martedì, dicembre 09, 2014

A professional life. Chapter 2 – The Black Hole

(An introduction )
I want to follow the advice of a CEO. Pull in your professional history, reflect on it several times and come up with a captivating report, overtaking a little the boring summaries of a CV. I will take this challenge splitting the story in different chapters. This is the first release of chpter number two. It tells about the troubles of my first academic research.
Follow the tag “professional bio” to get all the chapters. 

By the end of the university, I had become a top student. The top results had become my standard result over the last two years of my Mass Communication program. If that had not been enough to enhance my self confidence, the top results came together with my first job assignments. I was therefore very confident about my final research. Let's say I was ambitious about it. Unfortunately, my confidence was based on wrong assumptions.

Suddenly, I realized that I was a devoted student, but I had no idea – really, not one bloody idea – to write about. I had become a master in reporting someone else idea, but none of these ideas were mine, none belonged to my world. I had never read a book beyond the ones recommended, I had never dared to talk to someone on the field, I had never collected an original statistics about on-going trends.

I had the feelings that I would have never have written any thing worthwhile. I had no positive vibrations about doing research; only negative sensations about a book I was supposed to give birth to. I felt so little in front of the magnitude of the task that the depression took over. A deep, dark depression. Literally, I saw everything black. I was so discomforting that no one, not even my best friends, could stand me longer than five minutes. Horrible.

Luckily enough, as a supervisor I had a professor who did not mind about over charging his students. In the initial short meetings, he was insensitive enough to ignore my depression, kick off my stupid proposals and throw in a massive empirical research about the communication of science on the Italian mass media. “Do you feel like inquiring into science communication? - he said – Well, first let's have a look at what is going on. Get the five main Italian newspapers, select the copies of the last six months and scan how and where genetics and biotechnology are reported on the national media”.

The initial task was massive but easy. So easy that even a fully depressed teenager could accomplish it. I took my mind to the library, on average ten hours a day, and I kept my mind so busy that it forgot about the depression. I was exhausted but I was able again to stop by my sister to get a coffee early in the morning and step out for a beer late in the evening. I was not simply able to talk. I was able to talk about my topic. Slowly, reading over and over again my news, I realized that I actually knew more about them than most of the people around, including my professor to a certain extent. If I were Joyce, I could call it “Epifania” :-)

Well, I have never become Joyce since then, but I am still proud of the story that I worked out. The narrative parallel that I traced to connect the news-making on genetics and biotechnology with some literary archetype was original. No on had ever figured it out before. It was a moment of full joy and total happiness.

I can still remember the first day off I took after a never ending rush of several months among libraries and video archives.  I wen to the Cinque Terre in Liguria. I felt the happiest man of the world. I stared at the fishermen harbor in Rio Maggiore and began to reflect on my time off right after the graduation. I came up with a plan. Of course, the plan did not come to work. My plans often work indeed, but hardly ever the way I originally conceived them. While I was thinking about a fluid word ahead, my first serious job interview was scheduled.

domenica, novembre 16, 2014

A professional life. Chapter 1 – Landing in the first job: from zero to bees

(An introduction )
I want to follow the advice of a CEO. Pull in your professional history, reflect on it several times and come up with a captivating report, overtaking a little the boring summaries of a CV. I will take this challenge splitting the story in different chapters. This is the first release of chpter number one. It concern the first step into the professional environment. 
Follow the tag “professional bio” to get all the chapters.


Chapter One
The first job dates back to 2002. By the time, I was attending the fourth academic year in mass communication at the university of Bologna and, staring at my fellow students, I slowly realized that I had a professional network close to zero. Literally, while many friends of mine were already applying for their future jobs, I had no clue about the world out there. No surprise. Till then, I had entirely failed to grab the relevance of the topics I was studying.
I guess two main reasons had brought me to that stage. On the one hand, I had to get used to the fact of living on a city. It may sound amazing, but in those days to me it was new and I had to get used to an unknown world. On the other hand, I had grown up in a craftsman environment in the country side. I used almost to feel guilty about my subject: communication. What was the point of it in the end, why should have people paid me for that? For what, for writing? I took quite some time to get over that stage and sometime I am still revolving around it.

However, I finally moved on. I followed the footsteps of o a friend of mine, Alessandra, and I joined a small team working on the new web world. The team, called “Chiocciola”, was updating two websites: one for Coop Adriatica – Buonpernoi.it -, the second for the Marino Golinelli Foundation – Ticaebio.it -.
I remember my first introduction to the boss, Paola: “Professionally, I am zero. I distributed phone books and I worked in a printing factory. Never done anything before in the communication sphere”. I wonder if it makes sense to be so honest in a job interview. Nonetheless, in that occasion, honesty paid back. I was appointed an internship.

