Monday, November 14, 2011 what bella Italia?

I was going to tell you about my recent Novotel Hotel experience in Madrid, but given events in Italy, it would be remiss of me as a Rome based leadership consultant who wants to write about leadership, learning and life not to write about the historical event of Berlusconi’s resignation this weekend.

Novotel will have to wait.

I may have a political science background and live a stone throw away from Parliament, but I do not profess to understand the Italian economy or its politics, and I don’t think it is entirely due to my grasp of the language.  I'm also pretty sure I am not the only one in a fog.   

Where do I start?  I could muse on something a previous boss was always fond of making her point with, namely “a fish rots from the head”; or I could reflect on the idea that “[in a democracy] people get the government they deserve” or perhaps the conversation I had with a friend who opinioned that “it is a love-hate relationship with Berlusconi..most Italians wish they were him – he’s rich, powerful, successful..."

All and more could potentially create good fodder for a blog. 

However for me what is most interesting and relevant, is what happens now and beyond.     

At the risk of quoting the great man twice in a row, I go to Einstein’s words being...

President Napolitano was in a rush to make a decision on an interim government in time to provide some certainty to the markets when they opened this morning.    He reportedly had 17 meetings yesterday and as a result Monti has been appointed PM-designate.  I can only speculate that there was lots of talking where egos were played out, positions were entrenched, bargaining and negotiating done at a frenetic rate, and promises and deals made.

The thinking that will get Italy out of this crisis will not be solved by the same thinking that got it into the crisis.

So I wonder what would happen instead of more rushing, more of the same, if different approaches were taken.

What if they stopped talking...and sat in silence create some space for stillness? As Lao-Tzu wrote...

Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?

Or what if they committed to adopt a “beginners mind”? – the Zen Buddhism concept of seeing something as if for the first time, to embrace an attitude of openness and be without preconception or judgement.

Or even, what if they followed Argyris and Shön’s (1974) suggestion of double loop learning? Rather than repeated attempts to solve the same problem with no variation of method or questioning of the variables such as goals and values, to scrutinise those variables themselves?

Challenging the way in which we approach matters and challenging how we think can open us up to real growth and development.


  • Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching, quoted in Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994) Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion, p . 51
  • Argyris, C. and Schön, D. (1974) Theory in practice: Increasing professional effectiveness, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


  1. Another excellent post bella, which I fancy reading more than once to fully absorb (it's getting late!), at which point I might be moved to comment more fully. Will share this with my lovely Genova friends tomorrow, as I think they'd be very interested to read it and share their opinions of the current situation too.

  2. thanks again dear friend for your thoughtfulness - and for passing it on.

  3. Have just re-read it &, once again, been impressed by your - & Einstein's - articulate wisdom. This is relevant to so much more than just Italian government - the principles, if taken on board, could help inspire a much-needed global revolution, along similar lines to those being suggested by the Occupy/99% movement. We SO need to change our habitual ways of doing & thinking. If you have a chance, do try & watch Aaron Huey's TED talk somewhere where you can hear the soundtrack - the Native American word for us 'whites' apparently means 'he who always takes the best of the meat' - i.e. greedy bastards, & they're not wrong!

  4. Penny you are so brave and clever dealing with the "Italian hustle" ;-). I agreed totally with you, I liked the provocation of the silent mode a lot. Unfortunately in order to change the "how" and the "way" we approach matters in politics I reckon we should change also the "who"

  5. grazie Marco, great point! To use the words of Jim Collins, first you have to get the right people on the bus...