Logo della Fondazione Giannino Bassetti


Innovation is the ability to achieve the improbable

Intestazione stampa


Pages in english

Home > Training means working alongside researchers

Training means working alongside researchers

by Redazione FGB [1], 3 April 2008

(Leggi in Italiano [2])

(from: Witnesses to innovation, "@tilab [3]", year III, no. 7, October/November 2003)

"The Italian model has run its course". The alarm launched in the "Affari e Finanza" section of daily newspaper Repubblica by Gian Maria Gros Pietro, the Chairman of Autostrade and a lecturer in Management Economics at the University of Turin, could well be joined by others. Falling orders, the contraction in demand and sales (the Istat data for August point to a fall of 5.4% in industrial sales and 3.7% in production compared with the same period the previous year) and a slackening of our competitiveness are all negative factors that should not be neglected. This sharp criticism by a leading Italian businessman, who has served as Chairman of ENI and IRI, focuses on one fact in particular: little is done in Italy in the field of research and much in that of product innovation, which means that: "we are present in situations where there is not much future, but noticeably absent in situations where the future is important, which is to say, in micro-electronics, Information Technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and new materials, which are going to be the drivers of the next industrial revolution". but noticeable by our absence from situations where the future is important, which is to say, in micro-electronics, Information Technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and new materials, which are going to be the drivers of the next industrial revolution".

Question: Prof. Panzarani [4], the concerns voiced by Gros Pietro, which paint a pretty accurate picture of the current state of our economy, take us straight to the point of our discussion: what is the state of the relationship between innovation and training in the information society?

I would use here the apt definition provided by Jonathan Low and Pam Cohen Kalafut when they talk in their latest study [5] of the invisible advantage, by which they mean knowledge, the driving force of modern firms. It is intangible assets that drive competitive advantage, the possibility of making a difference, in a context such as ICT where trainers are required to take on new tasks and responsibilities. The value of the triangular relationship linking training, innovation and research is the foundation on which we need to build, a paradigm made up of three interdependent poles. In the years leading up to the great technological euphoria, thanks to the relative stability of the markets the major training companies did not feel the need to engage in advanced training with links to research laboratories and experimental centres. Today the picture has changed dramatically and this connection has acquired a strategic importance.

Question: Gros Pietro's critique highlights an objective fact: product innovation, which has been a source of success and growth for Italy, is not enough to sustain our competitiveness at the global level. Does this mean that it is the growth paradigm that needs to change?

It is almost impossible to set up training activities that are suited to the mechanisms governing senior mangers' decision-making processes unless the study process is linked to scientific research, which is undoubtedly the trigger of innovation. The obsolescence process, which inexorably affects technologies, is impacting training with a speed that was unheard of in the past.

Some historic examples show that even firmly established positions can weaken and lose ground. In the 19th century Great Britain was in the forefront, having led the first industrial revolution. The period following the First World War saw the start of the unstoppable rise of America, and the dominance of a different philosophy and different form of labour organisation. The same thing is happening now, in the universe of the net economy. Countries like China are advancing, not just as a result of low labour costs, which many believe to be the cause, but because of the ability shown by these countries to invest in training, know-how and knowledge. The capital of ideas, or intellectual capital, moves very quickly indeed. Trainers need to be able to intercept these movements, decipher them, and translate the signs of change into clear meanings for management, which has to tackle the pitfalls of the market on a daily basis.

Question: In a complex society constantly seeking new equilibria, dominated by uncertainly and by the conflict between the global and the local levels and between identity and difference, what training models might prove to be successful?

During my period as chairman of the Associazione Italiana Formatori (Italian Trainers' Association) I focused strongly on the identity of our role, which I have always thought should primarily be to provide a link to enable the various "actors" operating in businesses to talk to each other. Classroom activities and training or study courses need to be the end-product of a process that should never be isolated from the value chain. In the last few months I have come into contact with all aspects of the world of training in Italy. We need to recognise that there has been a general improvement, in terms of the quality of the resources involved. An awareness is developing in the training profession, which over and above its specific tasks - which I certainly don't mean to underestimate - is increasingly involved in refining the decision-making tools available to management in difficult situations where there are numerous unknown quantities and critical issues to resolve.

Question: Which points of strength should training have in a research centre such as TILAB?

