Archive for Innovation

New Global Business Models Enabled by Digital Technologies and Fresh Mindset. Introduction to an upcoming debate.

Digital technologies are multiplying the pace of change and the so called progress. Increasingly we talk about market disruptions, business models that have produced margins and sustainability for years now they keep getting replaced by new ones at a faster and faster pace. A key role that technology has within these dynamics is to boost the speed of the entire process influencing directly the way business models (from producer to user) are set. Interestingly within all of this people’s original ideas and visions still represent the essential sparks and foundations of it all: this is why arguably much before technology open visionary mindsets are relevant to progressive changes. We will debate about these topics from several perspectives during a debate held as part to the 2016 edition (the 7th one) of the University of Pisa International MBA.


This is an interesting article just published (March 2016) on McKinsey Quarterly “The essentials of digital strategy” , it points out in a clear way several new possibilities and opportunities shaped up by all of this.

The companies involved in the debate will introduce projects that are underway and that are leveraging upon both fresh mindsets with a global projection and the latest digital technologies enabling it all.

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Flexible working, now the real work for organisations begins

A recent relevant research by the Work Foundation predicted that by 2017 more than half of the employers in the UK will adopt flexible working practices by 2017  .

Salvado Dali

Salvador  Dali

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has been an advocate of this practice for years. He has recently pointed-out the research within his blog , underlining also that in some major companies people have shown that they would be happy to give trade part of their salary with more flexible hours (see for example a study within Samsung cited by Branson) .

In many ways Virgin Group cannot be considered a key reference to the trend because of its uniquely rooted culture: since the very beginning it has always featured a flair for aggressive business development and a zest for letting people express their personalities and interests “work hard, play hard” is no-doubt one of the Group’s mantra.

In 2013 some direct statements by Branson made headlines on many newspapers across the globe “Give the people the freedom of where to work” . Now it seems like this is set to become mainstream also within more traditional organisational cultures; the reason for that is that increasingly companies need to focus on actual effective and efficient results and those often do not have many rational links to the routine of ‘showing-up on the job’.

While this concept begins to make headways (if not for an actual focus on work – life balance, because of a pragmatic one on business development) the issue here is about the need for a suitable mindset and training to develop this novel way to work (even if, to many of us, entrepreneurs and professionals alike, this has not been novel at all for decades…) .

In fact, flexible working requires two essential factors: a) people need to become aware of their skills to work with little task supervision yet meet stringent quantitative and qualitative targets (awareness need to focused continuos improvement action); b) companies need to have clear ideas of what needs to be assigned to whom depending on the people level of know-how, talent and what is actually needed to reach a well identified target.

To me both issues can be quite troubling at least at the beginning of this trend. In particular it’s the organisational ‘homework’ that mostly concerns me: today how many organisations (large or small) are not only willing but also ready to organise work concrete targets that individuals (because of their talents and actual know-how) can handle swiftly and effectively working by themselves or in groups? Let’s talk about it…

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The FUN part of entrepreneurship…

Richard Branson, with his story and strong visionary projection towards the future, can be easily perceived as one-off sort of person and entrepreneur. Many of his projects have been and are so outlandish that truly seem an ongoing PR stunt as the ones so many times he was involved directly into. The project Virgin Galactic is one of them, with the actual SpaceShip Two recently present within a big Celebration even ‘Virgin Style’ (see article “Celebrating Unity” ).

Virgin Galactic Spaship Two

Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two

Yet, we need to realize that among successes and failures (that he openly admits and almost refreshingly seeks) there is one constant factor: truly empowering people (within his companies and outside of them) to aspire, inspire and give the very best while having FUN in the process. Fun is driven by a sense of unity, challenge, meaning and daring; characteristics that represent the essence of the Virgin Galactic project. The same kind of FUN can be built in any entrepreneurial project (relatively small or big) in any organisation. Its benefits will be manyfold as Virgin Group keeps on demonstrating. Are we up to dare enough for the challenge?

