Are the brightest minds leaving the country because of cultural heritage? Is there a common path in the Italian decline?
There are some aspects of the Italian culture that not only strongly helped the post-war reconstruction but also let Italy achieve a primary role in the European and worldwide economy. The same cultural approaches in business that proved to be successful in the past are obviously still permeating actual companies and organisations and they are NOT working nowadays. Now there is a new fact: brilliant Italians are leaving Italy and the rest of the world already knows: Times, Spiegel, BBC, The New York Times, Economist, CNBC.
There could be an “undeniable something” that was working in the past and that is no longer valid nowadays. What happened? Short reply: World changed. Yes, all of us is aware of this, what exactly changed for countries like Italy?
In this post you get an insider point of view from someone who got stuck several times about Italy, with a lot of friends already gone abroad, and still in this country doing his best and trying to understand. Since I’m an observer, I’m not going to give easy solutions: solutions are for lazy people.
Smart guys (that I hope most of my readers are) want the right questions, then they will give their good solution by themselves.
5 reasons Italian talents leave the country:
1) Is Effort the real goal? The dominance of effort-driven on result-driven work.
I was talking with my friend Luca, he is an Italian entrepreneur from an entrepreneur family. He started his business in mid-Italy and then moved to Amsterdam. This summer he came back to enjoy the seaside and to visit its relatives and so we met and we had a good conversation. I was struck when he said to me: “if you are good at something then go away, instead if you are not good at anything you can comfortably survive here”, I suddenly laughed at this and then I realised “well, so true! but…. why?” and then the unanswered question remained in my head.
There should be something more deep than general behaviour and I think it’s about culture. Italian culture is strictly connected with christian roots and I do respect these roots, however I do not agree with something that I consider deviations in the meanings. Most of the Italians grew up in houses with Christ as a bleeding man and Mary as a sad mother, when you are a child and you grew up with such models you surely learn one thing: if you want to tense to a good life, you should suffer, no matter for what reason… the more you suffer, the best.
When in the past most of the work was labour-intensive and when all the world was buying anything was for sale, Italy had an unfair advantage: millions of people that could work to their human limits, even at a low compensation, just because while they were working hard they could tense to a good life.
It was the economy of production and a normal worker was OK simply doing what bosses were saying.
Nowadays in a hyper competitive economy, you should have much more skills, clear goals and the capability to drive the results, at boss and worker level.
Brilliant Italians know this and they want to achieve results both with smart and hard work. They do NOT want to waste energy.
2) Is there Effort Peer Control on talents? Peers are discouraging the achievements of result-driven workers.
As I said in the previous point, Effort is a big reason of pride in Italy, this is defined with the word “sacrificio” (sacrifice). As told in the christian books, every Italians knows that if they suffer, they do sacrifices and respect what they are told, then they automatically get the prize.
In example it’s very common for young people to work absolutely for free. It could be fair if they work for free and get quality experience or competitive skills but you can see that most of them work without getting nothing: just spending time with “sacrificio” waiting for a bigger prize (=the wage).
Moreover when you are in a Italian company you should know that you are in a “famiglia” that means that you are in a family-like environment. Being a family is a very good thing in daily life but in a corporate environment it is just a bad way of NOT being a real organisation.
Once when I was working as a employee in a office, I was shocked when I realised what was really happening: I was good at a duty, so I was faster, so I had more time, so people could invoke “darsi una mano”. The Italian concept of “darsi una mano” is like: you are here, you have two hands, so you could give one to do my job but it’s just spot, it’s so easy to give a hand that you could be a bastard if you don’t do it.
So if you are smart and you can do the work better and faster than your colleagues then you better accept other people duties. How many duties? Until you make the same amount of effort your colleagues are making (with less duties).
This is because in the other case you could be considered a lazy person that is not doing sacrifices and that is not worth for a bigger prize.
Brilliant people don’t want to waste energy in useless sacrifices, they want to work hard for a goal in their control and they want to be in a environment in which they can cooperate and, on the other side, that can support them.
