How Do Italians View Creativity: A Critical Analysis

Abstract

Most people consider Italian creativity to be art, sculpture, music and literature.  While these are valid, they exclude the creativity of everyday, industry, innovation, science, and education.  This analysis will utilize a humanistic psychology perspective that investigates creativity of the everyday through industrial and business innovation, urban life, science, and education.  This analysis will also include the perspective and observations of the author based upon his visits and experiences with family in southern Italy.

 

Introduction

To me, Italian creativity has always meant art, sculpture, music (classical and popular), science, philosophy, and literature because these are the forms I always sought out to learn from my father’s and grandmother’s culture.  Personally, creativity always meant creativity in the everyday:  in thinking, writing, procreation, business, industry, dreams, and yes, fine art.  Cropley (2011) gives us an overview of definitions of creativity that includes traditional fine arts.  However, he also points out creativity that is now “widely defined as the production of relevant and effective novelty” with a specific purpose applicable to business engineering that is different from the effectiveness of artistic creativity.

Creativity in Italy has been discussed for centuries, beginning as far back as Thomas Aquinas’ (1221-1274).  However, creativity as a term was not introduced until the 19th century, and its psychological analysis and assessment did not occur until the 1960s and 1970s when English-language psychology texts on creativity were transliterated into Italian (Antonietti & Cornoldi, 2006).  According to the authors, creativity focused primarily on three issues:  Reflection on the theoretical frameworks relevant to the creative process and the experiments based on those frameworks, the measurement of creative abilities, and the application of methods promoting that creativity.  In Italy, the application of those methods has been criticized for being unfocused utilizing general approaches to stimulating creativity.  As a result, another method (Programma di Sviluppo della Creativita` Infantile or PSCI: Children’s Creativity Enhancement Training) is explored to stimulate critical thinking in the students four to ten years of age towards creative solutions to solving problems in an imaginative way (Cerioli & Antonietti, 1992b in Antonietti & Cornoldi, 2006).  It is this point that we will mostly concern ourselves with in this paper as we explore creativity in economics and policy, education, urban life, and industry.

Review of the Literature

How do Italians view creativity?  Looking over the literature in this analysis, while creativity in the arts has always been important to the Italians, what seems to concern them in recent years is creativity at its most base and practical level which is where I begin.  For that perspective, I explored Trimarchi (2009) who looks at Regione Lombardia as a representative region of Italy (Northern Italy).  Central to his idea is that creativity is key to social quality. He acknowledges the fact that while creativity is generally associated with industrial and fashion design, creativity still seems to suffer, and it is a concern.  Thus, he considers the territorial features for a new creative rise to occur through suggested policy tools.  Given the common stereotype of Italian creativity as historical and preservationary, it is intriguing to learn that the Italian pay more attention to this stagnant historical creativity of preservation rather than the creation and production of a culture.  Though the artistic works in question are important, I do wonder if their focus is a matter of economic tourism rather than preservation and how much of that energy and funding can also be devoted to the idea of Italian creativity as a brand.

The fostering of that creativity begins much earlier if it is to begin at all.  Key to that premise, Ott, Pozzi, & Tavella (2010) explore the idea of “creativity raising” with a study that surveys Italian teachers’ views of creativity, the value they place upon it and how they foster it in the classroom, especially methods that utilize the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to support their students’ creative development.  Again, creativity is crucial here because it is a powerful impetus for stimulating innovation, progress, and growth for the overall Italian economy and society.  The study’s key contribution to this ongoing discussion of this issue is a European Commission survey of approximately 10,000 teachers from the 27 member States of the European Union who believe that creativity is applicable to every field of knowledge and subject.  The authors’ intent is to provide further contributions to the research and explore how this issue is currently approached by Italian teachers.

One necessary link in a concerted effort to stimulate creativity in a variety of ways, and thus the economy, is a policy for creative industries.  Italian industrial districts, while small in comparison to other countries, contain a size and importance that is incomparable to that of any other country and those districts have a high profile in international trade (Casoni, 2010).  Further, those industries make up the core of what is known as “Made-In-Italy” products, “4F”:  Fashion, Food, Furniture, and Ferraris and are the basis for social development in Italy.  Here the author is interested in the roles that territory and creativity have played in the processes of local development and the specific elements that identify district-level production systems.  This latter topic will be critical.

But do creative industries actually cluster?  Lazzeretti, Boix & Capone (2008) make the distinction between local labor markets as territorial units and the creative industries they will focus on in their study, the traditional cultural industries (Publishing, Music, Architecture, engineering, performing arts) and technology-related creative arts (Research and Development, Information and Computer Technology, and Advertising).  The authors explore mid-range and large urban centers to determine their different patterns of concentration.  While the focus is on major revenue streams, it is disappointing that other creative territorial units like the older glass-blowing works in the Veneto region or the pottery works in the Abruzzo region are not explored.