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Creativity, managing around barriers towards innovation

Increasingly we focus on why organisations fail to develop creativity and this article shows an interesting summary on the topic “How We Kill Creativity (And How We Can Rebuild It)” also represented by the image below:


There are two key aspects that emerge from the article and that need to be addressed.

1) Creativity regarding organisational processes and outcomes is never developed in a vacuum: it does’t happen because one single ‘genius’. It is rather a factor of many elements that come to integrate: people, technology, context, internal and external direct or indirect inputs;

2) Creativity turns into innovation only when concretely solves problems and/or creates value recognised by the market.

Because of this, in order to maximise their potential to create and mostly to innovate (that is what really counts for enterprises), organisations cannot afford vacuums dedicated to creativity and innovation has to be the target. This requires an overall aware and skilled cultural approach to develop creativity and concretely innovate. It is a cultural approach, involving the overall organisation considering its processes and people, that requires a central focus to develop innovation, a focus that is one of the key principles articulated in FAST TRACK INNOVATION  by pointing out and elaborating over actual examples of Motorsport and automotive organisations.

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An additional kind of innovation for Motorsport survival and growth

Tonight, at the Motorsport Industry Association Business (MIA) Awards Ceremony, MIA President Chris Aylett made an inspiring speech.

January 14th 2016, Chris Aylett, MIA President, addressing the Motorsport Industry Association Awards ceremony

January 14th 2016, Chris Aylett, MIA President, addressing the MIA Awards ceremony within the AUTOSPORT INTERNATIONAL event

He pointed out the health of the Motorsport Industry Research & Development (30% of turnover, way ahead of any other field) at the same time he stresses the relevance of dynamic entertainment to involve the younger generation. To such scope he referred to an idea stimulated during meetings and conferences with professionals from the tech and marketing areas alike: if fans had access to live performance (human and technological) data and information interest possibly could be risen also among the all relevant younger generations. One of many ideas that need to be developed around the key realization that Motorsport depends on fans active participation no matter what …

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Innovation in the overall track management business model

Walter Sciacca, co-author of the book, has developed an innovative approach to the overall racing track management business model.

The co-ahutors: Paterni, Naik, Sciacca

The co-authors: Paterni, Naik, Sciacca

At this link an interview (in Italian) with Riccardo Paterni by the automotive Blog relevant to the work-in-progress of the book and with the focus on such business model in particular.


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Innovation in Manufacturing: from the ‘dumb hard’ to the ‘smart soft’ that requires soft skills

Innovation relates directly to the concrete and effective expression of creativity: creativity that solves problems and suits the market willing to pay for it. Innovation is quite plain and simple from this pragmatic perspective.

In many ways innovation is a trial-and-error process in which many creative efforts need to be developed through given parameters of resources. Parameters and resources that often limit the creative effort and, as a direct consequence, the concrete generation of innovation itself.

Within these kinds of dynamics things are bound to change and change fast, actually they are changing already, within innovation in manufacturing. We are witnessing a ‘paradigm shift’: conceptually the development of fundamental changes in the way we generate and process ideas to make things.


More specifically we are in the midst of what scientists are beginning to call a ‘golden age’ for materials: decades of scientific research in the fields of physics and chemistry are today coming to fruition into lighter, stronger, more malleable materials, allowing for many more creative developments much easier to implement. The key aspect is that those materials allow for tens of thousands of combinations generating tens of thousands of different materials (according to the current Economist Technology Quarterly: ‘New materials for new manufacturing’) even 60.000 reached in simulation, bound to become 100.000 within five years. Because of this, scientists begin to talk about the ‘materials genome’. Specifically carbon is the material that best suits the role to feed and develop so many different combinations because of its characteristics.

