Who is an entrepreneur, and what is his purpose? How do management and technocracy coexist? What is “labor” capitalism as opposed to organized capitalism? And what about digital capitalism? It is essential to know who an entrepreneur really is in order to understand the nature of the company, the creation, that comes to life from his work. The history of the word “entrepreneur” – and the clarification of what role it plays in the corporate, financial and digital worlds today – contains many of the elements that characterize pre and post-pandemic business. You gain insight into the uniqueness of Zuckerberg, Musk, and Bezos. Solutions for managing innovation (both digital and mechanical) and protecting jobs come intuitively. A combination of machinery and lives, the right mix of organism and organization, the company is shaped in the likeness of the entrepreneur. But also, of the managers he surrounds himself with, the true alter egos of the entrepreneur.

A historian and lecturer at Bocconi University, Giuseppe Berta directed the Fiat Historical Archive from 1996 to 2002. Over the years, he has written numerous essays including “Mirafiori. La fabbrica delle fabbriche”, “Fiat-Chrysler e la deriva dell’Italia industriale”, “Le idee al potere. Adriano Olivetti tra la fabbrica e la comunità”. Reading his work is tantamount to receiving a comprehensive review of theories on entrepreneurship and management, examined from within the historical and cultural framework of their time.

«The most visible effect of the new technological revolution, – Berta writes in the introduction to “L’enigma dell’imprenditore”, published in 2018, – has consisted precisely in bringing the entrepreneurial mission back into full view to celebrate its creative power. At the same time, innovation has once again become the distinguishing factor in the entrepreneur’s role in the economic process». His essay retraces two centuries of the history of economic culture, focusing on the fundamental attempts to analyze the characteristics and tasks of entrepreneurship. Cantillon and Say, the classical English political economy and Marshall, Schumpeter and Sombart, represent the stages of a thought process that cross the boundaries of disciplines and unites Economics, History and Sociology.

The professor notes how the entrepreneur personifies a combination of aptitudes and skills that can generate economic success, both individually and within an organization. Entrepreneurship coincides with the virtue of personal initiative: qualities to be developed with tenacious and proud affirmation of individual talents, result-oriented commitment and special dedication.

From among the pages, one thought continues to emerge: the virtue that best characterizes the entrepreneurial role is the ability to innovate. «What is the best term to conventionally define the entrepreneur? Without a doubt, the one of “innovator”». In the chapter dedicated to entrepreneurship (as both a vocation and a destiny), Professor Berta explains how the business leader differs from other social figures in the economic system, because he spreads the ethics of logic and shapes the various organizational structures. «Charged with a variety of tasks, the entrepreneur can be nothing but a lone hero. [...] For Sombart (a German economist from the beginning of the twentieth century) it is a leadership role that can only ever be taken on by a select few: by those who emerge with their own thoughts and decisions, who tread their own path and are followed by the majority». Therefore, being an entrepreneur in mature capitalism means exercising charismatic leadership, although the fate of the business does not necessarily depend on the owner or director.

Schumpeter, Berta explains, does not see the entrepreneur’s main aspiration as the desire for wealth and the search for well-being. The «men who created modern industry» were of a different mettle. They were certainly not «whiners who continually and anxiously wondered whether each effort they needed to make also promised them a sufficient increase in their own pleasure». And if the entrepreneurial drive is not explained by the pursuit of wealth, which aspects of their psychology – Berta wonders – should be explored to understand the underlying factors? Schumpeter essentially points out two. «Satisfaction is derived from a social position of power. And also, the joy of creative purpose». The latter is compared to the reward that comes from the creative action of the artist, the philosopher or the politician.

The author goes one step further when, talking about the dominant personality of the entrepreneur, he compares him to a sort of Übermensch, a superman who transfers the Nietzschean word of Zarathustra to the economy. «He is certainly a “strongman” who tends to exercise his dominance through unbridled energy. He possesses “an excess of energy”, which leads him to inexhaustible activity, making it a “purpose in and of itself”. For the entrepreneur, the pleasure of action is a part of his “psychic reality”. In this he is similar to the gambler, for whom no amount of winnings will succeed in distracting him from his passion».

“L’enigma dell’imprenditore” essentially paints an increasingly human picture of the entrepreneur, who will not be able to retire in his prime, but will only leave the field when evening has descended on his day. That is the moment when he will feel the living forces that once led him to success fade away inside him. «On the other hand – the author concludes – one cannot be an entrepreneur forever: the season of creativity does not match that of the physical life». Though we might say there are a few exceptions, when looking toward the digital entrepreneurs of the third millennium. Or to those, like Fabrizio Di Amato, who, having surrounded themselves with people of great value, understood how to make different roles complement one another in time. With a more comprehensive approach that combines the “doer” with the “dreamer”, the managerial soul and the entrepreneurial vision.