“Go Switzerland – Hopp Schwiz – Allez la Suisse – Forza Svizzera”

These days, most of us are following the World Cup 2018. Cheering, putting bets, predicting and assuming we would do better if only we could be on the field. In parallel to this, another competition is acted out on a daily basis: Switzerland’s digital competitiveness. A match where each of us is a player.

First Summit on digital competitiveness

On Wednesday, June 20, in collaboration with  digitalswitzerlandIMD business school hosted the first Digital Competitiveness Summit 2018 on digital competitiveness and the latest digital trends. More than 250 business leaders as well as representatives from governmental and international organisations active in the digital sphere, were brought together. Based on the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Rankings 2018 by the IMD World Competitiveness Center, we examined what contributes to the success of the top-ranking 63 countries.


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Marc Walder, CEO Ringier and founder of digitalswitzerland, highlighted the sense of urgency Switzerland needs and the importance of coming on board the digital train. The time we live in sends him back to the time he had to make a critical choice regarding the company he was leading and the possible futures it faced after many years of activity, given the fast pace of change the media market was facing:

“10 years ago, when I took over a media company, I faced two choices: selling it or radically transforming it. This, in order not to be irrelevant. Today, I don’t want Switzerland to be irrelevant.”

Strategy vs. Agility

In an energetic presentation, Michael R. Wade, IMD Professor and Director of the Center for Digital Business Transformation, challenged the audience about organisational change through the use of digital technologies and business models to improve performance. After multiple shows of hands to know how many participants thought that “more digitalisation” or “a digital strategy” were good objectives, he revealed the ultimate secret: “Strategy is easy, and it requires only 3 points: Where are we? – Where do we want to be? – Build a plan to achieve it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work if we planned a strategy on a 3- or 5-year basis. Even, on a 2-month basis. Today, in a fast-changing world, long-term strategies are an anchor.” The issue is that often companies develop a digital strategy in parallel with a business strategy, whereas the idea is to integrate the digital strategy to achieve business objectives.
Michael R. Wade pointed out the difficulty to be agile when a strategy is planned. Companies allocate resources, technologies, build their organisation around an approach, and therefore they cannot shift from it easily. Today, the ultimate challenge is to take the right amount of time to get the strategy right, including digitalisation if relevant, before someone faster does it.

Making the case for lifelong education

What about the next generation? Pierre Vandergheynst, EPFL Vice-President Education and Professor at EPFL, gave an inspiring and optimistic talk. He started his speech on the gradual loss of importance of obtaining a final degree and the need for lifelong education. What is increasingly important in today’s world is to have cumulated experiences and knowledge and to ensure that one stays professionally attractive thanks to lifelong education.
Companies do not look at degrees anymore; rather they look for soft skills and technical capacities. As an example, digitalisation has changed the way engineers work and how they have to be educated. It is not engineers who calculate or evaluate a project; they set the specification for powerful machines to design the systems. This is the reason why education needs to be reviewed: the skills are different and require different ways of approaching problems. Pierre Vandergheynst then shared with us the tectonic lines of education for the next 10 years. To him, university should provide continuously updated portfolios of competences and projects. Also, training will be perpetually accessible, from anywhere at any time. Programmes will focus 50% on learning core competencies and 50% on the USP of being human. “What makes us different from a robot? What is our Unique Selling Proposition?” said Professor Vandergheynst, “Creativity, ethics (asking good questions, setting limits) and identifying problems. Things that only humans can do.”

Listening to @trekkinglemon on the future of #education at the @IMD_Bschool summit on #digital #competitiveness! @EPFL_en @EPFL @EPFLevents @agepoly @dgt_switzerland pic.twitter.com/CcLDBpKo7R

— Martin Vetterli (@MartinVetterli) June 20, 2018

Switzerland has moved up three spots

Christos Cabolis, Chief Economist and Head of Operations at the IMD World Competitiveness Center, commented: “The IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking assesses the capacity of an economy to adapt and explore digital technologies leading to a transformation in government practices, business models and society in general.” This index is based on three main criteria:

– Technology: the overall context through which the development of digital technologies is enabled.
– Future readiness: the level of preparedness of an economy to assume its digital transformation.
– Knowledge: the “infrastructure” that underlies the process of discovery, understanding and learning of new digital technologies.

“Switzerland ???????? is very strong is terms of #digital #talent”, says @IMD_Bschool Chief Economist @ChristosCabolis. pic.twitter.com/pMdObcOLyM

— Greater Geneva Bern area (@GGBa_Invest) June 20, 2018

Read the full report for more insights: IMD World Digital Competitiveness Rankings 2018

Key messages from presentations and panel

For Jean-François Manzoni, IMD President, Switzerland’s fifth place is obviously good news. The goal of the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking is not to compare countries. It is rather a vocabulary for countries to reflect on what they do and help them to work with their natural advantages and challenges.

Switzerland can’t rest on its laurels as far as these good results are concerned; it must work on its weaknesses. Martin Vetterli, EPFL President, pointed out the lack of women’s participation in the technology field.

“There is no reason that we can’t do in Switzerland what California did ten years ago to include more women in Silicon Valley.”

digitalswitzerland supports digital transformation.

“Our country has made major progress to better prepare Switzerland for digital transformation. The public is now engaged with digitalisation-related topics and is keen to use new technology more and more in their everyday lives.”

Nicolas Bürer, digitalswitzerland Managing Director. Driven by our Digital Action Plan for Switzerland, established in 2017, we push concrete projects. Also, on October 25th, and for the general public, we are organising the second edition of the Digital Day under the claim “Experiencing digital together”. Early July the first Summer Nextgeneration camps will start to support digital education for youth. To help entrepreneurs to grow and scale their companies, we launched Startup Bootcamps this year. This reflects only a part of our various activities, managed by an enthusiastic and professional team.

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