Automotive and Motorsport radical manufacturing changes

As the Economist Technology Quarter points out, the applications are basically endless. Within the field of high-performance automotive, BMW has been investing heavily and purposefully on this and the top performance electric models BMW i3 and i8 show it. In the US a special laboratory, developed through the network of several research centres, has manufactured in six weeks (from design to assembly) a replica of the 1960 Shelby Cobra. Weight 227 kilos made 80% polymer and 20% carbon fibre. On the same wavelength, recently the company Vitesse AuDessus manufactured a replica of the Ferrari F12tdf totally made of carbon fibre with substantial reduction in weight above an beyond the unique looks ‘Full Carbon Fiber Body For Ferrari F12tdf Is Drop-Dead Gorgeous’and the inevitable influence on vehicle performance dynamics and possibly even safety. Following a not-too-futuristic development of these changes new ‘smart manufacturing materials’ are bound to impact Motorsport too. A recent article published on Race Car Engineering ‘The living skin’ outlines new developments within these ‘smart materials’: in very elementary terms, materials which sturdiness concurrent to intelligent flexibility (related to the dynamic context) is going to go well beyond the one utilised today on racing cars aerodynamics. The concept of chassis itself might change because of these developments setting whole new reference points and standards in the field of vehicle dynamics. The bodywork itself can increasingly feature the use of composite materials wiring establishing and enhancing an overall vehicle real time computation dynamic source of useful data and information. This might be set to increase performance, safety and the like. All of this eventually is bound to be featured also in mass market automotive production.

Time to use Einstein’s true sign of intelligence 

Within this new manufacturing paradigm of ‘smart new soft materials’ the creative effort itself is turned upside-down: no longer are the materials and their characteristics to set manufacturing capabilities and restrain ideas; are ideas that conceive new realities projecting the use of new materials characteristics, new materials that can be developed in accordance to identified performance and manufacturing specifications. Therefore the concrete innovation exercise is potentially easier to reach and it all depends on the ability to imagine new realities. This is the kind of soft skill that even Albert Einstein envisioned to be a key driving force: ‘The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination’. We possibly are more then ever empowered to pursuit this to the fullest. The journey has just begun, let’s pursue it at the very fullest!

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Formula-e live from Donington. Ever stronger focus on performance, efficiency and entertainment followed from Mahindra and Mahindra Racing perspective.


I am currently following (from the comfortable media center above the pit lane compared to the breeze that has been blowing outdoors since early morning) the last day of Formula-e preseason testing in Donington while working on interviews and research relevant to the book FAST TRACK INNOVATION #fasttrackbook .


Going well beyond unique technological challenges

Formula-e, since its very inception, has been driven by focus on sustainability, efficiency and innovation from several points of view that go even beyond the all fundamental technological one. The series has become an example of a new way (better say refreshed, back to original roots) to bring new energy to the relationship among fans and a global Motorsport championship.

As a global Motorsport series it is no doubt more reacheble then many other series and it makes easier for fans to interact with world popular drivers (even former F1 world champions as Jacques Villeneuve) among other competitive drivers that perceive racing here as a way to revamp their image or to develop their career. The process is helped by the fact that the series is becoming ever more competitive from a technical and sporting point of view and at the same time is rapidly multiplying its media global following. Besides watching that starting grid grandstand and quite full in a breeze morning is quite revealing.


Performance, efficiency, entertainment

This championship is driven by a marked continuously renewed focus on factors that need to be integrated dynamically while the bar of relevant standards is being pushed higher and higher: efficiency, performance, entertainment.

This is all very attractive for the automotive and Motorsport community alike for several reasons, all of them having to do with the concept of sustainability through innovative synergic integrations of: visions, resources, cross pollination among various technological fields, talents (even race driving is very much redefined here) and know-how relevant to engineering as well as to anything that pertains to communication and media.


Automotive and Motorsport innovation interplay: Mahindra’s case

Mahindra from a corporate point of view is integrating forces with Mahindra Racing on these kind of dynamics with a technological interplay between automotive (Mahindra Reva is one of the very first electric car global projects that now is set in an evolutionary path related to higher performance) and track racing focusing more and more in rising the standards of being dependable, efficient (the Reva project has inspired much of the early and last season work on this) and reaching higher performance within the power cap set by the rules of the series.

