It’s only a year since Switzerland Tourism started the Kickbox program – but there are already three ideas in the BlueBox phase and another about 10 ideas in the RedBox stage. It looks like the organisation’s employees were just awaiting this innovation program.
«Time will tell if all those innovative ideas will be feasible,» says Maria Sägesser, Head of Product Development and Innovation at Switzerland Tourism – Switzerland’s national tourism organization with approximately 240 employees, half of them spread all over the world in more than 22 different markets. Especially now, in times of the pandemic, new ideas are more than welcome. Because the tourists’ and travelers’ demands have changed – not only because of COVID-19: people ask for more sustainable and environmentally acceptable products. The offerings have to comply with climate friendly conditions – this is a superordinated request nowadays.
Effervescent wealth of ideas
Due to the pandemic-related downturns of the tourism industry, Switzerland Tourism brought the Kickbox program forward. And it looks like this organisation is a real lucky bag of visions. Fascinating ideas came up such as establishing a sustainable and environmentally conscious answer to cruise ships in form of a train hotel. Or a tenable miles & more program for local public transport. Another innovative idea is establishing the world’s biggest skiing area – namely entire Switzerland – with one single ski pass for the whole country. These are only three of more than a dozen of ideas which are either in the RedBox or already in the BlueBox stage. «We also launched a sustainability campaign – in cooperation with other enterprises of the public service – and asked for target projects how sustainability can be experienced in Swiss public transportation.» A fascinating fact for Maria Sägesser is that the program is intersectoral: people from e. g. the IT department have gastronomic visions or that an employee who works in the event department has a great idea for barrier-free tourism.
«The Kickbox program is an ideal instrument for bottom-up innovation. It is an existing tool that has been tried and tested many times. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You’re ready to start the program within a few weeks – with only small adjustments – and then can work very structured und advance the different projects. We’ve received very positive feedback from our Kickboxers. So, for me, the program is absolutely worth to give it a try. Firstly, on the financial side – developing such an innovation program requires both time and money, and the Kickbox program is quasi off-the-shelf. And secondly, I consider it a continuing professional development with additional value. The employees gain access to many different fields of knowledge. They’re part of an important process: they learn how to validate their own ideas and have to find out during the process if they are feasible or not.
Change of mentality
The Kickbox program has a positive business impact: it started a cultural transformation. The people’s mentality is about to change. What I like most about it is the «just-do-it-mentality». You place an idea and see what happens. The program says: don’t be afraid of the process. Go ahead and see what happens. And what I even appreciate more is the fact that the Kickbox program teaches that it is ok to stop an idea if it apparently doesn’t work out. This grows an entirely new mentality. Of course, there are also employees who feel under pressure. They ask, ‘Why should we do it? What’s in for us?’ As long as they can’t see some tangible results, they question the bids for the program. But for me, it’s not only about the results. It’s also about «the journey is the reward». Everyone involved in these processes is constantly learning.»
Good things are worth waiting for
Switzerland Tourism established the Kickbox program just a year ago. Maria Sägesser knows, «The Kickbox program is not a lock. It will be hard work to make sure that people will not forget the program during daily routine. This will be the biggest challenge. Because even if you’ve got a fantastic idea, you won’t be able to delegate all your tasks and just focus on the new idea. It requires some extra effort – despite the time voucher. And we all know that it takes some time to develop good ideas. Not only the ideas, but also our employees need time to flower out.»