Creativity unbound

I ‘m not sure about the year, must have been the late Eighties. Lotus, a company built around easy to understand desktop software introduced a new product, called Lotus Notes, and we had to launch it on the italian market.

Problem is, nobody understood what Notes really did. We didn’t, journalists didn’t, potential clients didn’t. A classic case of a solution in search of a problem.

What we understood, however, are a few use cases, and around these we built a play on collaboration, the power of asynchronous communication, replication, and a few other things. We didn’t have client testimonials, so we invented two fictitious companies, one backward company called Salumificio Porcelli (loosely translatable as “McPigs salami factory”) and the forward looking Frizzi & Lazzi (“Jokes & Puns”) which were dealing with exactly the same problem, hiring a junior sales executive: request forms must be filled and transmitted between the requisitioning office in Roma and the headquarters in Milano, reviewed and approved. An incident causes the whole thing to be bounced from one employee to another without much notice.

In the end, however, the modern Frizzi & Lazzi overcomes all the hurdles and completes its task without breaking a sweat, while the antiquated Salumificio Porcelli gives up, showing what a difference it makes to adopt a modern collaboration software!

This the plot; in the space of three weeks we wrote the play and “hired” the players, all of them volunteer employees of Lotus Italy, including the CFO Ernesto (the moustached gentlemen reading the intros) the CEO (yours truly), sales, tech support, marketing, receptionist – almost everybody ended up doing something and although we had to pull a few allnighters for rehearsals while we carried our our day jobs, we had an insane amount of fun doing it.

Our marketing agency built a double theatrical stage with a screen showing the product at work in the middle to allow for the conversation between the offices. The application shown during the demo was also locally custom written and tested; everybody got engrossed in making this thing a success: I do not remember exactly who sourced the huge mortadella sausage whose dusting by Enrico provokes the laugh at 7:38 but I remember we ate it afterwards.

The result was luckily captured for posterity and if you speak italian, you may enjoy it below:

Obviously it was meant to be a funny play, so parts were allocated to stir even more laughs, primarily among ourselves: so the snappy, impatient manager was played by placid Enrico, I played the lowest-ranking employee, Angelo (our oldest colleague) played the “junior sales exec” and so forth.

I doubt our US or European HQ ever knew what we were doing, I don’t seem to remember we asked permission, but again, Lotus was never a company where people asked much permission to do anything.

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