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Made by Italy drives change in the Italia Innovation platform

July 21, 2018

As another August approaches, another Italia Innovation Program has come to a close. Each year that we have put on programs, we have made changes based on the feedback of all our stakeholders, but for the most part we’ve respected the same format. In our fifth year however, we have made the most significant pivot as we redesigned the whole learning experience of our ecosystem.

While iteration started seeming to us like repetition, as we approached 2018 we looked at how to better push forward the conversation on the future of Italian industries between younger generations, international stakeholders, and Italian companies. We took the areas in which Italy excels—artisanship, quality, and sustainability—then reframed them as three innovation opportunities to explore during three fully immersive educational programs. Each program had three pillars as a foundation: a subject framework developed by an Academic Director and Italia Innovation, partner companies demonstrating best practices and sharing innovation opportunities, and a design process to get the students to transform their learnings into a tangible output for companies.

Artisanship at Scale explored how a country can transform its craftsmanship heritage into a mindset and boost new business on a global scale with Roy Green (UTS Business School), Scott Hartley (The Fuzzy and the Techie), John Bruce (Parsons School of Design), and Elizabeth Segran (Fast Company). Disruptive Quality looked at how quality can be not only a standard to reach, but also a factor of disruption with Riccardo Illy (Food Entrepreneur), Debra Dunn (Stanford University) and Stewart Thornhill (Ross School of Business). Responsible Success investigated how a company can leverage its business structure as a platform for social good to achieve goals bigger than itself with Robert Strand (UC Berkeley Haas), Vincent Stanley (Patagonia), Nora Gallagher (Patagonia), and Debra Dunn (Stanford University).

This year, in addition to the usual contribution of presenting an innovation challenge, the companies were fully integrated in the learning experience as content partners who demonstrated what “Made by Italy” means by welcoming participants into their headquarters around the country to give a behind the scenes look at their value creation. They hosted conversations with C-level managers who provided insights into how the Italian business landscape approaches the challenges of the future. Participating companies included: Gucci, Frescobaldi, Loison, Davines, Acqua Sant’Anna, Vodafone Italia, Riva 1920, Pasta Mancini, Levoni, Luxardo, Brazzale, and Caffè Vergnano. Students also had the chance to learn from best practices like Ferrari, illycaffè, Salvatore Ferragamo and Ermenegildo Zegna.

The three weeks were centered around the subject matters at stake and the first two weeks were spent exploring companies in an ethnographic way, as well as learning theories and seeing them in practice. Then to apply the learning to the real world, during the closing week of each program, Jake Knapp, author of the Sprint Book and former Design Partner at Google Ventures, led the students through his Sprint Workshop. In the five day process for solving big business challenges, the students worked on prototypes of apps, websites, experiences, or new products which they presented to the companies.

Another significant evolution was creating smaller classes in order to increase the interaction between each participant, the maestri and the managers. Spread out over the three programs, we involved 50 students from Universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Sciences Po, Parsons School of Design, Rotman School of Management, Bocconi, Glasgow School of Art, University of Virginia, National University of Ireland Galway, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Rhode Island School of Design, Cornell, USC, Koç University, Lancaster University, Georgetown, and Carnegie Mellon. While they had a different background, ranging from business to design, from engineering to social sciences, and were coming from 24 different countries including the United States, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, France, Poland, Ireland, Bulgaria, Turkey, Jordan, India, and China, they all shared a common interest in the future of the Italian manufacturing economy.

While at Italia innovation we approach everything we do as an experiment, this was a summer during which we tested the most variables with a new framework, location and design method. Instead of small incremental changes, we made big leaps, by which we were rewarded with the learning outcomes of the students, companies, maestri, and ourselves.

We are really looking forward to what’s next!