Today, and in the months ahead, we must think and act with keen optimism and determination.
While I was traveling back home during the holidays, in my native Torino – which is also the 2008 World Design Capital – I witnessed the usual warmth and cheerfulness of familiar faces in an atmosphere fueled by the holiday spirit.
At the same time, I had the chance to browse through some of that more casual and disparate holiday reading material, ranging from the history book found at home, to the arts catalogs in the bookstore of the Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art to some mundane magazines which tend to materialize in your laps at the airport or at the hair dresser’s. Among tales of beauty, technology gadgets (I especially like the 500-shaped USB I received from my Dad), and daily happenings, a common theme was surfacing across the press: the need for optimism.
Usually, when a state of mind is summoned by multiple parties, it means there has been a lack of it, or lackluster presence at least. So I sniffed around for supporting data.
An article I came across in one of my “holiday magazines”, (A) by Giancarlo Bruno, manager of Banking and Capital Marketing for the World Economic Forum, was reporting data about Italy’s classification among the world economies, based on overall competitiveness (World Economic Forum competitiveness index). The current ranking: 46; down from 42 and 38 in the previous years. By digging in a little deeper, it shows business competitiveness (ranking: 42) is more favorable in terms of “Sophistication of company operations and strategy”(32) rather than “Quality of the national business environment” (45) (link).
Given that Italy should be among the top five or six world economies, a 46th overall place sounds very much like the C series. Or, with a different cultural metaphor, if you are an A student it is a shame to get anything less than a B, just because you can so easily do better. Two years ago, I attended a business breakfast where an economist from BNP Paribas stated: “Italy is dying” (he also mentioned oil prices were not going to rise ...). At the end of the presentation I raised my proud Italian hand and clarified that, thank you for the concern, but Italy was alive and well, despite aggressive competition in certain sectors, from high-growth emerging economies. A few weeks later I flew to Torino to witness first-hand the sparkling beauty of the Olympic Torch and the rebirth on the world stage of the first capitol of Italy. My country still looked very much alive. Today we should not be in 46th place and, most important, we should be competitive, jostling for the top 5, top 10 positions. Not for sake of the ranking per se, but because that’s a sign of the dreams, work and achievements that lie beneath the digits. Hence my urge to blog on the topic.
Two weeks ago a business delegation with the Partnership for Growth program, accompanied by US Ambassador Ronald Spogli, visited the Bay Area. There was much enthusiasm and no shortness of energy among the Italian visitors, eager to absorb information and to interact constructively, to build on their ideas. Matteo Fabiano of BAIA opened his introductory note on BAIA, during a lunch session at Stanford (sponsored by YourTrumanShow), exactly on the topic of optimism, and on how it pervades the business climate of Silicon Valley. It was nice to see the light shining in the eyes of the audience, they grasped the message!
So, let’s capitalize on our talent, passion for quality, business acumen and scientific skills, to invigorate our country’s competitiveness and to keep our ability to dream alive. Dreams become reality when you believe in them and work hard toward their achievement. Optimism is not just a word, but the positive attitude and energetic drive required to move forward in spite of temporary obstacles and challenging circumstances.