My job was to redesign a civic journalism website – ProfessioneCittadino.it – and moderate the forum. I took it so seriously, as if it had been the dream job of my life. The effort was rewarded. The internship was converted into my first temporary contract. Commonly enough, I believe, the temporary contract implied writing about two topics I knew nothing about: short stories about biology for kids and pieces of news about how to take care of pets.
Pets were the first topic offered to me. I was so surprised by the offer that at first sight I thought it was not for me. “I have a friend of mine studying to become a veterinary” I said. Thanks god, the poor answer did not ruin down the opportunity. “I need someone good at writing”, Paola said to me. A couple of months later, I was writing a full dossier about bee breeding and honey production.

Driving my sister's Panda to the interview sites, I must say I felt a young promising reporter. In a few months I had moved from zero to bees, forging a bright perspective to my professional development. I was so happy and proud that I did not notice the clouds of my final academic essay approaching. Dark times were just ahead. 

(to be continued...)

mercoledì, ottobre 22, 2014

Dalla Nieuwe Binnenweg alla Via Emilia

"Taci! L'insegnante ti ascolta"
Un'aula della scuola elementare per diventare malati di mente in cui si rinforzano sbagli, confusioni e esitazioni.
(Paolo Albani - Dizionario degli istituti anomali del mondo)

Parlai con Simon per la prima volta al Cafè Engels di Rotterdam. Ci conoscevamo già da qualche settimana, ma quel giorno fu il primo in cui prendemmo il tempo di raccontarci le nostre storie. La sua vita nomade da attore, le mie tappe tra Bologna, Australia, Romagna e Olanda. Insieme, ci incamminammo verso la parte ovest del centro, passeggiamo lungo i locali della Nieuwe Binnenweg fino a raggiungere il Danseatelier. Simon suonò il campanello, la porta si aprì e salimmo al secondo piano dove la danza stava per avere inizio. L’uomo e la donna inscenarono uno dei duetti di Lovism nella palestra di allenamento, di fronte a un pubblico ristretto. Forse venti persone, tra cui il regista israeliano. Prendemmo un bicchiere di vino assieme alla fine dello spettacolo. Ricordo che come la nuvoletta di un fumetto il mio Io saltò fuori un attimo, mi guardò e mi fece l’occhiolino.

Dieci mesi dopo ho passeggiato con Simon lungo il centro di Reggio Emilia. Lo spettacolo era finito tardi e la via Emilia era calma, vetrine abbassate, alcuni capannelli di ragazzi a bere una birra appoggiati alle colonne. A passeggiare, eravamo soli: io, Simon e Silvia. Quando ormai l’auto era vicina, sono rimasto zitto per un momento e li ho osservati parlare di Bologna, Cesena e dello spettacolo. Due persone lontane, lontane, erano l’una a fianco all’altra, sorridenti, curiose. L’Io con la sua nuvoletta è tornato a guardarmi. Un sorriso e ho ricambiato il suo occhiolino.

sabato, settembre 13, 2014

Il mascarpone intangibile

Il mio letto è un materasso vicino a un baule. Sul divano scorrono i fili della luce. Lungo il corridoio sono disposte le valige, mie e degli altri due compagni d'avventura con cui condivido la stanza. Quando telefoniamo a casa, spagnolo, greco e italiano si mischiano nell'aria, convergendo nell'inglese.

L'appartamento poggia all'angolo della strada. Da una parte il ristorante tailandese, dall'altro il negozio di capelli brasiliani. Oltre i binari del tram, il supermercato cinese. Ha quasi tutto, tranne pane, olio e latte.

Ieri sera, ho passeggiato in una galleria con una mostra sul valore del niente. E ogni giorno, passo ore con i compagni d'avventura sulle rive della Mosa, all'Aia o ad Amsterdam per individuare e gestire il valore del capitale intangibile.

Diciamocelo. Le cose troppo solide che durano a lungo e vanno mantenute un po' di spaventano. E così, su due piedi, sono sempre più convinto di una cosa. La logica ti accompagna ogni giorno per raccogliere le informazioni sul mondo che ci circonda. Ma è solo in un attimo di follia ed emozione che puoi decidere di prendere in mano quelle informazioni e cambiare il mondo, in piccolo, a modo tuo, una parola dopo l'altra.

