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Interview with Lino F. Ciceri

He is a research chemist turned businessman with management experience at Unilever, Novartis, and the Scandinavian Institute for Administrative Research. After completing his postgraduate studies at the London Business School and New York University, he served as the managing director of a life sciences firm for more than a decade. He then taught MBA students and provided guidance to organizations in Europe, Asia, and Africa through programs funded by UNDP and EBRD.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
In my busiest years, I used to take a long weekend at the Camaldoli Hermitage in Tuscany at the end of September. It was a refreshing experience to live as a hermit for a few days and occasionally converse with fascinating hermits from various countries. This nourished my mind and inner life, providing me with vital enrichment.

Q.2 What inspired you to write At the Heart of Management?
Several reasons naturally flowed together:

1. As a professor of a cornerstone course, I needed to provide my MBA students with a comprehensive study guide encompassing all the necessary general management tools.

2. An inner hope to be helpful to future readers beyond my time.

3. As a child, I had polio, but in my twenties, when I was already a passionate research chemist, surgery allowed me to walk almost normally again. This change and other circumstances prompted me to pursue a business career, following in my family's footsteps, but I always yearned to apply the essence of my scientific background in my managerial activity. Eventually, I wrote the book inspired by this deep desire.

Q.3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
A. At the Heart of Management
is a unique book, probably one of a kind, and it will be the only one written by me.

Q.4 How long does it take you to write this book?
The first copy took three months to write, and it took almost three years of working on nights and weekends to revise it.

Q.5 What are the three things a reader can expect from this book?
A. 1.
At the Heart of Management is a comprehensive book for self-study. It empowers those who are ready to take charge and move beyond fleeting management fads.

2. A timeless approach to identifying what matters and enhancing management practice.

3. Fresh insights that can aid in attaining success, such as the widely applicable exponential law in managing processes. The scientific laws I learned in my chemistry days seem to apply to human life! Who are we, really?

Q.6 What’s your usual writing routine?
On workdays, I jot down brief notes on my smartphone and later expand on them in the early morning before breakfast and on weekends.

Q.7 How do you believe managers can effectively navigate uncertainties and leverage exponential forces for strategic advantage?
A company can improve its success by regularly keeping in touch with those customers for whom they exist to find out what improvements can help them in their area of activity. By implementing and powerfully exploiting these improvements before competitors do, the company will take advantage of the underlying exponential trend of all new processes.

Q.8 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing? Tell us about your marketing campaign.
Yes, targeting is vital! I plan to leverage my university's networks and also utilize LinkedIn and Amazon.

Q.9 How did you approach presenting ideas in a way that would resonate with a wide range of readers and help them embrace a new mindset toward management?
General management is not a science, at least not yet. It is a complex topic filled with buzzwords intended to clarify issues but often confusing. New trends pop up frequently, and the same management words may mean different things.

To clarify this sort of jungle, I introduced simple and unambiguous definitions for fundamental terms such as purpose, strategy, or goals. Unambiguity of definitions is the minimum requirement for any STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subject.

Like the whole book, this approach serves as a practical learning guide, and it's no glamouring fad.

It remains to be seen if it will draw in a significant number of people, even though most business failures stem from either not having a grasp of fundamental management tools or being unwilling to put them into practice.

Q.10 Could you provide some practical advice for managers on how to effectively organize information and apply it in their decision-making processes?
Do follow a logical approach, such as the one proposed in At the Heart of Management.

Q.11 How did you conduct your research for this book?
In fact, there is not much research on published sources. This book is mainly based on direct experience as the managing director of a complex organization and as a senior advisor in many countries on three continents.

Q.12 What would you share with folks who are skeptical of reading Non-Fiction?
Fiction is sometimes an alluring dream, but non-fiction can be as captivating, fascinating, and wonderful as the mystery of real life.

Q.13 What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing this book?
As I finished writing, I was surprised to realize that a book never truly ended. One stops writing, although uncertain about the outcome.

Q.14 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
A. Dialogues
by Jean Guitton, a French writer and philosopher. While writing about people he met, this author teaches more about top management than an academic management book.

Q.15 How do your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture?
I didn't notice any specific reactions, but I assume they were positive. After all, my family and broader context are filled with writers, entrepreneurs, managers, and PhDs.

Q.16 What kind of impact would you like to make with your book?
Every individual has the potential to succeed and make a meaningful contribution to the future, no matter how small it may seem. So, I aim to be helpful to managers with STEM backgrounds who need an essential yet profound management education and all managers facing significant challenges.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I welcome both.

Q.18 Who designed your book cover? How did you select them?
I held an online contest and got over 350 submissions. Although some were very professional, I only tested the seven most interesting ones. Unfortunately, none stood out as unique and focused on the most innovative perspective introduced in the book. 

However, after a few months, a young graphic design professional with a degree in visual communication submitted a simple cover that perfectly captured the essence of the book's message. I was glad to select it.

Q.19 What advice do you have for aspiring authors who are interested in sharing their knowledge and insights through writing?
Whenever you feel ready, don't let any doubts about your writing skills hold you back. What truly counts is the essence of your message. So go ahead and dive in!

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far.
Overall, the journey has been fulfilling. Although I put in more effort than anticipated, the tiredness was bearable because I pursued something I had desired for years. It felt like a pleasant duty. I am now free and weightless, like the gentle breeze.

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