Why Dematté's voice still resonates

In the words of the most recent five Deans, the human and strategic legacy of the founder of SDA Bocconi

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Openness to challenges, aspiration for growth, and the spirit of innovation are the distinctive traits that Claudio Dematté wanted to attribute to SDA Bocconi School of Management since he founded it, along with a small group of courageous colleagues, in 1971. But these are also the characteristics that define the companies choosing to resort to venture capital. This is why “the theme of venture capital is the most important key to understanding and encapsulating Claudio Dematté's spirit and his ability to be simultaneously courageous and transgressive, bold and tenacious, always with an eye on the long term. This applies to both companies and our School," said Stefano Caselli, Dean of SDA Bocconi, yesterday afternoon, opening a conference in honor of Dematté, on the twentieth anniversary of his passing.

This is also why the tribute was shared with AIFI, the Italian Association of Private Equity, Venture Capital, and Private Debt, of which Dematté was President and which dedicated the Claudio Dematté Private Equity of the Year Award to him. During the event, AIFI presented a book collecting the stories of the winners of the award, now in its twentieth edition.

The characteristics and exceptional qualities of today’s School directly stem from Dematté's vision. Dematté drew inspiration for SDA Bocconi from his experience attending Harvard's MBA, but he wanted a School that was not simply a copy of Anglo-Saxon ones but an original model, as SDA Bocconi continues to be. He didn't want to call SDA Bocconi a business school but a management school, to emphasize that its scope should extend to public and non-profit organizations as well. He wanted a School that pursued the “search for more just economic and organizational structures,” an idea that today translates into the motto “Value and values.” 

The most recent representatives of this direct line, namely the Past Deans of the last 20 years, remembered Dematté by choosing the word that, according to them, best defines him.

Maurizio Dallocchio, Dean from 2003 to 2006, chose the word “time.” A legendary characteristic of Dematté, said Dallocchio, “was his ability to always find time for everyone. He was always present. And often it was easy to see him engaged in long conversations with even humble people, while perhaps he was expected for an important symposium or an award presentation. His time management was a striking example of presence, attention, and ultimately also respect for everyone.”

Alberto Grando, Dean from 2006 to 2012, chose “first-name.” In the '70s and '80s, when there was a rigid formalism in universities, “Claudio spread in SDA Bocconi, by example, the habit of being in first-name terms with everyone - truly everyone, regardless of their role. He thus led a gentle revolution and instilled a spirit of community and a sense of belonging that proved functional to the growth of the School and to our personal growth, creating the sense of identity that, in my opinion, still makes SDA a unique place to work.”

Bruno Busacca, Dean from 2012 to 2016, chose a noun, “vision,” and paired it with an adjective, “enlightened,” justified by four peculiarities. “Claudio's vision always went beyond short-term challenges, promoting breadth and depth of thought; it promoted continuous innovation and the exploration of new horizons; it disregarded existing constraints, resources, habits, and beliefs of the moment; it was compelling and exciting because it was fueled by charismatic leadership, capable of inspiring people and of mobilizing them toward high objectives, oriented toward collective progress.”

Giuseppe Soda, Dean from 2016 to 2022, chose the verb “to anticipate.” The image he holds of Dematté “is that of a sailor who feels the wind ‘before’ it arrives. This capacity for anticipation not only shaped the school's development strategy but was also reflected, thanks to his very empathetic interpersonal style, in individuals. Each of us, I believe, has experienced in our relationship with him this extraordinary leadership trait.” 

 

SDA Bocconi School of Management

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