28. September 2020

Innovation machine Switzerland – How can you leverage the full potential?

Innovationsmaschine Schweiz

Innovation // Switzerland offers a unique ecosystem for innovation and successful business models. What are the key success factors and how can you benefit from them?

For almost a decade, Switzerland has ranked first in the world on the Global Innovation Index. What are the main reasons for this success?
First, Switzerland offers an exceptional pool of highly skilled tal­ent. Swiss universities rank amongst the best in the world, particularly in innovative areas. ETH and EPFL offer top quality edu-cation in science and technology. This knowledge is transferred to the companies that surround them as they partner with the private sector to produce market­ready innovations.
Second, the education system plays a big part in Switzerland’s innovation capability. It focuses on practical skills rather than pure knowledge and offers a good balance of academic and on-the­job training. As a result, practical skills are more widespread in Switzerland than in other countries and employability of graduates is high. Another key feature of the Swiss innovation ecosystem is work-force diversity. Switzerland has proven remarkably hospitable for people of different cultures, who bring fresh ideas. It has one of the highest rates of employed foreign nationals. Multina tional companies based in Switzerland attract highly qualified employees from many different countries for a great mix of talents. This highly skilled, diverse workforce provides a strong basis for innovation. Of course, the business, political, and economic conditions also need to be right so that innovative inputs can be translated into successful products. This is another area where Switzerland leads the way. It provides an environment that encourages disruptive thinking, embraces new ideas, and enables successful collaboration. 
Another factor is investment in innovation, from startups to new technologies. A famous example of this approach is Crypto Valley in Zug. The Canton has successfully supported blockchain techno­logy and created an attractive location for companies. It has made Switzerland a world leader in distributed ledger ecosystems.

“The education system plays a big part in Switzerland’s innovation capability.”

More generally, Switzerland offers a solid and stable macroeco-nomic environment, which gives enterprises the confidence they need to make long­term investments. 
And lastly, international collaboration is an important driver of  innovation. Switzerland has secured access to the international research community by concluding bilateral agreements or build-ing global networks such as CERN or the Human Brain Project.

How can companies leverage and apply these success factors? 
Innovation is the result of a clear intention to optimize what already exists or create something different. The first step is elevating innovation to a company priority. That involves es-tablishing the right governance and processes to support the innovation lifecycle, allocating budgets, integrating innovation into daily business, and consistently putting it at the heart of corpo-rate communications.
Converting an idea into a successful innovation requires substantial support from the company. As a foundation, it is essential to create a work environment that promotes and rewards creativity, agility and the translation of ideas into successful products or services. This means promoting an openness to fresh ideas, a learning culture and an acceptance of failure as inherent values. Once a company is ready to innovate, the most important ingredient is people – world­class, open­minded experts who have the courage to experiment. Innovation must be a key hiring requirement. It’s about more than knowledge. ti&m has defined criteria for recruiting individuals with a mindset that will foster innovation. We look for candidates with diverse backgrounds who will bring a different perspective to our business. This can be demon­s trated by unusual aspects of their education, their professional experience, or their outside interests. We also focus on building interdisciplinary and diverse teams. This has proven to be a great driver of innovation. Finally, we make it clear that we expect  every employee to be involved in the innovation process. Companies also need to establish processes and methodologies which ensure that innovative ideas are identified, pursued, efficiently realized, and scaled. We provide ways for employees to submit their ideas. Then, if a proposal looks promising, we allo-cate time and a team to developing it. Usually, market­ready innovation doesn’t happen by working in isolation. As the Swiss example shows, collaboration leads to better results than a company can create on its own. Therefore, early client or user involvement is essential. Companies need to understand customer needs and how they use the product, but also involve them throughout the innovation lifecycle.
We regularly demonstrate the success of these factors in our ti&m garage. This innovation platform enables us and our clients to try out and implement ideas in a safe, creative environment at low cost and risk. With a unique combination of design thinking and coding we produce a minimal viable product within 3 to 12 weeks in an agile environment. This approach combines the technical excellence and cultural diversity that result from our vertical integration. It pools all the necessary disciplines such as consulting, design, development, and hosting in one team. This accelerates delivery and boosts efficient cross­company coordination. A key success factor is the way we involve clients in the entire innovation journey. That helps us understand their needs, test the product at an early stage, receive direct user feedback, and continuously refine the product to meet client expectations. It’s how we separate the wheat from the chaff together with our clients. Because only if you admit your mistakes and jettison ideas that are going nowhere can you invest your full energy in successful innovation.

Björn Sörensen
Björn Sörensen

Over the last ten years, Björn Sörensen has held several leadership roles in the finance industry, specializing in major software development programs and digitalization. At ti&m,he leads the Innovation Department, focusing on AI, cloud, blockchain, design. He also leads the IT.