It is a term with ancient roots, but with a modern sound, and one that is at the centre of highest levels of economic debate: resilience. They speak of resilience in the economic policy documents coming out of the White House and in studies being published by the OECD. The term is being used in many discussions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and was even seen on three pages of one issue of La Repubblica (23 January). Resilience. It is a term that comes from Latin (“resilere”: to leap back) and means having an ability to adapt to change, to absorb stress, to accept setbacks rather than attacking them head on and risking disaster. Adaptability, in other words. The opposite of rigidity. Or of fragility.
For experts in ecosystems, it is the ability to find a new state of equilibrium following an external shock to the system. For engineers, it is the elasticity they see when they study rubber, plastics or certain nanotechnologies being used now in materials such as steel or concrete. For economists, it is flexibility in the face of change. Indeed, this same flexibility, or adaptability, is at the heart of Italy’s “culture of enterprise”. It is that brand of customisation typical not only of traditional Italian craftsmen, but also, and above all, as found in the most sophisticated manufacturers of industrial tools, which are building production facilities (from steel mills to packaging plants for foodstuffs or pharmaceuticals) for their customers throughout the world.
So it could be said that the best in Italian manufacturing has always been resilient, up to and including the “factory of the third millennium”, a factory that is a unique blend of lasers and craftsmanship, research and prototype testing, production sites and offices providing a range of complex services, a synthesis of technique and aesthetics, of new materials, new forms, new applications.
Nowadays, there is an expression that is being thrown around in all of the most authoritative economic circles to describe this tendency of ours: “resilient industries”. It may not exactly roll off of the tongue, but it is, in essence, a form of recognition of our success and something for which we should continue to strive.