Monday, June 17, 2013

Shaking up Switzerland

I spent a day last week in the idyllic Swiss town of Interlaken, staying at a lovely hotel overlooking the Jungfrau, the sun was warm, the skies were clear, and the watch stores were packed with tourists seeking the iconic high-end Swiss product – the Swiss watch. Chocolate shops were packed too, and parasailing into the huge park in the middle of the town seemed to be very popular.

So far, so Swiss.

In town for the Swiss Economic Forum I had been invited by the SRF, the Swiss national broadcaster to examine Switzerland up close for their 10 vor 10 nightly news show. Having lived in Switzerland for 7 years, they were interested in what I thought about Switzerland now, and why I’m on record as saying it’s not creative. So we hit the streets of Interlaken to see Swiss creativity in action. We didn’t get too far before we hit a supermarket laden with a massive cubed display of toilet rolls! Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy it was not.

In this VUCA world, no country can afford to rest on its laurels, and although Switzerland feels good, it needs to make sure the future is brighter than the past. Supermarkets are a good place to start. How long can inflated prices for brands available in neighbouring countries at a much lower rate last? How much will people pay for bio/organic food? Why can’t you shop at 11pm or later. Why do the Swiss allow CHF2 billion worth of grocery shopping to be conducted over the border in Germany, France, Italy? What’s with the muted tones in-store? Where do the kids play? What is the sound of shopping? How about the reliance on concrete and steel in design? How can Swiss be friendly as well as polite?

The enemy of great is good – and Switzerland is reliable, robust, precise, understated, stable, tolerant, blissful, egalitarian. That’s all good!

We covered a lot of ground in beautiful Interlaken: banks, the local tourist office, a watch store of course, and I loved being in motion for interview. There’s enough standing still in Switzerland, I didn’t want to contribute to any more of it! You can see the interview on SRF

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