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Purpose, time, culture. Innovation strategy essentials

After our Venture Building events in Rome and Milan, we asked the speakers to share their experiences with the community.


04.05.23 - 7 mins read

Radical innovation is a necessary path, but not without risks. Even if the road to follow is more or less defined, each reality interprets suitable trajectories in a specific way.

Our guests, Andrea Granelli (CEO, Kanso) Stefania Sammartano (Head of People and Organization eMobility, Enel Group) and Fabrizio Rauso (Director of People, Organization and Digital eXperience, Sogei), share their thoughts on the topic by answering a few questions.

How are innovation paths perceived in your contexts?

Our guests agreed on the importance of innovation paths without hiding their limits or ambitions when directed towards a broader goal than the process itself.

Andrea Granelli points out how these processes are more often driven by technology and focused on transforming the material dimension rather than services and behaviours, despite the greatest value being in the last two. On the other hand, the first represents a means to achieve a further end, which concerns people and their goals.

Fabrizio Rauso points to the same aspect but elevates it to the Nation, which needs these processes to grow, and Sogei contributes precisely to this ambition.

Stefania Sammartano highlights how innovation in Enel has lasted for ten years and has become the company's DNA: “We have created teams specialised in innovation starting from managers’ culture to promote a context in which it is permissible to make mistakes and take risks. Without this condition, there is no innovation. It is evident that technology plays an important role, but innovation means much more".

What are the main success and failure factors?

We discussed it in an article a few weeks ago and asked our guests the same question.

Granelli: “It is, above all, the long-term vision, the ability to translate challenges into planned and measurable strategies and actions - a business plan and the wisdom to understand the impacts in the medium term. Among failure factors, I put the lack of motivation, inadequate skills, and weak people management”.

Sammartano adds: “The greatest risks are those linked to the integration between teams that look to the future and those managing business as usual, the Profit & Loss. Creating harmonious and generative relationships between these groups is the daily challenge of those who want a company capable of constantly questioning itself."

Rauso: “Budget first of all! But not only that, those of ventures are medium-term paths and must be supported "top-down", paying close attention to execution and results. They must be linked to the company's growth plan as connection elements that are not exceptional".

There is no innovation without skills: to innovate, you must study.

Fabrizio Rauso, Sogei

Two other factors determine the outcome of venture paths: place and learning.

“Places - highlights Granelli - are powerful, and the digital layer associated with them can multiply their power by increasing inspiration, engagement and well-being”.

However, adds Rauso, “There is no innovation without skills: to innovate, you must study”.

One is to be aware of the factors hindering or facilitating venture paths, and promoting them and accepting the results of what could follow is quite another.

Above all, it is necessary to accept real failure, which leads people to measure their abilities (or shortcomings), and the limits of initiatives, systematically training critical thinking and the ability to imagine and simulate alternative scenarios.

“But skills and processes must contribute to innovating sustainably, " adds Sammartano. Non-sustainable innovation is only "newness". The desire to amaze simply with novelty is not very effective and ephemeral".

Soft skills are a human infrastructure that supports everything else and allows for creating relationships, connections and generative environments.

Stefania Sammartano, Enel Group

How important is it to strengthen soft skills?

People and their skills are the real added value in a venture path. Our guests attach great importance to what are defined as soft skills, so much so that Granelli points out: “They are soft on paper but hard in being bounded, measured and strengthened”.

Sammartano adds: “Soft skills are central for managers. And to recapture their importance, we could go back to calling them the liberal arts to distinguish them from professional arts; liberal arts build humans, not just professionals. A sort of infrastructure holds everything else up and allows for creating relationships, connections and generative environments.

Rauso deems it more appropriate to talk about skills in general: “We need motivation projects related to company purpose and value recognition for one's role. 'Compulsory' training is no longer meaningful. Learning must be a fundamental part of any company culture".

New Ventures are the most effective way to accelerate innovation and an unmissable opportunity to build new skills.

Andrea Granelli, Kanso

The key drivers of venture paths are not technology and product

Our guests highlighted three crucial factors for supporting Venture Building processes, and they have an exquisitely humanistic dimension.


Innovation cannot be individual but driven by a strong motivation that supports the entire company. It is necessary to undertake venture paths with eyes wide open and a solid vision of the destination and path.


It is not an addition of roles but an organic and interconnected system which may also find space for ambiguity, divergence and the dialectic between certain and uncertain, universal and particular. A dimension that allows you to observe the context without an instruction manual. Without these elements, venture paths become vertical, perhaps successful, but do not change the company's nature.


Sometimes the right decisions are made at the wrong time, or solutions are built that arrive on the market when they are not needed because they are too early or too late. There is a Greek word that reminds us of that and which perfectly describes the time of a Venture process. The word is kairós and defines the opportune moment to do something. Understanding the right time, however, requires patience, discipline, market and technological expertise, social context and competence.

Ventures and sustainability

Venture Building is an opportunity to maximise the impact of your business, penetrating new markets and seizing unusual opportunities while protecting the sustainable value generated by the initiative.

The specific objectives of individual challenges are more influential when they are catalysts for the collective vision suggested by the 2030 Agenda. "Venture paths are an excellent "implementing machine" - comments Granelli - and are more capable than corporate and behaviours in that direction”.

“Venture challenges can only pass through the centrality of emotional knowledge, of a leadership style inspired by kindness principles as the basis for creating generative connections between people”, adds Sammartano.

“They are critical paths”, concludes Rauso, “Finally considered as a part of a growing ecosystem: we just have to put them into practice!”

Innovation starts here

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