How innovation works – the SWITCH way

There are many tried and tested methods for guiding innovation processes, from brainstorming to development right through to market success. These methods are helpful, but they’re not sufficient. Here at SWITCH, we have our own approach.

Text: Christine Lanner, published on 29.05.2020

We believe that the purpose of innovation is to create lasting added value for the benefit of our stakeholders. And we achieve this by improving on what we already have while also coming up with new ideas. So while we believe it is important to venture into new terrain, we also keep on developing our strengths in our current key areas of competence.

A culture that fosters innovation

Ideas emerge when we make space for creativity, diversity and collaboration. The mindset of each individual is essential here; being open to new ideas, keeping up-to-date, being curious and connected with those around us – and also learning from our mistakes. This is the sort of culture that fosters innovation, and it has proved a successful approach for SWITCH.

Bottom-up and top-down

SWITCH’s management philosophy is that every employee is responsible for innovation as well. We expect everyone to think from the bottom up, contribute new ideas and offer suggestions. And from the top down, we use a systematised, company-wide innovation process that is coordinated under the direction of the Business Development division. Both approaches are important and complementary. New ideas are included and managed in the ‘ideas pool’ at either the divisional or company level, depending on their relevance.

Well-connected with customers and partners

Many innovation-related activities and services at SWITCH are the product of classic working groups that normally include our customer and partner representatives as well as internal experts. This ensures that their requirements and insights are constantly integrated into collaborative processes. To find out more, read the stories about the network division and SWITCH-CERT.

Looking towards the future

Another core part of the innovation process is the systematic monitoring of relevant trends. The ‘trend radar’ tool taps into our pool of expertise. To find out more, read the story about our trend radar for digital identities and what it is teaching us about the future.

Daring to take new paths

What happens when people have good ideas, but lack the necessary skills to realise them? The vision of a ‘research data connectome’ developed at SWITCH is a good example of how to solve this problem. The idea for the ‘Innovation Labs’ came about during a workshop with our Foundation Council. The connectome serves as a forum for exploring new terrain through agile projects that involve the relevant experts from various fields. This allows us to gradually tap into new areas of knowledge. Read the story on how we step into new areas of knowledge to find out more.

Management innovation

Ensuring our future viability will take more than just developing services and technologies; it’s also important that we create the ideal conditions for an innovation-friendly corporate culture through advanced organisational and HR development. The goal here is to put the entire organisation in a position to turn changes into opportunities quickly and flexibly. Read the case study on how we are using agile management tools to implement changes and learn from mistakes.

When it comes to planning creatively for the future, always remember: the journey is the destination!

About the author
Christine   Lanner

Christine Lanner

Dr. Christine Lanner is the deputy managing director and head of division management services of SWITCH. She manages the competence centre for business and interdisciplinary questions and is responsible, among others, for business development, marketing and PR, organisational development and human resources as well as finance and controlling.

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SWITCH Journal

This article is part of the SWITCH Journal, May 2020 edition.

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