On top of this there is the overall key focus on media and communication that Mahindra is generating in relation to projects that at the corporate level aim to define and implement an all new way of looking, creating and experiencing mobility (sustainability, efficiency and practicality are some key stepping stones on this); Mahindra Racing integrates powerfully all of this with a particular focus on developing an higher level of active involvement from fans that at present are for the great majority simply viewers. This goes also to the very roots of an extremely needed and deserved process of Indian Motorsport proper and more widespread development.

All of this will be further developed within the book integrating experiences of automotive and Motorsport projects and activities on a global scale that belong to history, present and future of automotive and Motorsport innovation interplay.

Interviewing Chetan Maini (Reva founder and R&D Head) in Bangalore last January (he is also an active board member and technology reference to Mahindra Racing), Dilbagh Gill (CEO & Team Principal Mahindra Racing) and B.Karthik (VP Corporate Brand Management Mahindra) here in Donington has been a quite unique and inspirational experience that will have a marked influence on the book.

No doubt India should be very proud of the multifaceted and far reaching developments that Mahindra has in place within its visionary path.


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Corporate India up-and-coming’s source of learning: the ‘west’ or indian tradition?

During my recent business trip to India one thing that struck me is the increasing presence of ‘western’ food chains and all in all even lifestyle. A few days ago an article on Forbes India pointed this out “Eat street: India is the new battleground for global burger chains” .

Now, going well beyond the given rhetoric relevant to the ‘western junk food’ conquering the ‘east’, I had the opportunity to observe and ponder about a spreading of western lifestyle reaching well beyond food, clothing or changing customs: something that seems to be reaching the way that many indian junior managers, moving rapidly upward within the career ladder, interpret their own corporate role. All of this is an integrated process.

Up-and-coming corporate India

Up-and-coming corporate India

Western food chains, shops, brands, music (I attended a birthday lunch in a fancy restaurant within Mumbai where the US pop music from the 70s was played non-stop!) appear to take rapidly over the corporate developing and affirmed geographical areas.

Even some of the imposing corporate buildings seem to be built in typical US fashion requiring structural maintenance after just a few years from construction. It all tends to have a flavour of pretentious, know-it all, superiority that little has to share with the humble yet determinate, firm and consistent entrepreneurial spirit typical of the indian tradition.

I begun to think that, while pundits in the US start to point out the qualities of a more balanced, health conscious, professional lives driven by ‘getting back to basics’ in learning about our inner potentials and using them at work with skill and awareness; emerging corporate India seem to be losing this kind of mindset (in actuality part of its very own tradition) heading towards what the west has been going through and it is suffering from.

India, its traditions, its culture, even its mindset (very much related to Jugaad, a skill to face reality in creative, innovative constructive ways, no matter the lack of opportunities or resources at hand – more on this topic coming up in these pages) deserve to be rediscovered, understood and valued not only by us ‘westerners’ but possibly also by the rising corporate India to avoid falling into mistakes made in the west.

A strong sense of unique identity, on key factors that now corporate west wants to integrate for sustainability, has always been an integral part of India, why miss it? why don’t leverage on it though a process of integration with the lessons learned and in the process of being learned by the west? It would be quite interesting to open a conversation with the rising corporate indian on these topics.


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Motorsport survival & growth: innovation on four factors bridging past and future

The link between innovation and Motorsport has been typically associated with the technological developments that increase performance and safety. Often, throughout recent decades, top level championships have been working as a challenging and effective research & development testing field. Several topics related to energy efficiency and preservation have been addressed by Motorsport regulatory technical boards, sometimes attracting interest and investments by major automotive manufacturers: at stake not only the technological research but also the brand association with a more sustainable way to conceive not simply automotive but mobility overall.

Jim Clark on Lotus 49... once upon a time...

Jim Clark on Lotus 49… once upon a time…

The Motorsport sustainability model: four factors

It is a matter of fact that Motorsport in order to survive and possibly grow (within an ever changing social, economic and market dynamics), cannot look at a sustainability operational model only from innovations linked to technology (no matter the amount of investments made by major manufactures), there are also at least three other factors that require dynamic innovations in order to make the overall Motorsport operational model sustainable: business, entertainment and passion for the sport (simply stated in alphabetical order).

