World business forum 2015: We are STORY MAKER

Every year, the World Business Forum is one of the most-awaited events in the world of business. It is a source of inspiration, learning and transformation for leaders wishing to build better companies.

Martina Giusti

The 2015 event proposed world renowned speakers from different fields but with a common goal: helping managers to be leaders capable of answering world business challenges. A focal point of this year’s edition, of all the speeches held, was the ability not to limit oneself to being a storyteller but rather a story maker.

The difference between the two words is clear: the former tells stories from the past while the latter builds the future. Storytellers describe other people’s actions; story makers are the protagonists.

Being a storyteller is a pastime while being a story maker is a way of living. If we had to describe who story makers are, the most appropriate definition would be: individuals who face shocks of the present and use them as a launch pad to build something better, like turning points towards a better future.

THE ENTREPRENEUR WHO FOLLOWS A DREAM, for instance, the investor who assumes a risk, the artist who explores new worlds, the manager who transforms a team or an entire company, the innovator who embarks on a new road. Every story told has its particular characteristics, its energy, its moments of discovery, of tension, of excitement, of learning. Let us analyze them one by one.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER FOR THE EVENT WAS SIR KEN ROBINSON, one of the major global authorities on creativity and innovation in the world of education and business. Sir Ken Robinson is committed to starting a creative revolution to liberate the potential of people and of organizations. He has collaborated with governments and school authorities in Europe, Asia and the United States. He sustains that educational systems are not in line with the changes that our society is experiencing. In school, kids are under too much pressure and this does not stimulate their creativity at all. Innovation is the vital lymph that every organization should have, as it is necessary to keep pace with changes. Imagination lies at the base of every job and is the only feature that allows us to anticipate the future. But people will become innovative only when they have the proper competences and are appropriately trained.

THE SPEECH BY MATT BRITTIN WAS VERY INTERESTING, too. He is at the head of Google’s business and operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Given his experience, he described how to make the most of the opportunities offered by digital. Within 5 years, most people will be connected, that is why it is better to exploit it to the fullest. Google places several services at the disposal of micro-companies who, by using them appropriately, can become micro-multinationals. It is estimated that with an online marketing, thanks to Google, companies grow by 4-8% thanks to the power of the web.

NEXT WAS THE SPEECH BY SARAH LEWIS, MUSEUM CURATOR AND ART CRITIC who was part of President Obama’s Arts Policy Committee. Sarah tells how to convert difficult circumstances into advantages. How can we benefit from the gift of failure? Failure is life’s attempt at making us change direction and embark on a new direction where we can excel. It is from failure, sustains Sarah, that the creative process that leads to discovery is born.

ANOTHER INTERESTING EXPERIENCE WAS THAT OF DAVIDE OLDANI, creator of Cucina Pop. His cuisine combines high quality and affordability: Davide is world famous for his Michelin starred restaurant D’O, opened in 2003 in his native city of Cornaredo. For the original approach to and organization of the work, D’O has become a case history of the Harvard Business Review and in 2013 Davide tells Harvard about his entrepreneurial experience. His Cucina Pop was born from the desire to amalgamate the essential with the well done, the good with the accessible, innovation with tradition, says the entrepreneur. Seasonality and high quality of the products are two strongholds. To complete the idea of Cucina Pop, continuous passion and research, indispensable teamwork and the attention to guests. Essential but elegant, it is based on the conviction that beautiful should also be functional.

GREG BRANDEAU, MIT-TRAINED ENGINEER, MOVES HIS FIRST STEPS BESIDE STEVE JOBS in neXT Computer. He was later CTO at The Walt Disney Studios and Senior Vice President of Technology in Pixar, contributing to the growth of the entertainment giant we all know. Subsequently, he became President and COO of Maker Media, the innovative media company that launched the global Maker movement. Greg states that a true leader must hire valid people but then it is his or her job to create a context where they can have success. Creating the conditions necessary to develop the innovative potential of each individual should be the scope of every leader.

TONI NADAL BRINGS HIS COACHING EXPERIENCE ON THE WBF STAGE. He speaks about his nephew Rafael Nadal, one of the greatest tennis players of all times. With Toni as his coach, Rafael has won 67 singles title, among which 14 Grand Slam titles, becoming the second player in history to win all four Grand Slam titles and the Olympic Gold Medal. Since the very beginning of their relationship, Toni has been acknowledged merit for developing both his nephew’s talent and the discipline necessary to sustain success at top game levels. Very important, says Toni, is the psychology behind success, the development of mental strength useful in withstanding pressure. Talent is only the beginning: to become number one, discipline and concentration are needed. According to Toni, the ingredients essential to success are mental balance, hard work, the ability to keep one’s feet on the ground and the awareness that there’s always room for improvement.

ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI IS AN EDUCATOR AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST. He comes from the Swat Valley, in Pakistan, where, with great personal risk in a context of fierce political violence, he peacefully resisted attempts by the Taleban to close schools, succeeding in keeping his open. His daughter Malala has inherited his passion for teaching, which almost cost her her life in 2012, when she suffered an attack due to the campaign for girls’ rights to an education (in 2014 Malala won the Nobel Peace Prize). His greatest teaching is to remain faithful to one’s convictions even in difficult times because we all have a responsibility to help build a better world.

THE SECOND DAY OF SPEECHES OPENED WITH FABIEN COUSTEAU, first grandson of the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Fabien continues to honor his family’s heritage in preserving and protecting the habitats of the marine species most at risk. In June 2014 Fabien and his team of scuba divers embarked on Mission 31, the longest expedition ever attempted in a static habitat below the sea, collecting in just one month the equivalent of several years’ worth of scientific data. Fabien built his identity basing himself on those who came before - his grandfather. He sustains that society has lost some of its sense of adventure. If we remain passive in the face of all that is happening, we will never be able to take a step forward from a cultural point of view.

THE MORNING SESSION CONTINUED WITH ALESSANDRO BARICCO, one of the most renowned exponents of contemporary Italian fiction, based on the definition of storytelling, i.e. the immaterial value of an object. If we extrapolate facts from reality, what is left is storytelling. Facts plus storytelling form a dialectic rapport. From Alexander the Great to Obama, passing through Rummo pasta, Alessandro Baricco explained why applying storytelling does not mean just telling a story.

THE CERTAINLY MORE EMOTIONAL MOMENT WAS WHEN FRANCESCA FEDELI AND ROBERTO D’ANGELO TOLD THEIR STORY. Francesca and Roberto are parents to Mario, a toddler who suffered a perinatal stroke. They do not surrender to the gloomy forecasts of doctors and flank traditional physiotherapy with an experimental program for the activation of mirror neurons, in collaboration with Professor Rizzolatti, the world-renowned neuroscientist who first discovered these neurons. Francesca and Roberto thus succeed in obtaining unexpected results for little Mario, who is 4 years old, and in 2013 create Fightthestroke.org to support young stroke survivors through early diagnosis and an innovative approach to rehabilitation. To overcome a shock, says Francesca, we should not focus on the problem but rather work on its solution.

THE SPEECH BY SETH GODIN, one of the most influential and intuitive business thinkers, was also much awaited. Godin is author of 17 world bestsellers. Seth writes about post-industrial revolution, about how ideas are disseminated, about marketing, leadership and above all about how to change everything. At the World Business Forum he illustrated his idea of the benefits deriving from the use of creative thinking to turn ideas into business practices. To be market leader, a company must communicate values and disseminate ideas, create products that customers notice. Every company is prepared but none is ready because they are afraid to take risks. To be good leaders, we must be a bit like artists, we must find the courage to treat our work like a form of art.

CORNERSTONE OF THE TWO DAYS WAS SURELY THE SPEECH BY SIR RICHARD BRANSON. A personality “outside the box” that attracts attention from the very first second he comes on stage. Rebel entrepreneur, since the age of 16 he has been dedicating himself to revitalizing industries that have lost their energy, taking on complacent giants and dreaming big. And succeeds very well at it: today, Bradson is an unparalleled pluri-entrepreneur who has created 8 billion dollar companies in 8 different fields. His story speaks about creation, disruption and bringing dreams to life. His activities span from record producing to air and rail transportation, from health to fitness to finance to mobile communications, from radio to the hotel industry, from festivals to construction. A volcano of ideas who looks with particular attention to the social sphere and to the environment thanks to the founding of Virgin Unite, with which he was able to transform businesses into a beneficial force. His convictions are based on the fact that to work, we must have fun. He gives his em-ployees lots of flexibility, making work 100% human. In his companies, there are lots of celebrations, people have fun. These are the small things that make the difference. And last but not least, is to grow people from within the company. Internal promotions, says Richard, are the ones that have been the most successful.

KOTLER’S WORK IS FOCUSED ON EXPLORING THE INTERSECTION OF HUMAN CAPABILITIES, TECHNOLOGY AND CONSCIOUSNESS. He explains how to use exponential technologies, “thinking big” and the shared instruments to create extraordinary wealth while also positively impacting the lives of billions. Exploring exponential technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing, robotics, bionics, are opportunities.

THE LAST SPEECH OF THE SESSION WAS THE ONE BY MARÍA BELÓN, a Spanish doctor famous for having escaped the tsunami that in 2004 struck the Indian Ocean while she was on vacation with her family. Today she travels the world in representation of tsunami survivors. The main universal teachings to be had from a personal tragedy are belief, hope and sacrifice. Compassion and altruism: The capacity of adversity to bring out the best in our nature.

Every speaker brought their different experiences on stage; the result was that each turned them into something good that can be useful for others.

The appointment with the WBF is for next year with another theme, just as interesting: BE BETA: we are all in a permanent beta state. *

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