Domani mi preparo a quel momento con un buon mascarpone. Mezzo chilo di formaggio, tre uova, sei cucchiaie di zucchero e un po' di cioccolato per decorare il tutto.

giovedì, agosto 14, 2014

domenica, giugno 29, 2014

Montreal: dal Cul de Sac alla Casa del Popolo

Montreal - Old Port
Montreal - Old Port

Montreal - Le Plateau - Café Le Carte
Montreal - Le Plateau - Café Le Carte

Montreal - Le Plateau - Casa del Popolo

Montreal _ Boulevard Saint Laurent

lunedì, giugno 23, 2014

Lungo l'Hudson

Treno New York-Montréal
22 Giugno 2014

Un viaggio in treno attraverso la pianura americana è un crocevia di destini. Mentre procedo in treno verso Montreal, le trame si infittiscono. Proprio quando entro in Canada per la prima volta, una parte della famiglia che qui ha vissuto viene meno. A fianco a me, nello scompartimento, una compagna di viaggio tedesca conosciuta in Olanda. I poliziotti alla frontiera hanno impiegato un po' di tempo a capire il mosaico di nazioni. Nello zaino, ho diverse cartoline, rivolte a un mondo che dopo la conferenza di Montreal sarà forse ancora più lontano.

Pigramente, penso alla presentazione che mi attende tra un paio di giorni e a quella che seguirà pochi giorni dopo in Olanda. Riesco a organizzare velocemente le informazioni sulla carta. La materia mi è chiara. Però tentenno. In quelle parole vorrei mettere tutto quanto desidero per i mesi e gli anni a venire. Invece di scendere alle conclusioni, risalgo a ritroso verso le premesse. Non le premesse della ricerca ma le mie. Così trovo il sogno di raccontare, il desiderio di viaggiare, la volontà di organizzare, ma senza perdere la facoltà di analizzare. Il tutto mi sembra così legato. Casa e mondo, libertà e impegno, si rincorrono come due facce della stessa medaglia. E come sempre io, quella medaglia, la faccio girare affinché mai una faccia oscuri del tutto l'altra.

Questa sera continuerò a pensarci, con qualche punto fermo. Deve essere qualcosa in cui apprendo, in cui il tempo dia forma al cambiamento. Qualcosa su cui intervenga io, direttamente, a monte nella strategia. Qualcosa che abbia un forte valore per la comunità a cui si rivolge, ma che al contempo le ispiri flessibilità, ottimismo e contaminazione. Qualcosa che onori un luogo, ma senza venerarlo come centro.

Come qui, ora, un ragazzo italiano, una ragazza tedesca, ospiti di una coppia brasiliana, nella parte francofona del Canada.

domenica, giugno 22, 2014

domenica, giugno 01, 2014

Rotterdam: Urban "Rock" Style (Black&White)

Het Nieuwe Instituut
Rotterdam - Het Nieuwe Instituut

Maashaven
Rotterdam - Maashaven

Rotterdam Schowbourg
Rotterdam Schowbourg

Rotterdam - Aert Van Nesstraat
Rotterdam - Aert Van Nesstraat

venerdì, maggio 16, 2014

Employee Loyalty: a Story of Storytelling

Issued on February the 20th 2014
for the Course of Economics of the Performing Arts
Master's Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship

Definitions and Determinants of Employee Loyalty in Cultural Organizations.
The Eighteenth Century Orchestra as a Case Study.

Introduction
Research on the artistic labor market has increasingly remarked on the project-based pattern of artistic careers. Throsby and Zednik (2011) note that artists tend to be multiple job-holders characterized by short-term hiring. According to Lingo and Tepper (2013), artists manage uncertainty by competing for different types of roles, and cultural organizations cope with volatile markets stimulating flexible employment. While in the framework of the creative city paradigm (Scott, 2010), the inter-firm mobility has been addressed as a possible driver of creativity and innovation (Vinodrai, 2006), marketing studies suggest that customer loyalty is triggered by employee loyalty (Martensen, Gronholdt, 2006). In addition, in the field of the performing arts, employees seem to have an ambivalent perception of the project-based environment. As Lindgreen, Packendorff (2007) highlight, performing arts employee perceive projects as stressful, achievement oriented activities stimulating selfish behavior, while organizations appear to them friendly caring places taking care of the whole group. In the non profit sector, cultural organizations sometimes enhance this perception, by putting an effort to “sustain a community, cultural economy of generosity, exchange and co-creation” (Bain, McLean, 2012, p. 94).

