestre di presidenza italiana, alla prima futile crisi di governo. L’Europa nella sua evoluzione dev’esser oggetto di una costante analisi anche critica, ma non può esser venerata in un modo superstizioso nei riti quotidiani ed ignorata bruscamente al primo intoppo nella politica interna.” Italy, more than other countries, mis-managed the benefits of the end of the Cold War- the title of that book was “La vittoria dell’Italia nelle terza Guerra mondiale”. Albeit… it is not a victory that we should look for, but a joint-effort that might be successful only if we will be able to involve plenty of others. Let’s see if, following a continuous improvement approach, we can write a new book on “how Italy thrived in the 4.0 revolution”.
  28. 28. Just another book on innovation (in Italy) 23

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