Speaking of business, I think we can agree on one aspect: the watchword should be to innovate, always and anyway, whether you need to introduce innovative products or want to optimize existing ones.
Allow me to introduce, in this regard, a couple of anecdotes, which are only apparently disjointed.
Back in 1994, the European Community, the first political entity in the world, introduced a directive – 94/62/EC – which required the Member States to develop measures aimed at reducing packaging waste. The aim was to encourage the development of systems for the collection and reuse of packaging itself.
In Italy the directive was translated into Legislative Decree 152/2006 – the so-called Consolidated Law on the Environment. In all frankness, general skepticism reigned. Could a simple directive, without precise constraints or controls, be successful in a country where it is difficult to respect even the elementary rules of coexistence? After almost thirty years, the results have been very different: Italy is currently the world leader in the reduction and reuse of packaging waste. It is a point of reference for many other countries considered more advanced in environmental and civic matters.
The national waste management system has been managed by CONAI, the National Packaging Consortium. CONAI, a non-profit organization, has started, and patiently managed, a virtuous circle of encounter between the needs of producers and users, which many now envy us.
Two parks, two destinies
The second brief anecdote: a fact that really happened to me and remained impressed. Years ago I came across an area of town that included two parks within a few blocks of each other. For the first, park #1, a makeover and maintenance was planned. Thus, in the course of a few months, citizens found new bars with captivating architecture, delightful English lawns, well-kept flower beds and wonderful flowers. The park in the area just adjacent, park #2, on the other hand, remained awaiting a similar intervention. This took much longer than expected, despite the fact that the park certainly didn’t shine for its aesthetic care: only an old kiosk and dirt and muddy expanses.
The two areas thus had opposite destinies. Park #1 was always respected and cared for, while in park #2 the kiosk was regularly vandalized with vulgar graffiti (far from being considered street art to be clear). The surrounding lawn then turned into a sort of latrine to be trampled by your dog, at best.
The most significant aspect was also that around the rearranged area many other interventions were carried out over time, spontaneously and not initially foreseen. Around a beautiful and well-kept park, ugly or dilapidated houses clashed, and little by little, the whole neighborhood took on a radically different appearance, much more attractive, even for capitals. In fact, house prices have risen steadily, increasing the value of the little money invested years earlier.
Among so many ideas…
What do a European directive on packaging and this episode have in common?
It seems to me that they share a line of conduct: the essential thing is to start an innovative path, take the first step, create the spark that sets a virtuous circle in motion. Very often, in fact, we realize how efficient action leads to efficient action, and almost “magically” we trace a direction, however positive, even if imperfect.
On the other hand, many times a certain mental conservatism wins, for which only the “fatigue” of the short term is seen. The focus is on the defect of the first milestone, the distrust in the final result, and a substantial absence of long-term vision. In Italy then, many times, the situation is made worse by the chronic inability to plan and structure organizations (see previous article: link).
…one small step
In this regard, a brief digression dedicated to the so-called soft skills, whose courses are now widespread within medium-large companies, is useful.
Do you want to learn how to sell more, or manage a team, or develop a product better? The message is that purely technical or classic management skills are not enough. The way to understand one’s aptitudes, one’s personality and learn to make it available to others is also fundamental. In many years of experience in Program Management and Business Analysis I have to agree that understanding people and making them perform at their best is a skill that far surpasses any technical weakness.
Precisely in order to examine the potential work team, one often comes across the description of the famous twelve psychological profiles. These, according to experts, cover more than 90% of the working ‘population’ (https://humandesigntools.com/2020/01/09/12-human-design-profiles/). It is as dutiful as it is trivial to state that we are dealing with a high-level schematization, which does not in the least aim at grasping the versatility of the human personality. Thousands of other factors make each of us a unique person.
Among these twelve, two have particularly intrigued me and I find particularly relevant to the topic I am discussing here today.
- “Options” profile: Generate many alternatives, like to do things differently, feel different from others, often go against the tide. They are focused on the “what”
- “Procedures” profile: They follow codified indications, they like to understand the connections between events, they apply the rules. They are focused on the “how”.
Get to know ourselves and lay the first brick
Let me reiterate a fundamental concept in a psychological key. The important thing is to get to know each other, rather than trying to change. The key is to be aware of your characteristics and limitations. So that you know all the “boundary conditions” before embarking on any activity or project. Whoever you are, if you know yourself, you always have a solution available to achieve the final goal.
If you are an “Options” maybe you have many ideas but you can hardly implement any of them. Precisely in this case, innovation can become reality not by going in search of perfection, but by starting the process anyway. Starting a business, even a small one. It is useful to “throw the hook” and then understand how to move for the next steps. Perhaps as development progresses, we will realize that the project is very different from how we initially thought of it, but we will have no regrets. In the worst case, we will have a valuable case history for the future, even for others who want to try their hand at the same field. Perhaps we will be able to realize that it has become a bit of a “Procedure“.
In conclusion, I think it is useful not to get scared thinking about a very ambitious goal, but to internalize the so-called “step by step mindset“. And to innovate like this always, and anyway.