Guest blog with Luca Leonardini
Venus & Cupid, Lorenzo Lotto (Italian, Venice ca. 1480–1556 Loreto)
Think about Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance. Think about Tuscany with its magical landscapes. Everywhere you look in a country like Italy, you sense the manner in which a culture of creativity and innovation has changed the world for the better. The legacy we enjoy today reminds us that the expressive and inventive creativity that leads to innovation originated from culture, and not technology.
Over the centuries, every new church, every new bridge, every new “palazzo” or “campanile” that was built in Italy was not just “another building”: it was something much more meaningful for the whole community. These landmarks were the expression of a unique approach to life, an emerging mentality that changed the world for the better.
Today we are experiencing something very similar with an unmatched explosion of creativity in many companies and organizations – but it could better. This is because the vast majority of people within organizations have come to understand that creativity is important for their job, but few really see themselves as imaginative and curious beings. And only a small fraction believe that their company has a true desire for them to be more creative.
How might it be possible to reverse this situation? Fabiola Gianotti, Director General of CERN, recently stated at the World Economic Forum in Davos: “We need to break the cultural silos. Too often people put science and arts in different silos, whereas they are the highest expression of the curiosity and creativity of humanity.”
We think that Gianotti highlighted one of the core problems with the current approach to creativity, at least for people over 30 years old: things can be hard to change without a new educational paradigm, based upon the principles of “learning to unlearn” and of defying conventional wisdom.
Learning to unlearn from the past, and learning to embrace innovation was a very successful cultural approach in the 14th century: why don’t we embrace it again today as a valuable roadmap for creating new prosperity? We could call it “Renaissance 2.0”.
Now think about Amazon, Google, Virgin, Zappos, Facebook and the rest of the innovators group: when innovation is culture, progress and continuous inventiveness are the natural consequences. The continuous evolution and re-invention of these organizations is the result of their cultures of innovation, and their ability to let ideas flourish, to test, fail, to learn as fast as they can, and to iterate the cycle again and again.
The continuing relevance of these organizations is not rooted within their products, but in their ability to continuously redefine their business, in other words their relevance is rooted in a creative and agile mindset.
To get innovation culture right, we believe that organizations need to embrace a number of essential mantras:
- Innovation does not happen. It must be built.
- Innovation is not a cost. It’s an investment.
- Innovation is not rooted in technology, but in ideas.
- Innovation is not novelty. It’s culture.
- Innovation is not tactics. It’s strategy.
- Innovation is not an arrival point. It’s a continuous journey.
- Innovation is not a trendy debate. It’s team work.
- Innovation is not a concept; at its heart innovation is about people.
- Innovation is not for few smart people. It’s for everybody.
- Innovation is not an add on. It’s an enriching and growing path.
- Innovation is not to make money. It creates value and legacy.
- Innovation is not an end to itself. It must be meaningful.
The innovation path is not linear, but exponential; it is about re-imagining new boundaries and achieving continuous relevance.
While humanity might never again reach the rich architectural heights of the Renaissance, we have great opportunities to create value and meaning for ourselves and for future generations.
By truly embracing a culture of creativity and innovation, we could bring forth an age of “Renaissance 2.0”, something for which future generations would be grateful to us. Just as today we are grateful to Dante, Giotto, Michelangelo and Leonardo.