Such seems the case of the Eighteenth Century Orchestra (www.orchestra18c.com) that in January 2014 completed its 107th tour. The orchestra, established as a cooperative in 1981, plays eighteenth and early nineteenth Century music with the instruments of the time to provide the highest level of fidelity to the sounds of the composer's era. After more than 30 years, the fiftyfive members of the ensemble still mostly belong to the founding group. Directed by the conductor Frans Bruggen, the orchestra regularly goes on tour five times a year. A knowledge intensive context, twenty different national backgrounds, and the rise of several soloist careers have not altered the musicians' loyalty to the organizations.
What are the drivers of such a long term commitment? In order to provide some hints to answer the question, this paper investigates what are the main determinants of employee loyalty:

The Definition of Employee Loyalty
Several definitions of employee loyalty have been provided. Scholars have related the concept to the employee's engagement, the organizational culture, and the contribution to the broader society.
Focusing on the employee's standpoint, Eskildsen and Nussler (2000) draw a connection between loyalty and satisfaction. They define employee satisfaction (1) as “the gratification or prosperity that employees get from their job” (ibidem, 2000, p. 582), and they describe loyalty as a series of actions resulting from this satisfaction. According to Eskildsen and Nussler, employee loyalty “includes such things as whether or not employees are committed and assume personal responsibility for their work, and whether or not they feel inclined to work for another job” (ibidem, 2000, p. 582).

Stressing the role of the organizational culture, Gill (2011) relates employee loyalty to employee engagement. Elaborating on Harter, Schimdt and Hayes (2002), Gills defines engagement as “an individual's involvement and satisfaction with, as well as enthusiasm for, their work. (…) Employee engagement is associated with building an interactive culture between employee and employer resulting in staff being more willing to engage in discretionary efforts as a result of healthy relations with the management” (Gill, 2011, p. 24). As a result of this engagement, employee loyalty comes “as the commitment employees have to the success of an organization, and the recognition that working for an organization is their best option. Such connection and support is influenced by how the employee identifies with the combination of culture, structure and leadership support within the organization” (ibidem, 2011, p. 25; Pina & Cunha, 2002).

Extending the scope from organizational culture to ideals, Logan (1984) defines loyalty as a sense of purpose. “Loyalty can be defined as a strong tie that binds an employee to his company even when it may not be economically sound for him to stay there. A sense of purpose is a common understanding of a well-defined objective or end that is to be attained” (ibidem, 1984, p. 150).
This idealistic approach is reinforced by Elegido (2013) that articulates a definition of loyalty in terms of self-fulfillment. According to Elegido, loyalty is “a deliberate commitment to further the best interests of one's employer, even when doing so may demand sacrificing some aspects of one's self interest beyond what would be required by one's legal and other duties” (ibidem, 2013, p. 496). Elegido outlines the relevance of extra legal obligations, organizational memory, stable professional identity, and contribution to the community the employee belongs to. “Strangers grow into neighbors and collaborators” (Gilbert, 2001, p.5) and emotional support and practical assistance is guaranteed even when difficulties arise out of the working environment. According to Elegido, this community engagement is among the main benefit of employee loyalty in a society where traditional sources of community identity, such as religion and politics, are weakening.

In knowledge-intensive organizations and orchestras, this loyalty and sense of belonging seem to be positively correlated with specific organizational dynamics.

Determinants of Loyalty in Knowledge-Intensive Organizations
The determinants of employee loyalty have been investigated by Martensen and Gronholdt (2006). According to their model of internal marketing, employee loyalty is influenced by six main factors: leadership, human relations and values, personal development and competencies, job contents, creativity and innovation, and customer orientation.

Pina and Cunha (2002) argue that in the knowledge intensive organizations, ie those organizations where highly educated employee are engaged in intellectual activities, not all these factors are equally important. What really triggers loyalty is a combination of high culture and low leadership. Pina and Cunha label as “minimal structure” the set of guiding ideas, beliefs, emotions, and values that cluster employees around a common set of goals and deadlines with no need for formal control. “Minimal structures coordinate without constraining. They provide an unobtrusive means of coordination that fundamentally relies on goals, deadlines, and responsibilities” (ibidem, 2002, p. 490). In the minimal structure, hierarchy is as invisible as possible, family spirit and collaborative culture are enhanced, and leaders coordinate rather than control. “More than being bosses, leaders act as facilitators of sense making, whose function is to provide support and webs of meaning (ibidem, 2002, p. 492; Simon, 2006).

Covert Leadership and Minimal Structure in Orchestras
This form of covert leadership within a minimal structure seems to be even more relevant for orchestras. Covert leadership allows a cooperative communication between highly skilled professionals. In successful orchestras, conductors and musicians establish a relation of mutual dependence (Soila-Wadman, Koping, 2009). Explicit corrections by the conductor are uncommon and the mutual agreement is found by rehearsing several times the problematic passages of the composition. “Leadership is about creating an atmosphere of mutual trust and security in which all of the artists are able to contribute by relating to the world of art and to each other, through aesthetic communication” (ibidem, 2009, p. 39).

