The Dean of Bocconi University on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age
Dec 05, 2018
[full talk at the bottom]
The Dean of Bocconi University in Milan, Gianmario Verona, was recently a guest at IIT where he held a talk about “Open Innovation and Corporate Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age”.
After a quick introduction about the history of Bocconi University, Professor Verona started to delve right into the matter of the digital impact on our lives.
Digital technology rocked the 21st century and this is because, unlike other kind of technologies that are vertical, this one is transversal and we use it in everyday life and it applies to a vast amount of tools and systems.
As individual, digital technology became crucial for our social lives, for our work and much more. On top of that, it also re-shaped our social approach. For example it would have been un-thinkable, even just back in the '80s, to think about sharing a car with strangers.
“Many of these companies have us engaging in behaviors that would have seemed unthinkably foolhardy as recently as five years ago. We are hopping into strangers’ cars (Lyft, Sidecar, Uber), welcoming them into our spare rooms (Airbnb), dropping our dogs off at their houses (DogVacay, Rover), and eating food in their dining rooms (Feastly). We are letting them rent our cars (RelayRides, Getaround), our boats (Boatbound), our houses (HomeAway), and our power tools (Zilok). We are entrusting complete strangers with our most valuable possessions, our personal experiences—and our very lives. In the process, we are entering a new era of Internet-enabled intimacy.” [Jason Tanz - How Airbnb and Lyft Finally Got Americans to Trust Each Other, WIRED, April 23rd 2014]
One of the most significant change in term of its impact on the economy, is that of changing the approach of the market.
In fact, previously every company/producer of good would have tried to convince a small percentage of consumers to buy something of better quality and higher price, so to change the supply curve and, if they were good enough, the demand curve too by convincing a larger and larger number of consumers to buy that same products.
Today it does not work this way because the amount of data available about everyone and their preferences, allows economist to establish a very precise demand curve. Therefore, the questions for producer will be "what kind of supply curve will I need to better satisfy that very demand?"
The impact of digital technology shows also in the way innovation is conceived. Back in the 80's - as an example - Microsoft used to innovate by producing new and more powerful software versions and computer models. Then Steve Jobs came, and he realised what people wanted, was being able to work with data.
People were more likely to base their decision about what computer to buy, depending on the possibility to play music, managing communication tools or image tools rather than comparing softwares and hardwares. And so he dropped Apple computer production from 21 to just 6 models.
This way of producing innovation needs a new management approach.
Managers and Executive as they were conceived up until now, are now old fashioned and new organisations need to be one-layered, characterised by cyrcles of business development. This is why, nowadays, we talk about Corporate Entrepreneurship.
Everyone wants to be an innovator, students want to be entrepreneurs and some universities, as a result of this, had to cancel their MBAs programs for lack of enrollments.
Professor Verona stressed the major importance of Digital Technology comparing it to the introduction of electric power, for the amount of shock-waves it spread into every aspect of our modern lives.