#MadeinOlivetti: in the tracks of an innovator
The 2017 edition of the Adriano Olivetti Day will be held in Brescia on May 11. An Alkemy Lab focus on the figure, on the thought and on the tracks of the Italian industrialist par excellence.
Brescia celebrates Adriano Olivetti's figure with the event "Adriano Olivetti Day" 2017 edition, that will be held on Thursday, May 11. Among the promoters were also Francesco Beraldi, president of Alkemy Tech and founder of O2e, who started his working career in Olivetti. He will bring his experience together with other illustrious speakers.
Who was Adriano Olivetti? What role did he play in the economic, political and cultural life of Italy in the 1900s?
Enterprise, Innovation, Utopia, Courage are the keywords that can well sum up Olivetti's human and professional life.
The name immediately suggests the famous company that was a symbol of the Italian economic boom. The same company, starting with the construction of typewriters, realized in early 1960s the first personal computer in history: the Olivetti Program 101. Giant steps, and not in a metaphorical sense, because Adriano Olivetti was really a giant.
It is possible to define him as "son of art". His father, Camillo Olivetti, played a certainly key role in his training and in development of his inclinations. Camillo, a member of a wealthy Jewish family in Ivrea, is the founder of the company in the late 1908. But not only. Camillo Olivetti's interests for politics and culture, as well as for economics and business, fully reflected on Adriano. On the weekly magazine Azione Riformista, founded by his father at Ivrea, Adriano starting to write with the pseudonym of Diogene since 1920. It was the first of a long series of experiences which led him to establish contacts with some of the best-known intellectuals of the time, and to become a full member of them.
From Adriano Olivetti’s books is possible to perceive his ideas and his innovative strength. L’Ordine politico delle Comunità is his main work, created in a delicate period both for the author's personal history and for the history of Italy. It was published in 1944 when Olivetti was in exile in Switzerland. Italy was not a safe place for him, due to the contacts with anti-fascist members and with the Allied forces to propose his plan for Italy's rebirth.
Trips have enriched his vision of the world: between 1925 and 1926, Adriano went to the United States with the aim of learning English and increase his knowledge.
It would be the first of a long series of travels for most disparate reasons, from escaping from the Fascist regime, to study trips, to transoceanic transfers with the aim of acquiring companies and of increasing his financial networks. But travels have played a significant role in Olivetti's biography until the end. It was in fact in a train directed to Switzerland when, on February 27, 1960, Adriano Olivetti had an accident which brought him in a few hours to death. His Company was listed on the Stock Market since few days, and in a few months it achieved unexpected results, becoming a top global player.
Thanks to his figure, and to the successful products made by the Company even after his disappearance, now Olivetti is a synonymous of innovative enterprise also is design. Just consider how the term Olivetti is used on the social networks that focus on sharing images, to get an idea of how the term is used out of the canonical business context. On Instagram and on Flickr, for example.
It is evident that the typewriter still has its charm. Among the words and hashtags associated with Olivetti, “typewriter” is one of the most popular on both social networks, together with “design”, “vintage” and “Italy”, confirming how Olivetti is synonymous also with "made in Italy".
What distinguished Adriano Olivetti's figure was his ability to transform the corporate organization. Ever since he was young, according to his experiences, proposed to his father a plan of renewal that led to a reorganization of the system. Adriano's proposals, however, collided with the factory setting, where some trusted collaborators had a lot of influence: for example Domenico Burzio, Olivetti's first technical director, and Camillo Olivetti's main assistant. A difficult confrontation between two different generations.
Adriano, in fact, had much more ambitious projects. He proposed to his father to reduce the role of these historical collaborators and hire engineers and other figures who had knowledge and skills to develop the new paradigm he had in mind. Camillo agreed, and since 1927 Adriano started to transform a simple local factory into a real industry, also with offices and contacts abroad. The application of this model was positive and the company surpassed the hard period after the 1929 crisis.
Adriano Olivetti's innovations indeed had an impact on the ways of production, aiming at a system that safeguarded both products quality and psycho-physical well-being of employees. It was the beginning of Olivettian style for business, the "open factory" style, aimed at the realization of a community that was more than a group of workers. Academics and experts used different terms to indicate this Olivettian vision of doing entrepreneurship, a sort of "Industrial Humanism" that had the right mix of attention to production and human capital.
As it emerges from Olivetti's speeches and works, in fact, he saw the factory as an environment founded "on the active and conscious participation of all for the company's purposes" and as a subject that "while acting in an economic system and accepting its rules, it addresses its aims and its major concerns about the material, cultural and social elevation of the place where it was called to operate" (A. Olivetti, Speech to workers of Pozzuoli, 1955).
Olivetti's vision was forged with overseas experiences, but at the same time it was enriched by taking on an "Italian face", thanks to the attention given to the person and to the influence of the context in which the company was operating. One of the features of the Olivetti factories was in fact the close relationship with the territory in which they were placed. Just think of the importance that represented for Ivrea and its surrounding Olivetti presence. It was not a simple factory: a world was born around the Olivetti. In a figurative sense, but also literally because Adriano Olivetti also proved to be a good urbanist. All these things were accompanied by the numerous assistance services for workers and their family members.
The results of applying this new business paradigm were concrete. It is estimated that from the late 1940s to the late 1950s Olivetti's production capacity grew by 580%, and that with the opening to the foreign market the volume of sales increased by 1033%.
There are many realities that recall the figure of Adriano Olivetti still today. First of all, the enterprise. But also the Edizioni di Comunità, a publishing company that he founded, and the Fondazione named by him, that keeps the Archivio Olivetti. A real mine of information.
They are interesting realities to analyze also from a communication point of view. Just take a look at the way they interact with social networks to understand how Adriano Olivetti's figure is still significant and the role played by the pillars of Olivetti philosophy is still relevant.
On Twitter most of the hashtags linked to the term Olivetti concern innovation. Often appear #iot, #internetofthings, #bigdata, #cloud, and many discussions are on #digitaltransformation, theme of Adriano Olivetti Day, 2017 edition. There are many references to company products, both current, such as #olibook, #M1030, #olipad, and historical products, such as the mythical Program 101 with #p101.
On Facebook, however, it is noteworthy that the cultural aspect is dominated by issues related to the concept of community and, in particular, to the publishing company that preserves the cultural heritage of Adriano Olivetti. The most common terms in this area are, in fact, “comunità”, “fondazione”, “archivio”, “edizioni”. This is also due to the activity of the Facebook pages of the Olivetti Foundation and of the Edizioni Comunità. Significant are also the most common general terms, from “impresa” to “futuro”, from “città” to “lavoro”, from “uomo” to “storia”, also linked to the works of Olivetti, still today very modern. Demonstrating how strong the track left by this man, which Ivrea has infected the world with his vision. A demonstration of how strong is the track left by this man, which starting from Ivrea has spread his vision in the world.
- Camillo Olivetti, Tre scritti sulla fabbrica, la formazione e la solidarietà, Edizioni di Comunità, Roma, 2016.
- Emilio Renzi, Comunità concreta, le opere e il pensiero di Adriano Olivetti, Guida, Napoli, 2008.
- Rosita Zucaro, Adriano Olivetti. Una lezione a quanti oggi parlano di Responsabilità sociale d’impresa solo perché di moda, in Bollettino ADAPT, 4 novembre 2013.