2023-12-19 Fabrizio Perretti

The Nature of Change

In times of great change, every social actor can decide whether to act and participate in it - for or against - or whether to simply be a spectator waiting to understand the outcome (and, if necessary, adapt to it). In the face of today's challenges - climate change above all - responsibility cannot, however, rest solely on the shoulders of individuals. Yet companies tend to react only according to the choices of their customers/consumers or their competitors, thus slowing down the process. If hope is 'the courage to persevere when winning seems difficult [...] and when success seems inconceivable', we have to ask ourselves whether companies are actually capable of fulfilling this task. And whether it is appropriate to entrust them with the role of guides.


Coping with change is a constant condition for companies. Not only because the world around us changes incessantly and companies have to decide how to deal with new external conditions. But also because we ourselves are the ones who change and the inevitable life cycle of people is enough to change businesses internally. New people enter the company, other people leave it, and the people who remain, simply because they are ageing, also change over time. It is this incessant rhythm that determines the changes in our company: the constant turnover of new people and thus of new experiences, new ideas, new perspectives. Companies change because people change.

The change itself is not up for discussion. The real issues are the direction and speed of change. Some subjects are sources of change, others are behind it, and still others hinder it. And it is the combination and interaction of these actors that determine both. Even more important, however, is to understand which side we are on: whether to decide to change when no one has yet done so, whether to change after others have already embraced change, or whether to decide to continue as before and resist external pressures. As in the case of social movements, in relation to change in general we can decide whether to act and participate in it (for or against) or whether to simply be spectators waiting to understand the outcome and, if necessary, adapt to it.

There is a change whose direction and speed are unfortunately now known: it is climate change. Global warming is a fact, and we know that man alone, besides being the source of the problem, can be its solution. Again, there are those who deny it and those who acknowledge it and try to do something about it. However, there are also those who simply watch it as spectators. Some argue that this passive attitude is the consequence of powerlessness paralysis. Faced with forces immensely greater than ourselves, which we feel we cannot stop or cannot stop in time, we think we can only watch and hope to be among those who will somehow be saved from the most catastrophic consequences. 

There is a whole collective imagination that has already accustomed us to this perspective. In recent decades, books, films, television series and video games have in fact accustomed us to apocalyptic scenarios of destruction and the living dead, in which the protagonists try to survive. The state is absent and violence is the main form of interaction. In all these representations, catastrophe is taken for granted as well as the struggle for survival conducted by individuals or small groups or communities. That is, the focus is not on actions to avoid collapse but on how to survive once it has occurred. The implicit invitation is to concentrate efforts on the latter objective, when one should instead mobilise on the former.

A paradigm shift is needed to counter and slow climate change. As Rebecca Solnit reminds us[1], it is necessary not to give in to pessimism but to cultivate hope. This means recognising the uncertainty of the future and committing ourselves to trying to participate in its creation, knowing that we must act without knowing the outcome of these actions. It is in this sense that playwright Václav Havel speaks of it: 'hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something is worth doing regardless of how it will turn out'.

In our society, however, this change cannot be left to individuals, and companies should not only react to changes in their customers/consumers or their competitors.This in fact takes too long and is not necessarily sufficient stimulus.If companies change because people change, it is also true that in the capitalist system society often changes because companies change.But if hope is 'the courage to persevere when winning seems difficult [...] and when success seems inconceivable', we have to ask ourselves whether companies are actually able to fulfil this task. We hope so. But, ultimately, we must perhaps ask ourselves whether it is right to hope so. The crucial point is indeed whether we, as a society, as people, can entrust our hopes to corporations.

This issue's dossier is dedicated to the automotive sector, a sector that has profoundly changed our society - the 'machine that changed the world'[2] - and which is now, more than others, facing the challenge of climate change (and more). A challenge that requires a profound change in products, technologies, supply chains and infrastructures. And it is precisely the centrality that this sector - defined by Peter Drucker as 'the industry of industries'[3] - has always had that makes it so interesting to understand whether companies are actually up to the task and responsibilities required. Linked to climate change, but from the perspective of the conservation and sustainability of natural resources, is the focus on agribusiness and the resilience of agribusiness supply chains. Completing the issue is the extensive focus on sport, where society and culture, economy and business intertwine in a relationship that, again, has undergone profound changes. Happy reading!

Still on the subject of change, this you are reading is my last editorial. Indeed, with this issue my term as editor of the magazine comes to an end. It has been an intense and interesting six years, and I hope I have been faithful to the goals and direction I set myself: to analyse and disseminate corporate culture, avoiding - as Claudio Dematté taught us - celebratory or triumphalist tones, but always with a critical eye on the business world because - as the writer Luciano Bianciardi recalls in one of his works - 'culture has no meaning if it does not help us understand others, help others, avoid evil'[4] .

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Scuola di Direzione Aziendale, my colleagues on the Editorial Committee, the publishing house Egea and, above all, all the authors of the articles and columns who contributed their content. Finally, a special thank you to my colleague Zenia Simonella, who has helped me with editorial decisions and operations over all these years.

It was a long journey. It was an intense journey. And like all important journeys, it was a journey that changed us. According to Proust, the only true journey is not to seek new landscapes, but to have different eyes to see what surrounds us. We hope that ours has also been a 'real' journey for our readers. We get off here, but the magazine continues. Happy travelling!

[1]R. Solnit, (2023), «Difficult is not the same as impossible» in R. Solnit, T. Young-Lutunatabua (eds.), Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility, Haymarket Books.

[2]   J.P. Womack, D.T. Jones, T. Roos (1993), La macchina che ha cambiato il mondo, Milano, Rizzoli.

[3]   P.F. Drucker (1946), The Concept of the Corporation, John Day.

[4]   L. Bianciardi (1964), Il lavoro culturale, Milano, Feltrinelli.


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