Who was Adriano Olivetti, the entrepreneur to whom the ISTAO Business School is dedicated? He was an urban planner, publisher, writer, and man of culture, but he was also an entrepreneur who believed in technology and innovation – and in corporate social responsibility.
The son of Camillo Olivetti, an electrical engineer who in 1908 established Ing. C. Olivetti & C in Ivrea (the first national typewriter factory) Adriano graduated in industrial chemistry at the Polytechnic of Turin, and in 1924 he started his apprenticeship as a worker in his father’s firm.
The following year he completed a study trip to the United States where he visited numerous factories. On his return he proposed a widespread program of measures to modernise operations at Olivetti: decentralised organisation, management by function, rationalisation of assembly times and methods, development of the sales network in Italy and abroad, and later, in 1931, the creation of an Advertising Service, which from the very beginning brought in artists and designers. The new organisation helped to significantly increase the productivity of the factory as well as sales of its products.
The first portable typewriter with the name MP1 appeared in 1932.
Adriano Olivetti the entrepreneur: a business man particularly concerned with innovation, technology and design excellence, openness to international markets, and about respect for work and for workers. His management style emphasised the improvement of employees’ living conditions.
Adriano Olivetti the urban planner: the entrepreneur paid particular attention to social concerns and urban planning. He took on young, talented architects to build industrial buildings, houses for employees, canteens and provided childcare and health care facilities with the aim of combining improved working conditions in the company with quality of life outside the company.
For Adriano Olivetti, indeed, “the company is not only a place of production, but is also the main engine of economic and social development and, as such, has responsibilities to the community and the region“.
In 1936 he began a preparatory study for a development plan for the Val d’Aosta. He was a member of the National Institute of Urban Planning from 1938 onwards, and in 1950 he became its President. He worked actively with UNRRA Casas and was involved in various building upgrade and reconstruction projects in different areas of the South, including in Matera.
Adriano Olivetti the publisher: he was also, however, a writer and a man of culture. In 1937 he founded the magazine Tecnica e Organizzazione, in which he published several essays on technology, economics and industrial sociology. In 1946 he established the publishing house Edizioni di Comunità which published important works in various fields of culture including political thought, sociology, philosophy, and the organisation of labour. Thus introducing avant-garde or internationally reputed authors to an audience in Italy that was, at the time, largely unaware of them.