“To achieve your goals you need to learn from failures, embrace uncertainty and use your wits!” – Filiberto Amati, Innovation, Branding and Development Expert, MD at AMATI & Associates. Filiberto is an hands-on leader and change manager, with nearly 15 years of international experience. He has written two books: “Co-creation. Mystery Solved” and “Undersanding Open Innovation. A Primer”.
B&P: As a man with huge international experience, working for global companies, what do you think is the most important lesson you have learned while working with different cultures?
FA: I think that the key to working with different cultures is to listen and never make arbitrary assumptions. Also it is helpful to ask questions once in a while, even though they might sound stupid. It’s the only way you can get rid of the “noise”.
B&P: You help your clients in their international development. What is the biggest challenge in this field and how can one prepare for expansion to foreign markets?
Surprisingly enough, many businesses approach the process of international expansion “reactively”. They think that until they reach critical mass, they should focus on servicing sales, and not developing plans supporting growth. The truth of the matter is that only a few exporters have a product, which could let them reach a critical mass pursuing such an approach. International expansion is a battle won first and foremost at home, to the extent that when they are successful at home, they can allocate the right resources abroad. You should first invest in knowledge to understand a marketplace and your prospective partners. Obviously, the key here is to have a strategy to understand where it’s worth investing: market size is often the main factor, but on its own it is very often not enough to help make sufficient choices.
B&P: You have worked on nearly every continent on the planet, but for some time now you have been based in Poland. What was the biggest surprise in building business relations here?
Poland is great because it is very dynamic and entrepreneurial. There is adrenaline in the air, and the marketplace is very dynamic. The surprising thing is how superficial certain business relationships are. Because of the speed of change, many people do not seem to be interested in medium- or long-term relationships. It’s what we in Italy call “mordi e fuggi”, which literally means “bite and run away”.
B&P: Management in Poland and worldwide. Is there anything we, the Poles, could learn from other cultures?
I think everybody can learn from others, so I am sure that Polish people could learn from other cultures as much as other culture should learn from the Polish. I think in general, there is a culture of lack of trust, which has and will have impact on the ability to develop ground breaking innovations. Adoption of open innovation in Poland is at a low level, which could be explained by cultural and historical reasons. It’s a big missed opportunity, especially for small and medium size companies, to become part of a larger industry ecosystem.
B&P: And what could foreign business partners learn from us in turn?
I think that there is a positive vibe when you do business with the Polish people. You have a sense that there is no limit to what can be achieved, and can deal with high levels of uncertainty.
B&P: What are the essentials we need to know before we start doing business with an Italian?
In my opinion, Italians are great to do business with. On the other hand, Italian companies tend to be very formal and a lot of “chatting” needs to happen before real business happens. Also, Italian companies tend to have really lousy payment policies….
B&P: You wrote a book, ‘Co-creation. Mystery Solved’, The aspect of ‘co-creation’ is one of your fields of interest. How important is it today in business, enterprise?
Co-creation is a very wide concept, which is changing constantly. And it’s extremely important in business today, because digitalization has broken many barriers; first and foremost in the way businesses deal with other businesses and consumers. There is lower information asymmetry, communication looks more like a dialogue, which is beyond the traditional system of advertisers communicating to consumers. And co-creation plays an important role in this new blurred reality. A lot of innovation is emerging thanks to crowd-sourcing, and a lot of innovative initiatives receive the necessary financing through crowd-funding. Even if we look at the recently emerged crypto-currencies, their initial offerings, known as ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), are basically crowdfunding processes under of the co-creation umbrella.
B&P: What are the three rules you follow in business?
Honestly, I don’t believe in three rules to follow in business or six habits for success, or four diets of tech entrepreneurs. I do not think that eating cereal at 6 o’clock in the morning is going to make me smarter because some tech billionaire does that. In business, I first listen and then I think. If there’s something I don’t know, I get an expert to explain it to me and work with me on the subject. That’s about it.
B&P: You work with owners, CEOs, presidents, top managers of the biggest international companies. Is there a common feature they share? The one that predisposes them to working on top positions?
I have seen so many different leadership styles that I’m not sure there is really one or two traits that stand out. The leaders I prefer delegate and inspire, rather than control and change course.
B&P: Would you agree with a quote by Winston Churchill, who said that ‘success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm’?
When I talk about fuelling innovation culture with my customers, the weirdest point I have to make is ‘rewarding failures’. As long as companies reward success only, they will never push their employees outside their comfort zone, which limits their ability to innovate. Rewarding failures sends a strong signal that everybody should try innovating without risking their careers. Failing, and failing fast, and then learning from failures, is far more important than learning from ‘best innovation practices’. Also, when you innovate, failures outnumber successes by default, so you should get comfortable with fiascos.
B&P: I would also like to ask about the ‘wisdom of the crowd’. How did you become interested in this concept?
Working with the crowd ensures creative solutions, which are ultimately more relevant. And those are key elements of brand differentiation, in marketplaces filled with lookalikes and commoditised features.
B&P: Could you please finish these sentences?
To achieve your goals you need to…
… learn from failures, embrace uncertainty and use your wits!
What definitely does not work in business is…
… thinking you are smarter than your customers and smarter than your competitors.
What I value in people most is…
… sincerity, openness, and genuine interest in learning.
I start my day with…
… cooking breakfast for my children.
When I have a problem…
… I talk about it.
My passion is…
… my family.
B&P: Thank you for conversation