The importance of innovation
Innovation is a state of mind. When I became CEO of the company my grandfather founded in 1946, and which I took over from my father fifty years later, I inherited a tradition of innovation, of taking risks and leading change, as well as, perhaps, a tendency to get bored easily – I’ve found that I need to see change happening every day in order to keep myself engaged. It’s why at Salvatori we have never followed trends, never tried to follow the market, and why in 1989 we were recognised by the Italian Trade Commission as the most innovative company of the century in our field.
It’s also why we’re so often followed by the rest of the industry. For years we have pioneered products and processes that have subsequently been adopted as standard by other companies – in the 1980s we developed the marble mosaic, gluing stone tiles onto mesh, and we were the first to treat stone with textures that emulated the effect of fabrics, like bamboo and stone tatami.
We innovated when we began to build a team of experts in wood and metal, so we could start producing our own furniture and a bathroom collection, where stone was an important component but the product itself was composed by different materials that required different skills, and we are probably still the only company in the stone industry, and one of the few design brands, with a real R&D department, driven by engineers, specialised cutting-edge machinery and a desire to not become complacent.
Today, however, innovation has to add value from a customer’s perspective without damaging the environment, and preferably has to fulfil both an environmental and human need. That’s what we achieved with Lithoverde – the world’s first recycled stone texture, which completely reuses the huge quantities of waste stone that we and other companies produce daily – or the latest collection of tables Piero Lissoni designed for us, using ‘abandoned’ stones that we repair using gold, adapting the Japanese kintsugi technique, giving the tables a new life, as Piero says.
Innovation need not be restricted to developing new products – it’s an approach that can be applied to processes, relationships, ways of thinking. At Salvatori we are focusing now on social innovation, on the goals that we want to achieve as a company: products and services that meet a social need more effectively than existing solutions, and which can lead to improved capabilities and the better use of resources. It’s something I am particularly passionate about, developing ideas that benefit society, that can enhance society’s capacity to act and which realise the potential companies have to make a positive impact.
Generating these ideas can be relatively easy – it is how companies act on them which sets us apart. Organisations that spend too much time on idea collection without implementing them implode from the weight of those ideas. Instead, innovation must be led by the legacy you want to leave. We are where we are today – a design company founded on respect for the materials we use and the environment, on a love for beauty and elegant design – because we are focused, brave and have taken calculated risks, but ultimately because we stuck to our beliefs and values. This attitude, combined with the skill and knowledge of our people, is at the root of what we are and what we produce.
Photo Credits: Matteo Imbriani, Veronica Gaido.
Set design: Elisa Ossino Studio