This culture of effort has an even dramatic aspect: in fact the entire system has been dramatically hacked by untalented people that learned how to “show effort and be fine” (being fine in Italy is “pararsi il culo” that means “getting your own ass safe”) so that nowadays Italian organisations are completely filled of people that are NOT result-driven.
Moreover untalented are completely scared of this new generation of odd people that are result-driven, and they give them hard time to enter or to stay in established organisations.
Brilliant people do not want to spend their life accepting this, so they leave the country because they have all the skills to get a better life.
3) Why people work for some companies? Most of the reasons why people work for a certain company is completely unrelated to the company itself.
Last weekend I was in a business event and I was listening to a director of a multinational HR company. I really appreciated his speech, he was talking about entering in the human-age. One things that he said was “Companies that will find the best way to attract, develop and retain best talents they will be the most successful in the future world. Look at Google, Apple…”.
This is what I suddenly thought: “WTF, this is a complete disaster!!”. Yes, most of my expats friend are still attracted by Italian companies, but do you want to know why? Because when they finish to work they can have friends, family, sun, bars, food, aperitivo and seaside. Can we consider this a talent retention strategy?
Brilliant people want to work in companies in which they can improve their skills and their results as much as they can. They don’t accept anything else until they aren’t forced to do it.
4) Leadership or Vanity? Often Italians don’t know the difference.
Look at the Italian main stock market index: FTSE MIB. What do you see? It is composed mostly by banks and fashion producers. Seemingly most of the banks are still running and not in bankruptcy because a lot (too much) of people are “doing effort” there and they do not deserve to lose their job, they deserve a prize of their effort that is: still working even if the company is a s*it. True story.
Let’s talk about fashion producers. If you ask the Italians about their grandmothers you will know that most of them were good at sewing. When war ended and Italy was such a poor country, people couldn’t even dress rightly for the weather, they were just wearing something. However every member of the family had a “vestito buono”, his own or a shared one, a good dress that women in the (big) families sewed and members of the family were dressing only for the Sunday Mass or for special celebrations. That dress should have represented the dignity of the family and should have lasted as much as it could. There were so much peer competition among women in this dressing ritual and it was a proud for women and members of the family to show themselves at best. Later on years Sunday Mass acquired more and more importance as a way of showing themselves: with good dresses, good cars and so on.
Then it happened that Italy became one of the best countries for fashion and luxury goods. Nobody had the market leadership goal in their mind, they were just competing each other at insane levels. I’m sure that today stylist could get impressed of the quality and the level of the details that our grandmother payed attention to.
And also, if you look at the Italian politicians of the modern era, you can see only two charismatic leaders: you see a Fascist that took the power because was seen as strong and, more recently, an arguable Business Man because was seen as positive. Italians knows what looks good but definitely know very poor about leadership.
Brilliant Italians want real leaders and they want to be leaders themselves in their field. They also know that if an organisation is not competing with the world, it’s just going to disappear.
5) Are people waiting for superior intervention?
Maybe the constant presence of the superior divinity in daily life shaped a mindset of fate and of superior intervention also in the economy. You can see most of the people requiring an intervention from the superior level: employee waiting for bosses intervention, entrepreneur waiting for government intervention, government waiting for the ECB governor intervention.
The concept of homo faber est suae quisque fortunae (similar to self-made man) not only is lost again in the centuries, it is also discouraged by a net of threatening bureaucracy.
This made most of the Italians very good at obeying and very bad at leading. In example, just look at the insane level of taxation: the more you tax them and the more they pay. This fact is absolutely not good for anyone (perhaps just for bureaucrats).
Brilliant Italians want to take the responsibility of their fate and don’t want to be slave of poor mindsets.
World changed and everyone should be well aware that we are living in the world more than in a country. This brand new generation of Italians knows this and it is ready to:
- Compete with the world from Italy
- Compete with the world from abroad
You may think that “new” does not necessarily imply “better” and having a rampant generation always happened in the history. But even you have no solution to the actual Italian decline, as an Italian, facilitating this new generation of professionals and companies born with worldwide competition in mind, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself because this generation represent the future of Italy.