The Swiss: Safe, dependable, unflappable…but innovative? Well, yes. I found myself in Zurich last week at an excellent networking event organized around the theme of innovation. I participated on a panel joined by representation from Google and local Swiss retailer Coop. What I found fascinating was Coop describing perfectly the cross-roads model that we use in the Code Halo narrative and what’s more using the terminology. And for Coop, just how quickly that cross-roads was approaching.
The evening featured a fascinating discussion with many divergent points of view from the panel members. This was no surprise as I represented Cognizant (the young, upstart brand entering into the traditional Swiss market). We also had Google, hipster and innovative through its core and interestingly Coop, which highlighted why a solid approach to leadership is so critical i.e. keeping the lights on while watching the cross-roads loom on the horizon and wondering how fast they needed to move.
The panel discussion ranged from how you manage innovation (I described Cognizant’s managed innovation methodology), how you lead for innovation (instilling the right culture and technology fabric like building an external co-creation platform with your customers (like Lego) or suppliers (P&G) or an internal co-creation platform with your employees (like Cognizant). I described Nestlé’s digital acceleration lab and how for Nestle the lab is an engine for digital innovation which work because it features a healthy dose of change management to make innovations stick—AND it’s in Switzerland.
We got round to discussing about how innovative the Swiss economy actually is. So here is my point of view: It has no tech cluster to talk up unlike London or Berlin and hasn’t made a feature of its creative economy either. And this year saw the Swiss vote in favour to curb immigration in what I, and many others in the room felt was a very unfortunate result for Switzerland. This could mean a catastrophic limit on the flow of talent and new ideas into the country as the country limits the number of foreigners that can work in Switzerland—see here. However my fellow panellists (all Swiss born) made the point that yes, Switzerland may have shut its doors to immigration for now (a huge problem) but in terms of its location (at the center of Europe), the languages spoken and the breadth of internationality in the economy then it will continue doing well.
We finished on what each panel member considered the most important innovations of the last century. Too many to write about here from electricity, jet travel, space, so I decided to focus on something that I read about that has impacted my life and I am pretty sure yours too. It’s got to be the guy who put wheels onto the humble suitcase and changed our travelling lives forever. Step forward and thank you Bernard Sadow!