While covert leadership helps the relationship between musicians and conductor, the minimal structure supports the construction of a unique organizational culture. Along with other organizations, orchestras are indeed multiple-identities organizations where normative artistry elements coexist with utilitarian economic constraints (Albert & Whetten, 1985). Disruptive conflicts may easily arise between the performing members and the management staff when these two groups excessively aggregate around their professional identities (Glynn, 2000). On the contrary, the conflicts tend to be reduced when the musicians take over their responsibilities in the conducting (Seifter, 2001) and in the management (Bennet, 2007).

The engagement of the musicians in the conducting and in the management appear to be relevant to explain the long term commitment of the musicians to the Eighteenth Century Orchestra we are examining.

The Determinants of Loyalty in the Eighteenth Century Orchestra
The structure of Eighteenth Century Orchestra seems to ideally reproduce the combination of low leadership and minimal structure that the research has pointed out as a determinant of employee loyalty. In 1981, the orchestra was indeed established as a cooperative. Since the very beginning, therefore, the musicians have been actively engaged in the management of the organization, defining its strategy and sharing its revenues on a peer basis, with no exception for the conductor, the soloist, or the management. The management has always been reduced close to zero, to one person, Siewert Verster, who, according to the rhetoric of his speech, shares the artistic values as much as the musicians. And the musicians seem to be the active part in the co-creation of the music leadership, endowing the director Frans Brugger  with their trust year after year.

The revenue-sharing mechanism, the little management structure and the co-creation of the leadership have provided the foundation of the musicians' loyalty. The originality of the project has contributed as well. The Eighteen Century Orchestra indeed is not a symphonic orchestra, but a Baroque orchestra playing traditional instrument for a specific public. On top of that, a sense of spirituality must have followed the development of the orchestra.

People working in the non-profit art sector have a multidimensional utility function. Along with the salary, they value the cultural mission, something they believe in (Brooks, 2006). Mize Smith (Mize Smith et al., 2006) confirms that workers of the non-profit art sector frame their career in a “spirituality discourse”. They justify the lack of the traditional increase in compensation and status of their careers in terms of craftsmanship of meaningful work,  psychological fulfillment, and a sense of purpose. This spiritual rhetoric often works a framework for a multiple project trajectory, but, as the previous sections have outlined, this rhetoric of self-fulfillment represents as well one of the main reward for the employee loyalty (Elegido, 2013). This appear the case of Eighteenth Century Orchestra. The spiritual commitment to the cultural field in general has been translated to the organization in particular.

Supported by initial favorable organizational structure, the story of the Eighteenth Century Orchestra has developed into something that “stimulates a more meaningful understanding for the individual” (Gill, 2011, p. 23) and provides the feeling “to contribute to something of greater importance than themselves” (Mize Smith et al., 2006, p. 38). The need to reinforce and extend such a story is probably the driving force bringing every musician back every year at the beginning of the tour.

--
Notes
(1) The definition is based on Quoting Hellriegel (Hellriegel et al., 1999) and Moorehead and Griffin (1998).

Bibliography
Albert, S., Whetten, D. A. (1985). “Organizational Identity”. In Staw, B. M., Cummings, L. L. (eds), Research in Organizational Behavior, 7, 262-295. In Glynn, A. M. (2000). “When Cymbals Become Symbols: Conflict Over Organizational Identity Within a Symphony Orchestra”. Organization Science, 11 (3), 285-298.

Bain, A., McLean, H. (2013). “The artistic precariat”. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 6: 93–111.

Bennet, D. (2007). “Not As We Thought: Transitions Into the Orchestral Workplace”. In Stanberg, A., McIntosh, J., Faulkner, R. (eds), Celebrating Musical Communities. Perth: Australian Society for Music Education.

Boerner, S., Krause, D. & Gebert, D. (2004). “Leadership and Co-Operation in Orchestras”. Human Resource Development International 7 (4), 465-479.

Brooks, A. C. (2006). “Nonprofit Firms in the Performing Arts”. In Ginsburgh, A., Throsby, D. Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Desender, K.A. & Castro, C.E. (2011). “Earnings Management and Cultural Values”. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 70 (3), 639-670.

Elegido, J. M. (2013). “Does It Make Sense to Be a Loyal Employee?”. Journal of Business Ethics, 116 (3), 495-511.

Eskildsen, J. K., Nussler, M. L. (2000). “The Managerial Drivers of Employee Satisfaction and Loyalty”. Total Quality Management, 11 (4-6), 581-588.

Gilbert, D. R. (2001). “An Extraordinary Concept in the Ordinary Service of Management”. Business Ethics Quarterly, 11 (1), 1-9. In Elegido, J. M. (2013). “Does It Make Sense to Be a Loyal Employee?”. Journal of Business Ethics, 116 (3), 495-511.

