A new biography of Adriano Olivetti has just been published, exploring the training and development of his original concept of the factory and the community
It is important to understand how ideas are born and then how they grow and develop, through to outlining their concluding path. This approach also applies to companies and to their leaders. When doing business also means creating culture, then the history of ideas merges with leading human and cultural adventures. This is the case of Adriano Olivetti and Olivetti. A story that has been told a thousand times, yet one which can always be told again. A story that each time suggests new aspects to recount, and which still has a lot to teach to those who want to learn.
This issue – seen from a particular perspective – was addressed by Marco Maffioletti who wrote “L’impresa ideale tra fabbrica e comunità. Una biografia intellettuale di Adriano Olivetti”. (The ideal company between factory and community. An intellectual biography of Adriano Olivetti) This is a good book that narrates the corporate and cultural life of Adriano Olivetti based on what has already been published and on an examination of books and papers owned by Adriano himself.
The text is organised simply, a scan in an almost elementary few basic steps of the affair: how an idea is born, how to develop an idea, how to implement an idea, how an idea ends. However, the focus almost entirely lies on Adriano’s youngest years, those of his training first and then the formation of the idea at the heart of what he designed and subsequently developed. The book thus recounts his family and his initial views of the world, the outline of a company that not only produces objects but also culture, the ties to the local territory, the birth of a particular conception of relations between the factory and the social system, the contrasts with a society (in the early 1920s and then the Thirties and Forties) that was initially difficult and unfavourable and subsequently (after WWII) one that was difficult to understand and far-away. The Community Movement is outlined.
The more than four hundred pages of the book are a smooth read, even though they tackle complicated moments in the life of a significant company and of a complex man. The effort in analysing and summarising made by Maffioletti leaves a lot of space open to investigation and learning, which is in fact why it should be read through to the end.
L’impresa ideale tra fabbrica e comunità. Una biografia intellettuale di Adriano Olivetti (The ideal company between factory and community. An intellectual biography of Adriano Olivetti)
Fondazione Adriano Olivetti, Edizioni di Comunità, 2016