new brain @ the brain store? no, innovate the Swiss way

Wednesday 29 September, 2010

I participated in this exercise The Swiss Idea Machine. How great ideas can be produced in good quality and implemented within fixed deadlines, produced by the Swiss American Business Council & sponsored by Swiss International Airlines & the 4 Seasons Hotel.  Our facilitator was Markus Mettler, CEO of the Brainstore.  He was kind enough to make his presentation available brainstore_presentation_2.

We set out to answser 3 questions:

  1. how to create ideas?
  2. how to innovate?
  3. how to create an innovative culture?

To answer the 1st question, Markus broke our group of 60 into 3 groups of 20 & assigned each group to address a different task:

  1. how to find new customers in an uncertain environment
  2. how to reduce product development cycle times
  3. how to create a positive team atmosphere

I joined group 1 where we started off by posing inspiring questions, then generating tons of ideas & posting them on post-it notes all over.  We considered everyone else’s ideas, combined/refined them into a few great questions/ideas & then rated/ranked them.  Here are a few of the ideas our group came up with:

  • study the customer’s criteria
  • build greater personal trust
  • collaborate with other businesses
  • help new customers find us more easily
  • identify prospects who’ve had a bad experience with a competitor

We reverted back to the presentation to answer the remaining 2 questions.


  • You need to just do it, train, & cycle through again & again.
  • Corporations want innovation to be an ongoing activity, but that talk sometimes results in little action.  Changing the corporate culture is a talent development issue which requires triggers & their outputs to wake dormant human capital.  BASF was able to change its employees’ mindsets.
  • Fear of change is actually a myth, a laziness of the mind that was never stimulated.  It’s not a natural mindset because stimulation is non-threatening.
  • Brainstore has a representative office in Long Beach, CA & works with 3000 freelancers who are trained facilitators.
  • Encouraging governments to be innovative is difficult because different relationships result in irrational behavior, i.e. it gets political when it’s more important who had the idea & who does/doesn’t support it.
  • Big companies are just conglomerations of many small organizations, so innovation can happen as long as people are open with transparency.
  • Google is a current example of a successful innovative company because of their frantic pace of innovation & that they’re not afraid to discontinue innovations quickly.
  • Cultural differences impact upon innovation:
  • English-speakers & northern Europeans are no problem
  • Latins take more time which requires adjustments
  • The French should be in change mode, but don’t seem to be
  • Asians start out speechless, then explode later on

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