Gill, R. (2011). “Using Storytelling to Maintain Employee Loyalty During Change”. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2 (15), 23.

Glynn, A. M. (2000). “When Cymbals Become Symbols: Conflict Over Organizational Identity Within a Symphony Orchestra”. Organization Science, 11 (3), 285-298.

Harter, J. Schimdt, F., Hayes, T. (2002). “Business-Unit-Level Relationship Between Employee Satisfaction, Employee Engagement, and Business Outcomes: a Meta Analysis”. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 268-279. In Gill, R. (2011). “Using Storytelling to Maintain Employee Loyalty During Change”. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2 (15), 23.

Haunschild, A. 2003. Managing employment relationships in flexible labour markets: The case of german repertory theatres. Human Relations 56 (8), 899-929.

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Lindgren, M., Packendorff, J. (2007). “Performing Arts and the Art of Performing – On Co-construction of Project Work and Professional Identities in Theaters. International Journal of Project Management, 25 (4), 354-364.

Lingo, E.L., Tepper, S. J. (2013). “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Arts-Based Careers and Creative Work”. Work and Occupations, 40 (4) 337–363.

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Martensen, A. Gronholdt, L. (2006). “Internal Marketing: a Study of Employee Loyalty, Its Determinants and Consequences”. Innovative Marketing, 2 (4), 92-116.

Mize Smith, J., Arendt, C., Bezek Lahman, J., Settle, G. N., Duff, A. (2006). “Framing the Work of Art: Spirituality and Career Discourse in the Nonprofit Art Sector”. Communication Studies, 57 (1), 25-46.

Moorhead, G., Griffin, R. W. (1998). Organizational Behavior. Boston: Houghton Mufflin. In Eskildsen, J. K., Nussler, M. L. (2000). “The Managerial Drivers of Employee Satisfaction and Loyalty”. Total Quality Management, 11 (4-6), 581-588.

Pina, M., Cunha, M. P. (2002). “The Best Place to Be: Managing Control and Employee Loyalty in a Knowledge-Intensive Company”. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 38 (4), 481-495.
Seifter, H. (2001). “The Conductor-Less Orchestra”. Engineering Management Review, 36 (2), 77-81.

Simon, L. (2006). “Managing Creative Projects: an Empirical Synthesis of Activities”. International Journal of Project Management, 24, 116-126.

Smith, J.M., Arendt, C., Lahman, J.B., Settle, G.N. & Duff, A. (2006). “Framing the Work of Art: Spirituality and Career Discourse in the Nonprofit Arts Sector”. Communication Studies 57 (1), 25-46.

Soila-Wadman, M., Koping, A. S. (2009). “Aesthetic Relations in Place of the Lone Hero in Arts Leadership: Examples from Film Making and Orchestra Performance”. International Journal of Art Management, 12(1), 31-76.

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domenica, marzo 23, 2014

Talking with Utopia: Blessing Quiet Moments In Turbulent Times

Issued on March the 9th 2014
Class of Creativity and the Economy 
Master in Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship 2013-14
Erasmus University of Rotterdam

The walk had been long enough when I first called Utopia. Despite the map and my memories of previous tours in the area, I had lost my way several times. A few crossroads were not clearly marked and I was as absent minded as usual.  Finally I was up to the top of the waterfall as  planned. First with some friends, then alone, I had resolved the uncertainties about the route by following the steepest way. One of my favorite reporters, Tiziano Terzani, offered this suggestion at the end of his life. I thought it was a good one to come to the meeting with Utopia.
There I was in the end, high enough to start my conversation. It was not such a unique area, but one that I had explored several times before to start departures or reflect on returns. Like a tree, I had followed my roots to stretch my branches.

