Interview“Co-creation also means giving up control”
According to Frank Seifert and Thomas Robinson, Customer Experience specialists at Swisscom, companies need to open up to customers if they are to develop good products.
Report from the Impact Hub
New ideas and their successful marketing are of central importance for telecommunications. So that they are not purely a matter of coincidence, Swisscom works closely together with the Impact Hub innovation centre in Zurich. To find out how this works, we paid a visit to a workshop.
Almost nowhere is the significance of Zurich’s traffic hub more tangible than here: just a few metres from the Hardbrücke train station at the edge of the station’s track field. On the roof of the Impact Hub, the trains thunder across the Aussersihler Viaduct. This does not interrupt the creativity of the visitors – they excitedly exchange ideas or sit at their laptops deep in concentration.
This is also the case on Thursday, 13 August. In front of the entrance at 10 a.m., manager Johanna Stephan greets nine young entrepreneurs. They have submitted start-up ideas for the Fellowship ICT4good competition, which Swisscom is supporting. Johanna explains the day’s agenda, in English – some of the participants have only been in Switzerland for a short time, others come from the French-speaking area of the country.
At the same time, inside the viaduct’s arch, eight Swisscom managers are concentrating on documents and making notes. They are participating in a workshop to strengthen their business management skills. Today, the managers’ and the young entrepreneurs’ paths are crossing. The first group will make the latter’s ideas their own in order to present them in “reverse pitching”. A win-win situation for both sides, as conference leader Michel Bachmann explains: “For this task, the managers have to switch from the usual criticism mode to solution mode, while the young entrepreneurs see their business idea through different eyes.”
1/5 Reverse pitching: 1 hour of preparation, then a 5-minute presentation of the idea for a start-up and convince the participants. After questions comes the debriefing: what did people enjoy, what else would they have liked to hear? “The important thing,” says Michel Bachmann, “is that the feedback component is not linked to the word ‘but’, otherwise you immediately devalue the praise.”
3/5 With her start-up idea “Movit”, Laura Mählmann wants to help people with insufficient mobility or chronic pain. Her impression of the reverse pitching: “It expands your horizons when you hear about your own idea from another person. For me, new tips for marketing the app, for example via health insurance companies, were valuable.”
4/5 With a one-dollar microscope and image digitisation, Flavio Trolese wants to provide residents in poor countries and tourists with access to initial diagnosis. “For me, it was a bit disconcerting that our ideas were presented differently to the way we had envisaged. All in all, you feel very honoured by the presentation. And the story that the manager thought up brought a new quality to my idea.”
5/5 Swisscom manager Eva Lüthi is preparing for her performance of a reverse pitch. Her review the next day: “This was an extremely valuable experience. You learn to present a new topic within a short time and make an idea your own. I found it exciting that I also felt connected to the young entrepeneur’s idea throughout the course of the day.”
On the next day of the workshop for the Swisscom managers, another tool is the focus: rapid prototyping. Lego figures, piggy banks, coins, modelling clay and marshmallows cover the tables. One group is tasked with creating a blog with these items. The second group has to present how they can convince the group management to release funds for new projects. Michel Bachmann explains the method: “Rapid prototyping is a playful method of visualising projects. The focus is not on the handicrafts, but on the process.” So the main topic is not the methods themselves, but the transfer of ideas within Swisscom.
3/5 For Swisscom manager Christian Schwarzer (pink shirt), rapid prototyping is not new: “To start with, you might feel like you’re back in nursery school, but the method works surprisingly well. The important thing is the discussion among the participants.” With a twinkle in his eye, he adds: “I can’t explain how half the marshmallows managed to disappear into thin air ...”
4/5 Good methods work with really simple tools, even if you are working in the world of high-tech topics. Post-it notes, felt-tip pens or building blocks bring the Swisscom managers and other Impact Hub customers forward.
5/5 Michel Bachmann, co-founder and Creative Director of the Impact Hub in Zurich, led the way through the workshop in a relaxed manner with a determined focus on the matter at hand. The Impact Hub Zurich, part of a global network, aims to make leadership and innovation possible. Michel’s summary: “We want to give happy coincidences a bit of a helping hand.”
For the Swisscom managers on the innovation team, work with the workshop at Impact Hub Zurich, which Swisscom supports, is not over. The hard work is still to come: three months for the transfer prototyping. And the Fellowship ICT4good competition will stretch over the next twelve months, until the winner holds a final presentation in August 2016.