Under the guidance of their creative founders, companies of the Made in Italy have been discovering new business paradigms and pursuing opportunities that break away from the familiar routines. Over the 1930s, Scuderia Ferrari was a small, autonomous division of the Alfa Romeo Company. In 1947, Enzo Ferrari founded the company that bears his name in Maranello. In 2002, Ferrari was rewarded as the most respected Italian company in the world, according to a survey of more than 1000 top managers in twenty countries across the globe. In a personality-driven context, Ferrari’s legend extends well beyond the automotive world and motor racing and sports car industry, to reach the broader business community as well as the general public. The legend has been built around the efforts and determination of its founder and mentor, Enzo Ferrari. Although Ferrari was a good racer, his talent was in the direction of organisation and the handling of small details.
Since the very early days of his education Ferrari was driven by the tacit knowledge embedded in the field of his father’s experience as a rural metal worker. His father’s company, a small foundry, made sheds and gangways for the railroads in Italy. Ferrari was never interested in school. He had aspirations. One of these was to be a race car-driver.
Building informal and personal relationships, and from the know-nothing land ascending the steep slope of the “Motor Racing Industry” hill of knowledge
Aged barely 20, Ferrari spent much of his time frequenting the Bar de Nord on Turin’s Ports Nuova, getting to know people and making connections. He aimed at creating trust, fashion, roles, and maximising the joint product of personal relationships within his small groups of peers, interacting informally out of the shop floor. Sharing and learning in the cafés, even playing cards rather than playing by business cards in the meetings: this was a common trait to the founders – in most cases, blue collars and technicians – of small companies in Italy.
17th June 1923: a sequence of events gave rise to what is unquestionably regarded as one of the most widely identified logos used by any car maker in history.
That day Ferrari won the first Savio circuit, which was run in Ravenna, Italy. After the event, a man elbowed his way through to the front of the excited crush immediately surrounding Ferrari and shook the winner warmly by the hand. It turned out that this was the father of Francesco Baracca, the legendary First World War Italian fighter ace who shot down no fewer than 35 enemy planes during the conflict. Baracca’s squadron had sported a shield in the centre of which was a prancing horse. Subsequently Ferrari met Francesco Baracca’s mother, Countess Paolina. One day she said to him, “Ferrari, why don’t you put my son’s prancing horse on your cars; it would bring you luck.” Thus was born the famous ‘Prancing Horse’ logo. The horse was black and has remained so. Ferrari added the canary yellow background because it is the colour of his town, Modena.
Transforming personal knowledge into organisational knowledge
Throughout the 1920’s Ferrari spent a lot of time judiciously creating his commercial and engineering connections. He also began surrounding himself with a group of close collaborators, including Gioacchino Colombo – the man who would eventually design the first Ferrari car after masterminding the Alfa Romeo 158s under Ferrari’s patronage – and former Fiat technician Luigi Bazzi, a man who would survive into the 1960’s as possibly Enzo’s longest-standing lieutenant, having originally joined him in 1923. Bazzi had joined Alfa Romeo as long ago as 1922 after a spell in Fiat’s experimental department, and would later become tagged as the man who conceived the fearsome twin-engined Alfa Romeo ‘Bimotore’ in the 1930’s.
Ferrari ‘made’ Bazzi and Bazzi ‘made’ Ferrari. Not only Bazzi was a valued technical guiding hand, but also his long association with Enzo Ferrari enabled him to help smooth over the differences of opinion and temperamental problems, which made working with his boss an increasingly unpredictable, sometimes tempestuous, challenge in later years.
Through dialogue and discussion, cognitive conflicts and disagreement were raised, which questioned the existing premises. This made possible the transformation of personal knowledge into organisational knowledge.
Long-standing, healthy rivalry has been at the origin of healthy collaboration – that is, collaboration to share complex information on an ongoing basis for a common goal.
During the time with Alfa Romeo, Bazzi was also responsible for tempting the highly respected engineer Vittorio Jano to leave Fiat to join the rival firm. Bazzi, who had also worked with Fiat, was at least partly responsible for persuading Ferrari that Jano was the right man for the job. Within months of joining Alfa Romeo, the ex-Fiat man was putting the finishing touches to the historic supercharged 2-litre P2, which made its competition debut in 1924.
Interpersonal collaboration across multiple boundaries – across cultures, functions, rivalries, and geography – featured in a mix of rivalry and co-operation between motor racing entrepreneurs. Which gave birth, first, to knowledge pools and, then, to a knowledge cluster: the springboards for innovation through collaboration, rivalry and creative imitation.
In a personality-driven context, the key players were ‘strong heart’ individualists endowed with a hedgehog-minded personality, who relate everything to a single central vision and focus maniacally on executing it. By raising rivalry but also building relationships among people, they made changes happened beyond the conventional wisdom horizon.