In TILAB we can create a golden synthesis. A large research structure whose mission is innovation controls by definition, and with complete mastery, the three factors we were discussing earlier on. At these levels, training primarily means working in depth, establishing a constant link with the universities and other centres of excellence through which we can implement effective, continuous training projects designed to foster the "innovator's mindset", the key features of which are openness, mental elasticity, and flexibility. It means cultivating "network management", a key concept that is all the more valid in a large concern such as TILAB, where training means working side by side with researchers to decipher and use to best effect the flow of knowledge transiting the Web. Developing an aptitude for innovation is a mental exercise, a psychological process that leads us to think on a larger scale and which needs to be nourished continuously from all the sources that the Information Society places at our disposal nowadays. Training also means following scientific and technological processes, understanding the wave followed by the market and consequently up-dating knowledge and know-how which would otherwise run the risk of obsolescence.

Question: In the book "E-business", Claudio Dematté maintains that the Internet has become an integral and necessary part of all new business models. What does this mean for people working in training?

In general terms I agree with this view. Let's get our positions clear: the Enron case does not mean the end of Internet, as some people claimed at the start of that affair. The "Internet" economy is a structural given that is here to stay. From the point of view of the training-innovation relationship, the input of the new technologies is actually of fundamental importance. The Internet is an important doorway to knowledge. For this reason, the need is felt in many circles to set up courses to learn how to use the information available on the Web.

What is missing is an informed approach to consulting the net. Cyber surfers do not always dig deep enough. They don't have a strong enough grasp of the linguistic codes, for example they don't understand English which, it bears repeating, is the language of the Internet.

Question: The dissemination of cultural and scientific information, which involves publishing but also targeted events, is increasingly being used as a training tool. Telecom's [6] "Project Italy" follows this approach, as exemplified by the recent science exhibition in Genoa. What type of impact can these activities have on the traditional tasks of trainers?

The answer is simple. Training can be pursued by following any number and type of pathways, as the multiplicity of communication channels has also multiplied the channels available to us in our work as trainers. Through my work, I have established a lasting contact with the Boston Center for Business Innovation. Presenting their studies here in Italy was an opportunity for growth for me, where the aim was to "deprovincialise" the approach to business that is typical of the Italian economy, which traditionally is hardly receptive to the issues of innovation.

As a result, I embarked on a cross-fertilisation project that brought together the worlds of academe, business and journalism around the concepts voiced by Chris Meyer [7], Stan Davis [8] and Thomas Petzinger [9]. Creating a breeding ground for ideas, a fertile terrain for knowledge, working in the field through hundreds of conferences, seminars and workshops organised directly in companies, was a cutting edge endeavour that in addition to its value in terms of knowledge and training also had a very real impact on the ways of "doing and conceiving of" business. In all of this, I would not underestimate the emotional component.

From diversity comes innovation and from debate, as we know, ideas are born. Knowledge spans the entire network, which means that the debate that we need to encourage has no borders. Take for example the image on our TV screens of a Bolivian farm worker linked to the Internet, or different peoples in Africa communicating through their mobile phones. Do we want to go on ignoring them and feeling that the world revolves around us? I believe integration could be the new frontier for training, the new Areopagus, the new horizon for the future.

Show/Hide links in this document

Links in this document:

  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Redazione FGB
  2. 2] /it/pagine/2008/04/formare_significa_lavorare_a_f.html
  3. 3] http://www.telecomitalia.it/cgi-bin/tiportale/TIPortale/ep/browse.do?tabId=2&pageTypeId=-12157&LANG=IT&channelId=-12298&channelPage=/ep/channel/default.jsp
  4. 4] /it/pagine/2008/01/roberto_panzarani.html
  5. 5] http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0738205397/ref=sib_dp_pt/002-4968508-1468046#reader-page
  6. 6] http://www.telecomitalia.it/
  7. 7] http://www.kurzweilai.net/bios/frame.html?main=/bios/bio0226.html
  8. 8] http://www.thefutureoflife.com/speakers/davis.htm
  9. 9] http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/petzinger.html
CC Creative Commons - some rights reserved.
Roberto Panzarani
See also: the the comments to the interview and Stan Davis by Julia Cobb
Leggi in Italiano
Articles by:  Redazione FGB
Search by:
Search video by:

- Mailing list Subscription - Cookies Policy - Privacy Policy -

RSS Feed  Valid XHTML  Diritti d'autore - Creative Commons Gruppo Fondazione Giannino Bassetti in Facebook Gruppo Fondazione Giannino Bassetti in Linkedin Segui la Fondazione Giannino Bassetti in twitter

p.i. 12520270153