Beruf : the fate awaiting innovators

Dear Professors, Colleagues and Friends, I am honoured for the opportunity I am offered to give a greeting address to the participants of the International School on “Industry Digital Evolution”.

I’m particularly grateful to Prof. Angelo Corallo and Prof. Mariangela Lazoi for this good opportunity.

During this brief speech, I would like to refer to the German word Beruf, which indicates two things at the same time: on the one hand, the profession (the job we do) and, on the other, the vocation (what we are called to).

There are different kinds of jobs. Some of them require a certain degree of responsibility, while others have less responsibility. Correspondingly, there are more executive jobs where worker responsibility is smaller and more creative jobs where responsibility is greater.

Working to appeal to your responsibility means giving your contribution to modelling what exists, raising what exists to a level that is not yet all seen. It means, in a word, transforming the existing.

Often working – and working at certain levels where excellence is expected – requires particular dexterity, the specific ability to deal with dangers, to manage complicated situations, situations in which it is necessary to coordinate the work of many employees, and to give precise indications of the things to do, but at the same time to be able to listen. Sometimes, the complications are so many that you seem to go to war. In the coordination of so many elements, in fact, it is inevitable to be a strategist. The general or strategist, like the manager or professor, must also know how to juggle in every kind of danger.

When we talk about the strategist, one cannot help but read what Plato says about it:

“In order to besiege a camp, to take a fortress, to concentrate or deploy an army and make it perform the appropriate manoeuvres, both in battle and on the march, a general [a strategist] turns out to be more or less skillful depending on whether or not he is a surveyor “.

I ask myself: “Why did Plato think about the surveyor? The work of the surveyor eminently consists in creating models and in bringing reality back to a model capable of acting as a reference point. Think about it for a moment: to bring the plan of reality back to the ideal. This is what fascinates Plato. Yes, because, you see, we all need a point of reference, regardless of the activity we are engaged in. For Plato, a reality can be said to be complete not when it is considered in itself and in its own terms, but when it is brought back to a reference model. We see, we realize that such an inspiration is not something buried in time or closed in some book of philosophy. No, it is something that many of us carry inside ourselves and that they implement in their lives. Many of us, to put it this way, are “platonic”, that is, they tend never to be happy because we set ourselves truly high, ambitious targets. Is that not the case?

There is also a completely different way of thinking about the strategist’s activity. It dates back to a man who lived in China in the same period as Plato, the sixth and fifth century BC. This man was called Sun Tzu and is the author of The Art of War.

Sun Tzu introduces the concept of shi, which we could translate as “the appreciation of the situation”. According to such an approach, the strategist must start from the situation, precisely that concrete situation in which he is given to live, in order to seize all the internal possibilities of that same situation, from whose assumption he can decipher the ongoing process. To govern a process means to follow it in its internal veins. There is not an ideal model to bring back reality, but rather a program of systematic immersion in that reality because only when you have reached the most complete immersion you can be incisive

In everyday life, when we work, whether consciously or not, we all draw inspiration from one of these two references.

Whatever our choice, what remains is that when work is called upon to take responsibility, then work ceases to be the mere performance of a task, and becomes something in which individual inspiration, intuition, dedication and courage give life to something greater than the task envisaged by the work itself.

There are situations in which work no longer becomes the liberation from a need, but an act of creation.

With work (profession), we are called upon (vocation) to accomplish something that goes beyond the mere performance of a task. Beruf is routing us towards this surplus, something that passes from us, from our hands, but it does not depend on us.

For some such surplus is the beauty, our specific contribution to the work of creation which, contrary to what we have always thought, is not an act done once and for all, but something that is gradually realized by appealing to the willingness of men, not by chance defined as “good will”.

Talking about Beruf, about that tight knot that unites profession and vocation, has not been a matter of chance. Beruf, the road to beauty, is the fate that awaits not ordinary people, but innovators, those who have some visions of the future and the courage to transform them in concrete practices.

So be proud to be innovative, because beauty depends on you and your work!


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