I have a dream.
“The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do”. Think Different advertisement spot of Apple in 1997
The special advertisement campaign of Apple “Think Different” which was aired in 1997 sees many historical celebrities appear such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Einstein and John Lennon, while a voiceover narrated their genius and how they changed the world and how this happened because they thought “outside of the box”. At the end of the spot, a black screen appeared with the words “Think Different”: Apple urged to get out of the known canons, take previously unexplored roads, just like all the personalities of the video had done.
The spot and the company in question have generated since an industry full of creativity and innovative spirit and I believe that the union and the passion between the ethical and scientific world is a key factor for generating innovative economies.
Creating a project based on this principle implies a lot of work, important economic resources and a fair share of experimentation, as well as a structured system. In recent years I have found that the concepts and mindset at the base of start-ups leads to the emulation of a completely different business and enterprise culture as the one prevalent in Italy.
Like many countries, Italy is blessed with talents and intelligence, that unfortunately emigrates to improve its economic situation. The ones who decide to stay are challenged in their intention to investing in their country, and their audacity and ambition needs to be supported by a strengthening public structure. In Italy more than elsewhere, the young generation – but also the less younger – need to focus their attention towards progressive and innovative systems aimed at the future, where the concepts of “work” and “business” have to be updated to meet the needs of today.
“Some say: “Give the customer what he wants “. It is not my point of view. Our work is in imagining what the customer might want, even before he does it himself. Henry Ford said: “If I asked the customers what they wanted, the reply would have been : a faster horse!” People do not know what they want, until you let them know. That’s why I’ve never relied on market research” said Steve Jobs.
Actor Bruce Lee called the martial arts tournament “swimming without water”, because the combat was altered by rules that wouldn’t exist in a real fight in the street. This method translated into business attitude is surely outdated today, because of the constant and increasing interaction between consumer, manufacturer and technology.
In any case creating a project is generating a whole host of challenges -everyone having to face their own -, but I think that one challenge unites us all: overcoming the fear and trying to escape what we are conditioned to become, because of the comportment and attitudes which were inoculated to us by our environment. One of my regrets, looking back at the early phase of our start-up, is that I aimed at becoming what I supposed was expected from me, becoming and acting like an automat, rather than like an autonomous being. Before I took the time to analyse myself and my behaviour, it was unimaginable for me to think and act differently, because I was trying to do what I thought was correct.
To summarise, the algorithm behind a lot what happens at start-up level is a lot of theory and little practice. Everybody around you tries to point you into the right direction, and you trust and believe the ones who have a greater experience. Because you think also that they use their experience in an ethical way. Then you discover that everybody leads his own game, whilst you have naively entrusted your life to principles you should have analysed, understood and rejected with your own thinking process. In fact, I applied the “openness principle”, thinking that if I have a horizontal approach with others, we would progress together. Unfortunately, such an approach, if not grounded on sound ethical principles, leads inexorably to implosion. How many mistakes did I do on that road? How much time was unnecessarily spent on that trip?
A start-up is a complicated mechanism to manage, with few economic resources in a country not specifically supporting personal initiative and with little incentives for entrepreneurship, amidst a perennial economic crisis, and slowed down by inexperience that sometimes leads in the wrong direction with consequent loss of time and of resources. It seems to me, that these years of peregrination count triple, in terms of intensity and exhaustion. I can say I have committed mistakes, good things, inaccuracies but always with the aim of realizing my biggest project.
But how do you live in this prolonged state of uncertainty?
The ways are two. We can spend our lives giving credit to the inner and outer criticisms, convincing us that they are what we are or recognizing our progress over a period of several years, learning to set limits which very often create struggles.
I have learned with great difficulty to affirm boundaries by having a greater “compassion” towards myself, overcoming the initial state of shock freezing, becoming familiar with my new “set-up”. In essence learning to establish boundaries is something that comes from the clarity of the own vision, recognizing our surrounding for what they are and not for what we would like them to be. I realized that poor “structure” often leads to confusion, insensitivity, invasion, disrespect and this experience has led me to be less accessible.
I would have liked to know the great men of the Think Different campaign, discussing with them about how they managed to reconcile their creative, emotional and operative parts. I read and reread their biographies, I use their reflections and experiences as inspirations and with consideration but surely if I had them at my house for dinner the questions would be many.
I imagine myself eating some fruit with Jobs and walking barefoot, my question would be: “How did you manage to be stay focused and unshakeable even in the hardest situation, identifying the priority and clearing the field of all the elements of distraction?”
If I were with Gandhi, the pioneer of the pacific civil struggle, I would ask him how such a shy man could become the fervent political activist with the precise aim of asserting the rights of the people.
If I would have the opportunity to talk to Martin Luther King, I would ask him: How are you not afraid for your life, aiming your courage, at realizing your dream of equality in a white people’s world?”
To Einstein, I would say: “You are not the father of atomic energy because you could not predict the chain reaction, how do you feel as a scientist who has determined the destiny of our civilization?”
And you, John Lennon, free thinker: How did you reconcile your professional life with your weaknesses, insecurities and fragility that you put at the centre of everything in the second part of your life?”
Each of these great men has fought and challenged himself inserting in his own innovative path great humanity and the desire to express himself playing in attack, going beyond what people would have expected, also losing consensus. They have continued to evolve, progress, refine their art and themselves because, as Dylan says, “If you are not busy growing, you are busy dying.”
So let’s try to use our talents to express our deepest feelings, to express our admiration for those who helped to create something in that path, this should give us the push to be and do better – I HAVE A DREAM.