The views in Tuscany are outstanding. Postcard –perfect landscapes with dazzling colours set against perfect light. Hills studded with ancient villages, valleys coddling olive groves and the hillsides strung with vineyards that perfectly accent the region’s curviness. But, the views on business success were perhaps the most interesting.
Tuscan businesses struggle with many of the same issues we face here in North America. When I asked if the universal issues that are hindering success were a factor in Tuscany I heard a resounding yes. When I probed on the harbingers of the Modern Middle Ages and if they were dealing with them inside their own organizations, again the answer was a resounding yes.
Tuscans were not dismayed by this. There was no malaise or casual acceptance of this so-called “new normal”. Rather, it was a healthy recognition and respect for what has happened and what has changed. But, importantly, there is also recognition that there is a rhythm to life and business and with this rhythm of continual change brings the beat of new opportunity.
500 Year Pedigree in Innovation and Creativity
Perhaps it is the long-term view that comes with a 500 year pedigree in innovation and creativity. Perhaps it is the confidence and belief Tuscans have in the contribution they are making or perhaps it is some sort of allegiance to the great Tuscan Renaissance city-state of Florence or to the great forebears of the Renaissance. The point is that Tuscans find the purpose and potential to persevere.
There is recognition that the rhythm should not, in the Tuscan view and contrary to the current trends in business thinking, be disrupted. There is a business acumen, sharpened rather than dulled by the harbingers of the Modern Middle Ages, that seeks harmony with the economic and social forces rather than seeking to quell them. It is this view, similar to Leonardo Da Vinci’s, that the world is a receptor for ideas and solutions and not a receptacle for products and services, which accounts for the prodigious amount of creativity and innovation during the Renaissance. A feat yet to be surpassed in human history.
Ethos of Excellence
There is an ethos that is unique to the Tuscany region. Ethos is an ancient Greek word describing a guiding spirit. Today we call it culture. The ethos in Tuscany is one of graceful inter-dependence. No doubt rooted in Renaissance individualism’s dignity and respect for individual talents and in the great independent city-states that dominated the Tuscany region for centuries, Tuscan businesses have developed a graceful way of co-mingling business interests and collaborating with partners in ways that don’t seek to dominate or subjugate but rather enhance and build on strengths. There is respect for independence and the unique talents and skills of other companies but also recognition that it is in the inter-dependence we have with the markets and market forces that new opportunities are shaped.
The Tuscan view is that business, like life, is an alchemy of factors. Some factors you plan for, others you manage closely and measure often while others are guided by a light hand and a deft touch. The secret in great alchemy is knowing what to manage, what to guide and what to simply let happen. This view is completely contrary to conventional management theory of managing and planning everything. Creating the conditions of success and crafting the alchemic formula of external and internal factors that is right for the business and the people in it is the great management challenge and opportunity.
“Tuscans”, noted a friend and CEO of a global enterprise, “have a wonderful ability to reinvent themselves.” We could all benefit from a little reinvention in our own organizations by exploring and understanding our own lineage of creativity and innovation, by re-examining the ethos of our organizations and tuning it in a way that harmonizes talent and by learning to be alchemists of our own opportunities and create the condition of future success. That’s the view from Tuscany. What’s the view like from your business?