Paola Cillo and

Innovation: a support for new ideas and specialization

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by Paola Cillo and Emanuela Prandelli, SDA Professors of Marketing and Associate Professors, Department of Management and Technology at Università Bocconi.

Something especially important for young people, who are often keen to set up a new business.

If in the past we have often looked to the ability to invest in change as a key lever to increase and sustain differentiation and competitive advantage, nowadays we begin to see innovation as a fundamental ingredient to survive in times of crisis. In view of the dramatic number of companies forced to exit the market, start-ups that introduce new business models and professionals who reinvent a business in order to find a better balance between work life and family life (something that’s not always contemplated by the dominant work culture) are a cause of surprise and admiration.

Necessity is the mother of invention: this is not just a commonplace but also a fact, as recent studies on creativity proved that financial and production constraints increase rather than curb inventive thinking. In times of crisis innovation is often the only thing people can turn to in order to change course, come up with a new destination and even redesign the entire map. As unrealistic as this statement may sound, innovation must be anti-cyclical and it is in the darkest moments of a crisis that investment in innovation becomes vital. Change is fueled by the creativity of individuals and companies that redesign the evolution of entire markets and create new fields of work, whose borders are increasingly blurry and overlapping. It is the rise of new industries that often fuels growth for the whole country, which over time sees its areas of excellence evolve and has to reinvent its contribution to entrepreneurship in an ever more dynamic and global scenario. This does not mean to deny the past, but alongside the need to cultivate the most fertile fields, there is also the need to start ploughing new ones, even at the risk of ending up in unfertile ground.

In a world where innovation is becoming increasingly widespread, it is important for professionals, businesses and countries alike to develop strong and distinctive expertise, which can be used as a new currency to acquire complementary competences that are equally strong and distinctive. Specialization is not only possible but increasingly necessary as resources are shared more and more, also thanks to the Internet, which made the increase exponential. The dominant rule has become "patent & crowd", i.e. register patents and share your ideas with other people who can put your inventions to good use in a multitude of ways. This is the apotheosis of the skills market, which does not create uncertainty, but proves the objective value of every single professional, company and country. 
How can we promote this process of change, without which, like it or not, it is very difficult to imagine being able to turn the page?

First of all by providing support to ideas and entrepreneurship, particularly when this comes from young people. At university, students seems to be increasingly keen to set up new businesses that often end up being very successful. Simplifying access to financial resources and promoting competitions that encourage rather than frustrate innovation can prove a significant drive for creativity and at the same time for selecting the best ideas, without stigmatizing failure.

In order to stimulate innovation, it is also important to invest in networking: creating a network of local excellence to rediscover our invaluable and distinctive heritage and to project it and make it grow globally. This is now possible thanks to another network, the Internet, and its increasingly widespread connectivity. 

Finally, it is essential to bring together the minds of those who have chosen to contribute to the growth of their country and, at the same time, to encourage those who have trained abroad to return and to attract new talent from outside, in order to make our industries evolve in new directions. In this context the destination may be a lot less certain, but precisely because of this it can fuel hopes for development.

Source: Sarfatti25 - Translated by SDA Bocconi School of Management

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