Cappetta: rigor, accountability and beauty are the ingredients to educate the managers of tomorrow

Conversations with SDA Bocconi new managers


Liquidity vs solidity. This is maybe too much of a synthetic formula, but it helps understand Rossella Cappetta‘s vision of managerial culture and education. She is SDA Bocconi’s new Associate Dean for Open Programs in the organizational chart designed by Dean Giuseppe Soda. She advocates for methodological rigor and rejects a “fluid” idea of management, often overlooking accountability, which is indeed one of the cardinal points of managerial action. In short, she is infusing a specific value-related dimension in her new job. 

This approach is rooted in her personal curriculum: SDA professor in the area of Organization Design, she is the former Director of the Organization and Human Resources Management Department, and, later, of the Masters Division. She is back at SDA Bocconi after an external assignment mainly dealing with the connection between corporate and public training policies (an experience she has written about in her book Apprendimento Non-stop. Integrare politiche pubbliche e aziendali sulla formazione per conciliare benessere e produttività, translating into Non-stop Learning. Integrating public and corporate training policies to marry wellbeing and productivity, Egea Publishing). We have asked her to summarize her idea of education for us, its priorities and perspectives. 

Today, what are the main characteristics of a managerial education capable of generating real impact and change?

“We increasingly need to invest in three specific characteristics of education, which should be rigorous, relevant and non-stop,” says Cappetta. “It is the only way to really contribute to building and developing skills, and therefore to deliver a meaningful (and beautiful) work to those who participate in our Programs. Education should also support our participants in all the transformations along their professional growth path.” 

According to Cappetta, Bauman’s concept of liquidity has been often misused, ideologically misused, in corporate contexts. “We speak of ‘fuzzy’ companies, where everything is endlessly flowing, and the inside and the outside are blurred. This ends up undermining any corporate model and can become an excuse for not being specifically accountable and not making decisions and investments in the long term.” The idea of accountability is a watershed, it is what enables businesses to generate value for themselves, for the people who work for them and the communities they belong to. “But rigor and accountability do not mean being rigid: corporate models need to be designed, implemented and evaluated. And changed in the face of the results of monitoring.” 

Which is the challenge we need to face first? 

“I think we need first of all to address the challenge of competences which fit an increasingly complex contest. When it comes to skills, fluidity – far from being a postmodern element – can become a comforting escape from complexity. Today, the real challenge is contributing to real managerial growth, which means exactly increasing competencies, without being carried away by fads, and discussions which are both superficial and ideological. That is why SDA Bocconi needs to continue being a landmark in an increasingly wide, varied and often confusing scene.” 

Another value Cappetta wants to focus on has to do with the “beauty” of working: “it is important to be in love with your job because ‘work saves you’, as Primo Levi used to say. But in order for this to be true, you need to have the competencies to be passionate about what you do.” And it is not hard to see such passion in the words and style of SDA Bocconi’s new head of managerial education.


SDA Bocconi School of Management

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