An open platform for digital economy

Some days ago I had the opportunity to give a lesson at ALMA Graduate School in Bologna (Italy), within the Master in Business Administration of the Information Systems course by prof. Danilo Montesi. It’s an annual appointment for me, in which I’m honoured to participate as a testimonial.

This is a real opportunity to launch new messages, encourage new ideas, and keep in touch with the next generation of managers and entrepreneurs.

This year the title of my speech was particularly challenging: “Digital Disruption: an open platform for digital economy between creative innovation and pragmatism”.

It’s not easy – I’d say quite impossible – to describe a two-hour lesson in few words. The presentation is available on Slideshare. It includes some contributions that I had already inserted in some previous speeches, towards a new direction.

Here are the main contents of my speech.

Key words

The key words of my speech – which are also mentioned in its title – follow, in order of priority: digital economy, digital disruption, innovation, creativity, pragmatism, platform. Let’s comment them one-by-one.

Digital economy, big data and open data

A video, posted in 2011, makes us understand how we will probably live in the near future. After few minutes – the film is quite long – you’ll become aware of the ever  increasingly tighter interaction between digital world and physical world and of its consequent impact on our daily behaviour. The last image of the video includes the following sentence: “Most experts are pretty sure we will live in 10 to 20 years the same or very similar as shown in the video”.

Now that the digital economy context is depicted, let’s see the more limited data economy context, which includes Big Data (many Vs), Extreme information Systems, Next Generation Analytics. A specific section refers to Open Data, one of the many ”data mines”, generating value in different ways. My intent is encouraging you to think on a specific aspect of the information management lifecycle: from row-data to … knowledge. Big data is also related to new technological developments, such as in-memory computing and … (sorry for advertising) … next release of SpagoBI 4.0.

Digital disruption

Thomas Suarez’s story tells us that digital disruption is happening today also thanks to a 12-year old boy. It happens if people have the right mindset. Nexus of many forces (Social, Mobile, Cloud, Information), plus technology, let “digital disruptors” bring their own ideas to the market, test the results, refine them and have a great impact … at lower cost, with a faster development rate and with great impact on user experience than any-thing came before. The right mindset makes the difference: it means thinking about opportunities differently.


I’ve already published a post on this topic and I’ll write something more in the future. It’s not easy to select the right definition of innovation: it depends on the context. Let’s try as follows: “innovation is giving  shape to ideas”.

As I daily work with open source, I feel the urge to find an answer to this question: “does open source drive innovation? My answer is at the end of this lesson.


Once again, a video gives a sample of creativity in the context of tourism, thanks to the major of Obermutten, a little village in Switzerland. This story tells us that creative ideas bring to unexpected results, far beyond our own imagination (see the stork flying at the end of the video).

Using Kevin Roberts’s words, we are moving from a VUCA world  (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) to a SuperVUCA world (Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy, Astounding). This is our next challenge.


This challenge must be faced with pragmatism, down-to-earth (you can be down-to-heart in many ways and with various mindsets).

Here is my favourite video (sorry, available only in Italian). Julio Velasco, a star for volley-ball fans as I’m aged. A short and funny show teaching many lessons: how achieve your goals, which is the right leadership style, what pragmatism really means. Have fun!

(Open) Platform

It’s now time to introduce the platform, starting from the definition. I found the most suitable definitions in Italian dictionaries. A platform is used as the base for many applications, generally having support or connection purposes. It’s a horizontal base, placing a model or common services at the disposal of vertical applications fulfilling specific needs. This applies to various domains, such as technology and business.

My favourite platform is openness, which you can inflect in many ways: open source is the inflection of openness that is closest to my daily activities.

Open source refers to software freedom and it’s the sum of many factors: distribution, community, architecture and the supporting commercial model.

Linux story, by  Jim Zemlin at a recent TEDx Conference, told us about the great outcomes gained by open source, as well as about some lessons learned (I’ve already commented this story in a previous post). Today, open source analysts pragmatically underline that the top three returns coming from open source adoption are: cost reduction, flexibility and innovation. For a wider view, read the second-last paragraph of this interview made in 2007 to Simon Phipps, currently OSI director. They are still living matters.

Before, I asked myself if open source is innovation per-se. More precisely, as open source means collaboration, sharing and community, the question is:  “Is the mix of these three factors a sufficient condition to bring innovation?” Let’s wait a little more to get this question answered.

Rules  and values

English enables some word jokes. For example: free means both free-of-charge and freedom. Similarly, code refers to both software and rules.

What are rules? Rules make us confident of our next behaviour (just see the trouble of people interacting with a context where someone changes the rules of the game for a while).

Rules drive decisions, emotions drive actions.

These suggestions come from Piercamillo Davigo, a famous Italian judge, currently devoted to education and dissemination activities, at a recent TEDx conference in Milan, Italy.

I’d like to apply them to open source now. Therefore, as I said in my speech at fOSSa Conference 2012: collaboration, transparency, value,  freedom are “rules” for our own behavior towards next changes that we will have to face in the near future.

Suggestions (or conclusion)

Now it’s time to answer to my pending question: collaboration, sharing, community are sufficient conditions to bring innovation?

Not in a direct way. However, as innovation is strictly connected to knowledge, to knowledge sharing and relations (networks, ecosystems, ecologies), I can say: collaboration, sharing and community are powerful tools to support innovation.

A couple of conclusive remarks, mainly addressing an audience of future managers and entrepreneurs.

  • Don’t just look for great ideas to be applied for creating innovation. Also learn how to tell them in the right way: it’s a crucial activity to achieve your own success. Adopt a new communication model: not only brand, but lovemark: stir up respect and love together for your realizations.
  • Don’t plan next steps strictly. (Do you remember previous Jim Zemlin’s story? Moreover, this could  put you in danger). Plan a roadmap: pre-adaptation is the behaviour to face future challenges. Focus on generating the right resources that you will use when you need to. Be aware, serendipity exists: this may be a valuable opportunity.

A  last video is about flocks of starlings. It derives from the speech of  Don Tapscott at TED Global 2012 that I’ve already cited here. It tells us that we belong to many groups, each one intersecting the others in a complex way, and that inside this new system, leadership is going to be collective: let’s learn how to be one of the many next leaders.

I was forgetting …

Opening my session, I gave you my references (linkedin, twitter, blog): any comment on that is more than appreciated.

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