The reasons why industries cluster in Italy is due to the origin of the Italian Cooperative Movement that began in the 19th century, thrived in the 20th in spite of Fascist control (Menzani & Zamagni, 2010).  In the United States, there are several clustered industrial districts, but the one that most of us are familiar with is Silicon Valley in and near San Jose, CA, but those districts are not everywhere. In Italy, those districts are everywhere, and tend to cluster around medium and large cities, and they form creative local systems.  But why?  Lazzeretti, Capone & Boix, (2012) explore the reasons for these patterned clusterings of creativity, their role in local and regional development as well as a sometimes related and sometimes peripheral “open and ever-changing network of interpersonal exchanges that nurture individuals’ uniqueness and identity (De Propris et al., 2009 in Lazzeretti, Capone & Boix, 2012).  Specifically, they explore four connected approaches:  culture and heritage, agglomeration economies, variety and the creative class, and a generalized econometric model.

I was disappointed that I was only able to find one research study exploring the intersection of economics and creative industrial districts in Southern Italy (the Abruzzo and Lazio regions in Italy and everything further south, including Sicilia, Sardinia, and the other islands).  I understand that to justify these studies it may be necessary to concentrate on regions that generate more income for the country, which are generally in the North, rather than the South which does not generate as much.  However, more programs designed to generate entrepreneurial interest and activity in the South would be vital and regenerative because poverty is traditionally linked to mafia activity, the latter probably the cause of the former.  De Lucia, Balena, Melone, & Borri, (2016) understood this all too well when they explored “Principi Attivi,” Southern Italy’s Apulia Region’s policy initiative to support new start-ups of young entrepreneurs.  Specifically, the authors investigate the relationships between creativity and sustainability from the supply and demand side perspectives to address the following:  how creativity is related to sustainability through entrepreneurship, to further understand the main factors affecting the allocation of funding from regional governments, and to determine to what extent creativity and sustainability proposals influence the selection [of entrepreneurs] process.

Marchi & Nardin (2014) bring the study of Italian creativity full circle with an analysis of management in a creative industry, in this case, one that is most prominent in Italian and International culture, the Italian fashion industry.  Specifically, their study focuses on how the industry’s process of creativity frequently conflicts with the daily and seasonal constraints of day-to-day business and deadlines.  The authors’ main argument is that the adoption of effective balancing practices is dependent upon the distance placed between the creative process and the time constraints that affect successful completion of products and fashion seasons.  Their analysis hopes to establish a foundation for a transition towards new models of competition.

 

Research Questions

Trimarchi (2009) does not present any research question(s) but does give us an overview of the creative industries in Italy.  Later on, he will propose a taxonomy of those sectors.  First, there are several features of Italian creative sectors that should be noted.  The strict definition that resulted from the survey commissioned by the European Union (KEA, 2006 in Trimarchi, 2009) includes limited copyright and industrial sectors only (the knowledge-based economy definition).  An alternative White-Paper definition (Santagata, 2009 in Timarchi, 2009) is based on creativity as a primary source of social quality that increases the scope of creative industries to include such sectors as wine and food, handicrafts, museums and monuments.  This definition is key, because it emphasizes the need to select forms of creativity that can generate an increase in well-being and development as well as the degree of social interaction, exchange, and cross-fertilization of ideas in a country’s culture. Trimarchi thus breaks down Italian creative industries in the following:

  • Cultural Heritage and Arts: Built heritage and museums, live performing arts, architecture, contemporary art, [contemporary music?]
  • Content Industries: Cinema, publishing, broadcasting, advertising, software
  • Material Culture: Industrial design, handicrafts, fashion design, food, wine

While traditional cultural heritage and arts are among the most prominent industries internationally, they generate the least amount of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to Santagata (2009, in Trimarchi, 2009).  However, all are connected spiritually and creatively, one influencing the others.  Traditionally, the different districts compete with one another to claim their superiority over the others in typical Italian bravado fashion.  But the interest in those modern traditional arts (Versaci, Armani and others) has begun to wane, and the addition of less than ideal GDP generated from cultural heritage and arts has become a cause for concern and, thus, analysis.  To rectify this loss, the author proposes a new collaboration of cooperation between creative districts to revitalize each of them based on individual initiative, social participation, and public rules and actions.

While every aspect is important to this revitalization, without engaging students and youth, any initiative is bound to eventually fail.  Ott, Pozzi, & Tavella (2010) understood this all too well when they designed their study to investigate teachers’ attitudes towards creativity.  Their study, a questionnaire, was delivered to a sample cross-section of teachers in a variety of disciplines. It consisted of twelve questions that explored:

  • What is the teachers’ concept of creativity?
  • Approaches adopted by teachers to support creativity.
  • Teachers’ awareness of the potential role digital tools to support creativity.

