To bring about newness that we need, everywhere and at all levels, we need to think like a designer and act as a startupper, even in companies. Because exploring oxymorons and looking for paradoxes generates sparks

* Roberto Battaglia is HR manager of the IMI Corporate & Investment Banking Division of Intesa Sanpaolo

Making opposites dialogue is the most interesting way I know of thinking and creating something new.

It's not just about “connecting the dots”, to quote Steve Jobs. Exploring oxymorons and looking for paradoxes generates sparks. They have to be sifted through an inevitable background noise, but they are often enough to discover often invisible opportunities.

Looking for and creating contrasts is, after all, the main job of an artist or a chef. And it is a quality that is rather familiar to designers and architects. The same cannot be said of company men and women who are called, in general, to guarantee concreteness, substance, reliability, compliance.

This juxtaposition of apparently irreconcilable dimensions is, in my opinion, one of the things we need to deal with today. And this is particularly relevant in organizations, called, now more than ever, to a courageous rethinking of their way of being, of being on the market, of relating to their people (whom many continue to call employees).

I consider myself an average curious person. This leads me, with a certain frequency, to think about new initiatives, to create connections, to start experiments.

I'm definitely not the only one doing this; this is a style that can be found in many organizations. All this, however, can raise the doubt that, behind the activism dictated by enthusiasm, there is a lack of an organic plan that holds everything together, makes the purpose clear and, above all, produces tangible and not episodic effects.

My point of view is that if on the one hand the search for concreteness and the need to measure the effect of every decision have their own reason for being, on the other hand there is the risk of throwing the child away with the dirty water.

In other words, everything that is not weighable with traditional metrics, or that tends to come out of a rational and controllable logic, has a good chance of being marginalized because it is considered superfluous and misleading with respect to the primary task.

In companies, many innovation development programs are based on linear and metric sequences to verify the increase in revenues deriving from the ideas produced. While flawless in the approach, they have a high probability of self-confining themselves in a cage of a few proud innovators to full time who, sooner or later, will have to take note of their isolation.

There is an opposite way. It is based on exhortations to all employees become entrepreneurs and on the launch of prize competitions: where, by clockwork, creativity is encouraged and the most innovative ideas are rewarded. This is an effective way to make the energy and talent present in organizations thrive.

How then is this risk managed by trying to minimize the effects I have just represented?

The answer, however obvious, is: it depends. On the culture of the company, on the phase it is experiencing, on the presence or absence of people who, albeit in a latent way, express energy and desire to act. Above all on the existence, among the folds of the organization, of junctions that have the ability to aggregate consensus and influence decisions to make things evolve.

Identifying these elements effectively is a question of method and sensitivity.

I addressed this issue in a book, which will be published in January, which addresses the theme of how to enhance the often latent abilities present in companies and channel them in one direction, that of entrepreneurship (i.e. working with entrepreneurial spirit and skills in every project that one undertakes), which I personally see as one of the keys to holding together sometimes divergent dimensions.

In summary, my answer is that vision and realism can coexist, but a right dose of squinting is required: to think as a designer and act as a startupper.