SIOS19: a year of innovation

December 18, 2020

Corrado Passera's editorial

CEO in illimity

At the StartupItalia Open Summit I had the chance to discuss my views of innovation with Luciano Floridi, fascinating Italian philosopher who teaches at Oxford and coined the term #onlife.
Onlife is a lovely expression to explain the reality we live in, that infosphere caught between the online and offline worlds, a space in which these two dimensions often overlap.
This is a fourth "human revolution" of similar scope to those seen in previous centuries with the Copernican, Darwinian and Freudian revolutions.
Today's reality is also impacted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will have no less effect than those of the steam, electricity and computer revolutions.
The combined effect of these revolutions will inevitably bring ever faster and more pervasive change. These are times of great risk, but also of enormous opportunity, in which the key is to live innovation to the fullest.
Precisely one year ago, at SIOS18, we presented our banking startup, #illimitybank, making a series of "commitments" to the startupper community. Like all startuppers, we had to navigate through 5 narrow doorways: we obtained the necessary capital; a group of very impressive people left often powerful positions and came on board; the computer architecture, which was totally new and necessary to entirely change the rules of the game, passed all the tests and continues to work today; customer numbers are growing, along with results, some of which are even ahead of schedule.
We realised that, when it comes to complete change, it isn't possible to adapt partially or relatively gradually to what is new. If a paradigm has changed, then merely adding a channel or an app cannot make an old business model sustainable. To create a truly innovative bank, it was necessary to conceive and design such a bank right from the beginning in a totally new, digital and modular form using the cloud. But it was also necessary to keep that significant human side that makes it possible to optimally link online and offline.
Innovation comes from people, and to spark creative energy, it is necessary to bring together synergistic diversity. So, we hired more than 350 #illimiters from about 140 different companies in ten different sectors, but each one had a sense of freedom and responsibility, and the desire to find a new solution and to get out of the box and go beyond the current forms. The working environment and, most importantly, the quality of the people in charge must support innovation in daily decisions, rewarding different ideas, encouraging experimentation and tolerating a degree of disorder and failure in striving for new ways (without any fear of making a mistake).
It has become normal to speak about how capitalism must learn from its past mistakes. I believe in Galbraith’s responsible capitalism, and not that of Friedman. I believe the free market, private property and rules are still the most suitable tools to create lasting well-being. I believe the type of neo-liberalism of recent decades has shown the fallacy of its dogmas: markets self-regulate, markets tend towards equilibrium, market players act rationally and other such nonsense. I believe the common good comes from specific, shared responsibility and it is not some automatic product of contrasting individual interests.
We found many points in common with Floridi. The education and training systems have some exceptionally tough challenges ahead. The change is from training "once and for all" to a need to be constantly re-training throughout life and to acquire the "learn to learn" method. This makes it necessary to develop a sense of curiosity, and an openness to difference and a critical spirit from an early age, to avoid turning us citizens and consumers into products. Luciano Floridi and I are already making plans to continue this passionate debate.