Key to a study like this where more than just quantitative data is necessary for useful results, the authors incorporated multiple choice and open-ended questions so that the teacher-respondents were able to express themselves.  The total number of participants, 160, were recruited from Kindergarten to Upper secondary schools and a small number of non-traditional schools.

Casoni (2010) performs a critical analysis of creative industrial districts in Italy.  Here, the author distinguishes between Fordist (large-scale factory works) and post Fordist economies (knowledge-based economies where a greater reliance is placed on intellectual capabilities than on physical labor or natural resources).  He describes an emerging trend where geographic spaces are becoming socio-economic ecosystems where modern technologies and knowledge- based economic activities develop and grow.  Given that Southern Italy has been traditionally economically depressed where residents have been forced for decades to migrate north for work (MPP familial observations and historical record), I am hopeful that if creative industries are developed in these southern regions, it could initiate a renaissance of economic revitalization.  To facilitate this revitalization, Casoni indicates that there are a few necessary elements that include a distinctive local culture, developing trust among local operators, and a dense network of interpersonal relationships that is conducive to specialization and an informal exchange of knowledge and skills within the territory.

Lazzeretti, Boix, & Capone (2008) dig a little deeper to determine if more than random clustering is occurring, if there is a deliberate intention in that clustering.  The authors use Wyszomirsky’s (2004, in Lazzeretti, Boix, & Capone, 2008) qualifying definition of creative industry that focuses on distinctive elements:  the product or service supplied, the producing organization, the central production process, and the occupational and workforce groups. Using this definition, the authors map the concentration of industries and clusterization through simple industry-specialization statistics, acknowledging the existence of natural advantages and a collection of economies (Ellison–Glaeser and Maurel–Sédillot indexes in Lazzeretti, Boix, & Capone, 2008). Lazzeretti, Capone, & Boix, (2012) further explore creative industry clustering and map it based on culture, heritage, and arts districts, agglomeration economies, related varieties that engage in cross-fertilization with the above districts, economies that in one way or another are industrial, economic, or even information exchange, and the role of human capital and the creative class.  Through the authors’ empirical model of creative industries in medium and large cities, they suggest that creative districts and industries are directly related to creative employment and its determinants:  declaration of historical districts, the share of jobs related to heritage and cultural sites, and [possibly] capitals of provinces where there is access to political power and funding.

De Lucia, Balena, Melone, & Borri (2016) utilize a cluster analysis of keywords to determine the frequency of direct and indirect connections to creativity, sustainability, and entrepreneurship.  While creativity is not clearly defined according to the authors, it is associated with art, culture, festivals, events, architecture, and/or design.  These associations motivated the authors to examine the frequency of keywords in the ‘Principi Attivi’ (‘Active Ingredients’) applications from entrepreneurs.  They also employed an inferential analysis to investigate supply and demand ingredients that influence the probability that a project proposal would be funded and the degree to which creative, sustainable business ideas affect their funding.

Marchi & Nardin (2014) explore the differences between business and creativity within the fashion industry and how opposing motivations are reconciled via two questions:  Are fashion design divisions differentiated from business and sales divisions or are there mechanisms emerging to integrate the two, and if new mechanisms are emerging, what expertise must those designers have.  The authors define differentiation as “the status of segmentation of the organizational system into subsystems” and integration as the collaboration required “to achieve unity of effort” (Lawrence and Lorsch, 1967 in Marchi & Nardin (2014) among differentiated units.”  The current study is based on a sample of sales and product managers, stylists, and other relevant individuals from 11 Italian medium-sized fashion firms and 42 in-depth loosely-structured interviews that allowed for relevant data to emerge.

 

Discussion and Conclusion

Trimarchi (2009) proposes a taxonomy of creativity that references creative ideas within external markets that includes a dimension of their social quality.  This taxonomy allows for identification of various types of creativity from the “useless” and aesthetic to the “useful,” utilitarian, and innovative. Those include the intangible (expression, vision, relational, and life quality) and tangible (senses, style, function, and industrial research).  Trimarchi proposes that creativity can enhance social quality via cognitive and functional goods and services, but the following public tools are necessary:  Institutional action, investment, regulation, and financing through interjurisdictional coordination through government regulation and oversight.