While working on the research for a new book ( ), I have been reading many first hand accounts related to the developments of Motorsport during the last 50 years and with colleagues I have integrated this with direct interviews to key players from the frontline or behind the scenes. So far we have been focusing mainly on the European context branching out into the USA and Indian ones. All of this has brought me to further appreciate the times (60s, 70s) when the equation of the four factor appeared to be set, in my opinion, along this order of relevance: passion for the sport, business, entertainment and technology.

Without passion no teams, manufacturers and drivers alike would have contributed to developing the popularity of the sport to date. Ferrari arose from a sense of passion rooted in the early car racing within Modena and its surrounding areas. Within Britain the Motorsport Valley arose from that passion that made overcome the necessity to squeeze at best all of the resources available to compete at the best possible levels. This passion fueled the rise of business and eventually an industry related to Motorsport.

Business in itself required to keep attracting attention and capitals from investors (back them mostly related to the automotive industry itself), hence the focus not only on technological advances (which pace of development was in relative terms much slower than the current one) but also on entertainment. Actually, it was important to manage at best this entertainment factor edging between gruesome danger claiming many lives (before Jackie Stewart’s determination to lobby to concretely improve safety) and glamour (back then Montecarlo was truly the top of game on this). Technology had no doubt its part but overall its influence was quite relative at a time when the influence of pure mechanics came ahead of rising aerodynamics concepts and the concept of applied electronics was still in its very early infancy to say the least.

Within all of this framework I found quite timely and intriguing a Motor Sport Magazine August 2015 Editorial by the title ‘From Jim Clark to Formula E’ . It articulates the link between two extremely different Motorsport eras, yet eras that once again necessarily have to deal with the same four factors: business, entertainment, passion and technology. Innovation is needed within the overall business operational model featuring these four building blocks. At stake is the overall sustainability of Motorsport itself.

Innovating the four factors to sustain survival and growth

To innovate it means to develop creative ideas (not necessarily original, they can also represent a marked evolution from previous ones or ideas integrally coming from different fields) into concrete results. As Formula E exemplifies, innovation in technology is already in action fueled by overall technology sustainability and branding focuses by major automotive players. In my opinion key innovations are needed within the dynamics of the other three components that are all integrated and interlocked depending on a single key element: reignite the passion for the sport by target audiences.

There are many social, demographic and economic factors that lowered and are lowering that passion; yet it all can be related to a lessening of the entertainment appeal. Racing can still be quite thrilling and exciting (without lowering the safety standards that arguably have at time reached levels of excesses at the expense of the sport), yet nowadays are passion for the sport and entertainment the actual factors of focus for a sustainable business development? Within these dynamics there is the need to outline a model visionary enough to overcome the short term focus creating an overall sustainability well beyond the short term. Innovations relevant to the factors that have the most leveraging power for sustainability need to be implemented.

The right kind of leveraging?

I came to similar conclusions last year when I had the privilege to participate and enjoy a program that allows fans to fuel that passion by lapping at Daytona tri-oval with a Nascar (after that I have come to appreciate that racing on ovals is not simply making boring rounds! At this link a report on the experience… ). This is an example of innovation in programs that keep enriching fans’ passion (the program I attended begun a few years back yet no doubt represented a targeted innovation with specific industrial and commercial investments).

In addition, still in Daytona, I saw with my own surprised eyes the focus on making it easier for fans to access track entertainment: high-tech elevators being built to reach the top of the imposing world famous checkered grandstands: the show easy to reach (and at alluring prices). It does not matter if many of us observe that within the USA racing scene technological innovation is basically not existent from our European perspective. Passion for the sport is fuelled as well as entertainment and this makes it more concrete and reachable to develop a business model that, among unavoidable up and downs, keeps Motorsport as a sport and an industry in continuos development in the USA.

Is this the right kind of leveraging power to be utilized also in Europe? The debate is no doubt wide ranging, yet resolutive action overrides many of the sterile debates we are often so effective in articulating.


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