“Utopia, are you there?”, I called out aloud.
No answers arrived. I called her again. A few seconds passed by and finally a voice came in.
“I am not supposed to talk to you – she said, almost disappointed – I am something you must create, not someone you can have a conversation with”.
“I know, I know” – I replied humbly – “I know the rules of the game.  According to the canon, you are a place somewhere or a story that someone reports. I thought, however, that for once you might love to discuss the creation of yourself. I will do the bulk of the job, but I would like to have you in for company now and continue the work afterward. Perfection, as an idea, can stay forever, but perfection as realization cannot. I would rather talk to you over the idea rather than embody you here and now. Can we agree on that?”.
“I am not used to it, honestly. I'm flexible as you can desire, but I have no experience in self determination. Not sure I can actually make it”.
“Well, I'm sorry but I have to push a little more. Take my standpoint. I'm about to start a free process of creation, and the first step cannot be a denial. Take the challenge, please. I don't want you to determine yourself, you will see. But in my Utopia, you must be a guide. No one will ever reach you, but everybody will include you in his orientation and place you somewhere as the fifth cardinal point”.
“That's still strange, Silvio, but it sounds much better already. Mostly I have been reduced to a place or a government. Being a star flatters me!”
“That's what I wanted to hear. As my personal star, you are very welcome to help yourself to a glass of wine”.
“I've never had one. No one has ever offered. Should I?”.
“You don't need to, but I do suggest you to try it out. It is one of the best Sangiovese you can get around here. A friend of mine made it. It has been five years in an oak barrel, it is red and strong, but still smooth to taste. When it is in your glass, it gives you a better mode of speech. I think we may actually include it along with a good smoked whiskey in my cellar. Definitely at home, in my very hometown, where all the books with my highlighted sentences are preserved, but some wine and some cheese will be a plus even here in my temporary locations.
Yes, although I do not need to own them, I do need many temporary locations. No matter how important the center is, alone it does not provide me all I care about. I need to restart my thoughts, changing my surroundings. I'll give you some examples but don't dare to close the list; A loft above the lights of Manhattan, a roof terrace on the Medina of Fez, a hut in the tropical forest of Munnar, a balcony on the square of Siena, a warm refuge in the Alps. In all these places, along with wine and cheese, I will include some local delicacies if I can be a little more creative”.
“You can be as creative as you like, Silvio. You can shape me as a never ending Sultan's banquet of an Eastern short story, if that is what you dream”.
“Never ending? My goodness, no. I may rest on those banquettes a little longer than I have recently done, but each of those happenings must have a story to celebrate. The wine can bless a conversation with those you care more about - your family but as well the people that have come very close to your for interests and experiences - only when the conversation comes at a quiet moment arching over a turbulent time, across ideas, reflections, new places, foreign languages, and different perspectives”.
“It sounds a little exhausting. Are you sure?”.
“For sure, my Utopia is not a world on-demand. Constraints are the only determinants of pleasure. Be ready to save all the resilience that this old world has made us used to. A twisting steep pathway to walk up to the top, as well as a mathematical equation that does not come to a solution or a piece of marble hard to carve”.
“That's easy. If you don't mind, I copy and paste from the old world, then we work together on the details”.
“Keep going, no problem, so you can concentrate on the harder part. I have made you talkative ‘cause you must talk and inspire many different little worlds and the people that work to shape them. Provide everybody a hint but not be assertive. Take your inspiration from ancient  monasteries, colorful hippie communities, hectic nuclear physics laboratories, and internet games communities”.
“You don't want to pick up one form and elevate it over the other ones? Some of the examples you have mentioned have turned out to be so fragile and short sighted”.
“Utopia, you talk like me in the worst moments, cynical and realistic as a boring accountant. Have some more wine and be less restrictive. My social sphere cannot be too stable. I like to reinforce some special links, but mine has to be a cloud in a changing sky. I like the anarchist struggling for political freedom as well as a local activist tracing the history of its community. They are both intriguing lenses to filter the world. We have our stability, the starting point. We can thus allow some experimentation later on. And we will save fragility as well. We've got little space and little time to let everything be forever. Someone else must enjoy it, some one new must set forth his solitary journey or strive for his communitarian dream. In the end, in my Utopia, these are indeed the two options that I will let people experiment on.
Even better, I'd say that the two experiments must converge somewhere, sometimes. In my Utopia, even the most solipsistic exploration must end up with a report. Even a cloistered nun should talk by the end. She must contribute to the talkative wine session with my friends after all”.
“Noted. If I get it right, freedom to organize communitarian life at a local level and symposia to comment on the on-going results. Talking seems quite relevant, it seems the most relevant stuff so far”.
“To some extent. Don't make it too restrictive, however. Let's say that everybody has to share the way he is going to. Some words seem required to me, but other forms of expressions are very welcome. Indeed, I would like to work on it myself. I'm always intrigued by the way people – individuals or groups – find their way through the world combining what they know with the place they live in or the one they move to. I love to step down to the field, explore what they do and make a little story out of it”.
“An explorer, that's what you would like to be? A pirate, a mountain climber, a gold miner?”.
