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The Imaginative Entrepreneur and the Conflict between Dream and Capital

Apple and Olivetti are among the cases of conflict between the warm spirit of the funambulist-entrepreneur and the cold heart of the managerial body

The entrepreneur.

The art of entrepreneurship counts among its protagonists the imaginative entrepreneur, who is a tightrope walker and a possibilist. Once the factory machineries transform the raw material (the idea) into a product that the managerial process brings to the market, the open-mindedness and entrepreneurial experimentation must confront the constraints of the available resources

The art of entrepreneurship counts among its protagonists the imaginative entrepreneur, who is a tightrope walker and a possibilist. She in mid-air moves from the skyscraper of ideas to reach the building of the product or service sprung from the idea she cultivated. The funambulist-entrepreneur’s intellectual stance ties her together with artists, inventors and researchers. Taking Philippe Petit (Petit, 2012), an inimitable protagonist of the art of tightrope walking, as a benchmark, the entrepreneur learns to accept the surprises of life, forcing to the corner that formidable boxer who is the ‘Impossible’, disregarding the rules, unraveling the tangled bundle of a problem, refusing to focus on what according to formal education and general opinion is the right answer. Once the factory machineries transform the raw material (the idea) into a product that the managerial process brings to the market, the open-mindedness and entrepreneurial experimentation must confront the constraints of the available resources. The rules of management put a strain on the vision and passion of the entrepreneur, who is accused of frivolity and lack of practicality. Jumping together, entrepreneur and management, the obstacles that arise along the path that leads from production to the market means practicing the art of consilience, that is, the concordance of evidence shown by the two sides.

Lacking consilience, to the rise of the tightrope walker it ensues her fall – sometimes, the return to the scene of the company that I had dismissed him. Apple and Olivetti are among the most well-known cases of conflict between the warm spirit of the funambulist-entrepreneur and the cold heart of the managerial body. Lisa (the first-ever computer to have a graphical interface with mice, icons, and windows) and the Macintosh were two remarkable innovations that did not deliver the expected results. Steve Jobs, Superman or the Lynceus of our times with such penetrating eyesight as to be able to look through the walls of corporate bureaucracy, clashed with the managerial culture of a man, the CEO John Sculley, who came from “sugared water” (a Jobs’s quip), PepsiCo. That culture turned out to be a boomerang that took Jobs back to the podium.

The far-reaching vision of Camillo Olivetti, founder of the company of the same name, and then of his son Adriano, allowed the two Argonauts to look at the market and civil society as partners of the company. When Adriano died and later when his son Roberto was called to the top of Olivetti, the company was already a prisoner of the will of managers to turn capital into their advantage and in a relatively short time. The vision of electronics in which Roberto believed was obscured not only by that culture of capitalisation, but also by the conviction that it was possible to subdue to it the market and society, seen as two passive subjects. Roberto had to leave the bridge deck.

Unlike the realist, the emphasis placed on the freedom of human action in the use of time and a creative disposition together with the sense of possibility prompts the possibilist-entrepreneur to question how things could be going in a far different way than in the past.

The possibilist is a fanatic who is projected into the future because she thinks of knowing what tomorrow could be, while the realist lives in the present perceiving only what is today. If the realist is Homo sapiens, therefore able to think intelligently about the present, the possibilist is also Homo sentiens, given her emotional predisposition to appreciate subjective experiences that project her into an unpredictable future, which can be constructed with the determinedness of acting in an extraordinary way.

In his famous unfinished novel The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil compares “the man with an ordinary sense of reality [to] a fish that nibbles at the hook but is unaware of the line, while the man with that sense of realty which can also be called a sense of possibility trawls a line through the water and has no idea whether there’s any bait on it”. His extraordinary indifference to the life snapping at the bait is matched by the risk he runs of doing utterly eccentric things”. After all, he is a poet who, according to Aristotle’s thought, should prefer a likely impossibility to an unconvincing one.

Is the possibilist really a bizarre person, without quality? For the possibilists such as Maxwell Alan Lerner, celebrated American journalist and educator, the quality of the possibilist is to generate an idea that instils so much courage to initiate it and so tenacity to “stick with that idea until you see the seed of that idea shoot through the dirt surface of impossibility. Then comes the period where you will need to water and fertilize that idea until the day finally arrives when you get to harvest the fruit of that idea” (https://www.motivationalmemo.com/the-life-of-the-possibilist/). Ultimately, the possibilist-entrepreneur opens uo unprecedented vistas, being elsewhere as compared to the perspective unfolding from the present time.

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