Open your mind.

To design, create and risk. These are the three characteristics that every entrepreneur must have in order to grasp the “spirit of time”. Interview with the founder of Open.

The first time he entered into a coworking space, Giorgio was 40 years old. It was 2010 and after launching two companies, first in the field of digital design, Binario, then into the digital publishing, Tapook, he was looking for new inspirations. They tell him that his company did not have the characteristics to be part of that co-working and so, a few years later, he decided to open his co-working space. And he does it in his own way, fusing all his entrepreneurial creativity and his passion for culture. Thus, Open – More Than Books, was born: a bookshop, a bar, a co – working space, a meeting place for authors and creatives, but above all, one of the most stimulating and multifaceted places in Milan.

Interview

Would you tell me how the idea of Open was born and what has always led you to become an entrepreneur instead of finding a stable job as an employee?

OPEN arises from understanding the Zeit geist (Spirit of time). I’ll explain myself better. In 1970 a suitcase named Bernard Sadow put wheels underneath a suitcase to facilitate people during their travels: yet, he was unsuccessful. Seventeen years later, an airline pilot Robert Plath proposed to his colleagues and hostess a suitcase with 2 wheels and a removable handle: it was an overwhelming success. The difference between the intuition of the artisan, and the one of the pilot, is in the “spirit of the time”. In 1987 people began to travel more frequently and for shorter periods, hence the suitcases with wheels turned out to be the ideal solution for their travels. In 1970 there were no such needs. Therefore, OPEN stems from curiosity towards people: observing their behaviour to understand their latent needs. I do not think I had an authentic idea – we are more than 7 billion people thinking on this planet – I think I had the intuition to understand that it was the right time. In fact, in 2012 the bookshops were closing, the coworking were opening and people looked for comfortable, intellectual and social places. I have united these needs within a single space, in the most liquid way to continue to follow the Spirit of our time. Finally, being an entrepreneur allows you to design, create and risk. I cannot imagine my life without these three verbs.

It is said that Albert Einstein used to say that our mind is like a parachute: it only works if it is open. Whether or not Einstein is the author of this sentence, I share it 100%. To be an entrepreneur you need to keep your mind always open to seize new opportunities and anticipate future trends. How important is openness for you? And what do you think are the 5 activities that every entrepreneur should always do in order to get inspirations and seize new opportunities?

To paraphrase Einstein, I suggest that to be a good entrepreneur you must have a passionate curiosity. A fundamental attitude for mental openness. I would like to avoid the second question since lists are like the ingredients of a cake: they help to understand what is inside but they do not help to realize it. However, there is a Pablo Picasso’s quote I get inspiration from for my businesses: “Study the rules as a professional, so you can change them as an artist.”

Being an entrepreneur allows you to design, create and risk. I cannot imagine my life without these three verbs.

— Giorgio Fipaldini

When Sir Branson was asked “Sir Branson, tell us the secret of your success in three words”, Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group, replied: “People, People, People”. In fact, people are the engine of any project. With Open you have been able to involve, from the beginning, many people who believed in your project and helped you making it grow. How did you do? What is the secret to get people to follow your entrepreneurial activity?

Yes, people are key to the company’s success, and at the same time they can be the main cause of failures. Choosing members and collaborators is as difficult as convincing them to choose you. I always shape the presentation of a project or a business plan to the target public: it is important to know the profile of the investor or client to highlight what interests him and communicate it in the most empathetic way. If you want to convince people to follow you, you have to be authoritative and motivated, but if you’re not lucky, said Napoleon, you’re not a good captain.

In the early sixties, the Hungarian author Arthur Koestler argued that creativity consisted in seeing an analogy that no one had ever seen before. Thus, the ability to connect points very distant from each other. Open is the classic example of applied creativity, it is a bookcase but also a co-working space, a bar and a place for events and meetings. What is creativity for you? And how is it possible, in your opinion, to pass it on to managers and entrepreneurs who do not consider it important?

Today, a creative spirit is important to respond to sudden changes; tomorrow, it will be essential to distinguish us from artificial intelligence. I believe that intelligence is used to have correct answers, while creativity to give new answers. Creativity has emancipated itself from the artistic context, today more and more companies consider it as a strategic tool for business and management. The Test Creativity Thinking by the psychologist Ellis Torrence together with the WCR creativity model by the Italians Barbara Colombo, Alessandro Antonietti and Paola Pizzingrilli are valid tools to measure and cultivate creativity. To all skeptical managers and entrepreneurs I tell the story of the 3M company, the third company in the world for innovation which invests 8% of revenues in research, and of its technician Dick Drew who in 1925 invented the adhesive tape observing a coachbuilder. A story that best represents openness, the ability to connect different elements and reorganization in new forms and perspectives. This is for me creativity.

I believe that intelligence is used to have correct answers, while creativity to give new answers.

— Giorgio Fipaldini

A few quick questions

What is the number one enemy of creativity?

Mental closure. Number two, indolence.

When people ask you at dinner what do you do for living, what do you answer (in a word)?

The author. Then I add: I make creative projects for curious people.

If you found a working time machine, and you could have one trip only, where would you like to live? In past or future times ?

Believing that the best is yet to come, I would choose the future. Specifically, I would go for the day after my death to find out what I missed and what I forgot.

What are the three books you would bring with you into a desert island?

On a desert island I would certainly bring a survival manual, then three biographies to keep me company: Margherita Hack, Albert Einstein and Stanley Kubrick.

If you could write an only word on top of a big billboard in the Cathedral square in the city of Milan, which word would you choose?

If you let me I would go for two words: StayOpen

What drives you to work more? Making profit and be successful (making money) or whether your job gives meaning to your life and might positively impacts the world (making meaning)?

I found myself with money but with a sense of emptiness around. Since then, I have chosen to work to make my life meaningful.