Ott, Pozzi, & Tavella (2010) propose that there is a double bond between education and creativity [innovation] that should foster open-ended problem solving creative thinking that also creates a “culture of innovation” that is key to modern productive societies.  Unfortunately, the results of their study indicate that the opposite is happening.  The students are producing creative artifacts rather than engaging in creative activities that allow for novel ways of reflection, comparison, and solutions to existing creative urban challenges.  Creativity in the Italian school system still has a way to go before it can contribute to the challenges that the Urban North and the mostly undeveloped South are faced with.

Post Fordist economies, concludes Casoni (2010) must include entrepreneurs that are large corporations as well as designers, researchers, service centers, professionals and consumers that work in conjunction with each other to coordinate activities.  The district requires a production chain with requisite specialists who collaborate on a goal of mobilizing a territory and resources towards material and immaterial results with two necessary levers:  intellectual and relational capital (distinctive relationships that the districts’ businesses can access to generate new ideas, industrialize them and commercialize them. This is further support that creative economies are dependent on a web of social, economic and intellectual support.

The goals of Lazzeretti, Boix & Capone (2008) were to measure how and where creative industries clustered.  The study revealed that traditional cultural industries are more important than non-traditional but all clustered around larger urban centers and those centers are diversified where combinations of creative industries produce differentiated economies.  The authors conclude that the next logical step would be determine and explain the differentiation in these economies.  Lazzeretti, Capone & Boix (2012) discovered that the clustering was dispersed throughout the territory because cultural heritage, localization and urbanization are balanced throughout the territory.  Further analysis is necessary to develop policies for local creativity.

De Lucia, Balena, Melone, & Borri’s (2016) results are mixed, with larger groups of entrepreneurs receiving the bulk of attention and funding and smaller groups receiving almost no attention.  There is also a weak link between creativity and sustainability that wasn’t studied extensively due to the fact that both have been seen as controversial and resisted by society until recently.  The authors point us to the need to establish initiatives to promote these smaller-scaled entrepreneurs and advance their proposals more actively.

While it seems obvious that necessary autonomy requires a defined separation between style and sales divisions of the fashion industry, Marchi & Nardin (2014) discovered that a group of semi-formalized integration procedures have been introduced to balance creative and business interests.  To bridge their dichotomous relationship, intermediary liaisons have been introduced to assist in understanding and operation.  While this study was limited to smaller firms, they suggest additional study to determine if this transitional phenomenon is occurring in larger firms.

My heritage is primarily Southern Italian.  That is my bias.  However, the studies here concentrated primarily on Northern cities which most Italians unfortunately view as their cultural centers and the South as something that has value as only a poor cousin that one should be ashamed of.  Thus, these articles illustrate that little is being studied in the more rural regions of Italy.   Historically, this is due to rivalries between regions and prejudice between North and South that have existed for over one hundred years.  This has obviously resulted in an obviously dichotomous and unhealthily competitive atmosphere while contributing to the overall GDP of Italy.  With financial crises looming in several European countries including Italy, this prejudicial rivalry will obviously need to change to mutual collaboration if Italy is to thrive.

 

References

Antonietti, A., & Cornoldi, C. (2006). Creativity in Italy. The International Handbook of Creativity, 124-166.

Casoni, G. (2010). Design and creativity in open innovation processes: The case of Italian industrial districts. Strategic Design Research Journal, 3(2), 33-40.

Cropley, A. J. (2011). Definitions of creativity. In M. A. Runco & S. R. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of creativity (2nd ed., pp. 358-368). Burlington, MA: Academic Press. DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-375038-9.00237-5.

De Lucia, C., Balena, P., Melone, M. R. S., & Borri, D. (2016). Policy, entrepreneurship, creativity and sustainability: The case of ‘Principi Attivi’(‘Active Ingredients’) in Apulia Region (southern Italy). Journal of Cleaner Production, 135, 1461-1473.

Lazzeretti, L., Boix, R., & Capone, F. (2008). Do creative industries cluster? Mapping creative local production systems in Italy and Spain. Industry and innovation, 15(5), 549-567.

Lazzeretti, L., Capone, F., & Boix, R. (2012). Reasons for clustering of creative industries in Italy and Spain. European Planning Studies, 20(8), 1243-1262.

Marchi, G., & Nardin, G. (2014). Organizing creativity in the Italian fashion industry. International Studies of Management & Organization, 44(1), 7-20.

Menzani, T., & Zamagni, V. (2010). Cooperative networks in the Italian economy. Enterprise and Society, 11(01), 98-127.

Ott, M., Pozzi, F., & Tavella, M. (2010, September). Teacher, What Do You Mean by “Creativity”? An Italian Survey on the Use of ICT to Foster Student Creativity. In World Summit on Knowledge Society (pp. 165-171). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Trimarchi, M. (2009). The economics and policy of creativity: The Italian perspective. Creative Industries Journal, 2(3), 231-246.

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