“Yes, long nomadic moments must be there. I think it's very healthy to be a stranger for a while. For you, since you get rid of your habits, including most of the achieved privileges. But for those that you visit as well. To strangers, people are more explanatory. They invest time to portray what they do, and they take the chance to reflect on what they normally take for granted. I find they are often pleased to tell their stories. And I find them so rewarding”.
“I agree with you on that. I have long experience in human dreams and sometimes they are surprising. However, sorry, I interrupted you. You were commenting on your erratic times”.
“Yeah, I was adding on that. Exploration is just half of the story. The other one has to do with books, relationships, and social engagement. Like an anthropologist, I like digging into the variants that I explore to find the invariant that I think about. And like someone that enjoys playing with culture, I like creating new rituals, new events showing the variants and inspiring the invariants. You feel something special in the air when an Australian didgeridoo is played in a medieval Italian town, when an actor performs in an abandoned settlement, when different languages are intertwined. It is the attention of the public on the one side. And it is the social work you do to assembly the ritual. Great clashes may arise in the process, but sometimes the people you engage turn into acquaintances. Some may indeed become a friend and join you in your wine and cheese session. When everything works, it is a clockwise win-win-win game. For you, for those who contribute to it, and for those who provide attention and get inspiration”.
“Sounds ambitious. Not my role to tell, but a little pretending as well, Silvio”.
“Wait: Be tolerant. First, it matches with what I discussed with my fellow students. They say I have a strong focus in personal values and I am practically oriented in organizing stuff. So, I've got evidence to pursue that way. Second, you're Utopia. If I don't take the chance even here, it's better to give up. Finally, consider that I don't even ask you to remove the constraints. My Utopia will stay as challenging as the real thing so far. Maybe with just a little change”.
“So, relief. Every Utopian before you has introduced revolutionary rules!”.
“Nothing really revolutionary. I would suggest one rule to correct a problem. I find that the people engaged for too long in the same activity tend to become unhappy, uninspiring, and sometime even rough or harsh. I might project on them my feelings, but I see their condition as the antithesis of the utopian view we are discussing here. They don't look at you, Utopia, anymore, they are sadly purposeless, they simply do what they have become used to. No desire to contribute to themselves or to their community any longer. I guess they often feel outmoded and scared. Don't you believe that some help and pressure to move on may help?”
“Do you propose a time limit?”.
“Sort of. Anything that can keep them critical about what they are doing. A touch of Eastern philosophy may help: intentions rather than actions. I feel that if you do the same action for too long, you lose your intentions. There are remarkable exceptions, but you pick them up easily. We can make an exception for them, but everybody else in my utopia should instead move on and, during the change, reflect on what makes sense in that moment. That change should help them to look at you again.
We could even organize the market of experience. A big fair where all the people up to something join to be advocates for what they do. Not to sell what they produce, but to share their process of creation and engage in it those who are fascinated by it. The pluses and the minuses, the joys and the pains, all will be discussed. Time and not money will be the currency of that market”.
“It could be one of your events, Silvio. A market of experience. Quite a nice idea, I admit. You care to give people a way out. Nonetheless, your Utopia is change over change. Everything is moving, every body is experimenting. You are defining a new Plato's cave. A smart version of it. Every body there looks up at me and if he stops we kick him out of his habits. I guess someone will complain about it”.
“You may be right. But I've made this chaos for quite an idealistic purpose. To keep people looking and to create harmony as a temporary result of long collective research. I find it nicer than an imperative. Someone would have to drop his uniqueness to come in under a fixed order”.
“No passport then to come in?”.
“We may take the model of Santiago's way, the Spanish pilgrimage. A collection of stamps that increases in value with experience. Each experience one stamp. Stamps for places, skills, accomplishments. Each stamp released by the stamp masters of the field. A minimum amount of stamps will be required to access the election of the central committee overseeing some major decisions, on topics such as environment, energy supply, ethics, and culture. Even more stamps will be required to access the committee itself, with temporary roles of course”.
“No general elections either then?”.
“Ineffective for the purpose. They select people that are better at the game of election than at the game of governance. Better a bottom down approach. You do what you like and once you are skilled enough, you give a contribution to the field on an international basis for a short time”.
“I can call you the Eraser! You were quiet at first but now in two shots you have cleared out the government”.
“I did not mean to be rude. Just a reaction. Having being engaged with the government for quite long, in my Utopia I have focused more onto the personal and social life. The wine and the cheese are indeed a culinary metaphor to safeguard the importance of qualified and moving social life”.
“Since, you made me talkative, will I be invited to join that social hub as well?”.
“You will be often there. Some of my closest friends have been talking of you for long already. They say you are something that it is not yet, but that can be with some effort. They may love to talk to you. I have made you talkative so just to update and extend this conversation”.
“I have some notes I'd like to discuss in more detail, indeed”.
“Already? You've got very well into the role, Utopia. Well, we'll resume it soon, I promise, but now let me walk back and hand this conversation in. The deadline is coming. The copy and paste of the constraints from the old world have worked perfectly”.