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A New Way of Looking at Old Problems: It All Starts with a Mindshift

With our Executive MBA programs, we bring together management and technology skills.

A little more than half a year ago, the world became widely aware of the new coronavirus that went on to dramatically turn lives, nations, businesses, and educational systems upside down. And although political leaders, scientists, and doctors around the globe are still looking for a vaccine as well as ways to re-establish life as we knew it, at least one thing has become undeniably clear: driving the digitalization forward serves not only as an effective fall back option when no physical contact is possible. In fact, if the firewall in the digital world serves to protect against computer viruses, digitalization in the analog world itself becomes protection.

Furthermore, its necessity for shaping our economic future and reaching our climate goals – as well as for the way we collaborate, consume and teach knowledge – has reached a new level of acceptance over the course of this crisis. Consequently, we are now witnessing a new sense of urgency for learning and developing the skills necessary to lead a digitally oriented company, startup, or organization into the future. In other words: skills that we focus on building in our Executive & Young Professional Education Programs. These following paragraphs are intended to give you an impression of how we enable our students to foster innovation, think ahead in management, reach their career goals and ultimately become the next generation of leaders.

“The current crisis has definitely been a wake-up call for transformational initiatives. And it fits right in with other global developments that demand the intensification of our efforts,” says Prof. Dr. rer. oec. Thomas Hutzschenreuter, Academic Program Director for the Master in Management & Innovation and Vice Dean for International Affairs and Alliances at the TUM School of Management. “Megatrends such as increasing globalization, new and more complex technologies, ever-shorter innovation cycles and rising cost pressure mean that the demands placed on intra- and entrepreneurs, as well as on players in future management positions, are constantly growing. Our master’s program in Management & Innovation, which is explicitly aimed at young professionals with initial professional experience, is designed to help participants sharpen their eye for the relevant technological changes and innovations in their future working environments,” Professor Hutzschenreuter explains. Of course, making his students aware of innovations that are crucial for driving a company forward is only the first step in their development at the TUM School of Management. “Aside from enabling them to identify the risks and opportunities of these innovations at an early stage and to recognize potential for business developments in companies and/or start-ups, we also prepare our students to acquire and develop new knowledge independently – which ultimately helps them to support their implementation in new business processes and areas.”

Speaking of implementing ideas: the practical applicability of the acquired theoretical knowledge is the basis of all the programs offered by the TUM School of Management. That is why our master’s programs include a significant amount of practice-related modules – in addition to an internship, where our students are able to deep-dive into their respective company as well as their specific tasks and directly implement theoretical knowledge from the module.

More often than not, results developed during the course of those internships lead to direct strategic adjustments within the companies. And some even lead to jobs. “When talking to our alumni, they are happy to have had a solid dose of theory and the right kind of environment to apply it in. They love the way the program has enabled them to expand their network internationally and brought them in contact with not only future employers, but also the best and brightest in their own generation. We’ve seen several of them land great internships and initial job offers, even during the uncertainty of the current public health concerns,” Professor Hutzschenreuter adds.

When it comes to further educating those, who have already had their share of professional experience but who strive for efficient and future-oriented leadership, the part-time Executive Education programs at the TUM School of Management share that same practice-oriented approach; enabling its participants to drive the digitalization and new technologies forward, creating a network for them to thrive in and sharing proven leadership skills that are designed to give them the tools needed for future-proofing their company’s position in the market. Prof. Dr. Helmut Krcmar – Founding Dean of the TUM School of Management Campus Heilbronn, Delegate Officer of the President at the TUM Campus Heilbronn and Chair of Information Systems at the Department of Informatics – has another way of phrasing it: “We want to equip our Executive MBA students, who are already employed, striving to be future managers and digital leaders, with different ways of thinking about old questions. We want to show them that different answers are possible. By creating a mindshift, a change of perspective, we teach them how to see and make use of those answers. That’s exactly what an Executive Education at the TUM School of Management will deliver for you.”

In order to ensure that those new ways of looking at old problems are based on the most up-to-date information, scientific findings, business cases and real-time trends, our lecturers do not shy away from breaking new ground and swapping established, outdated methods for innovative ones. Prof. Dr. Isabell Welpe, who holds the Chair for Strategy and Organization, is a perfect example: “There is a quote by the most influential internet philosopher of our time, Naval Ravikant, that applies particularly well here. When asked what he thought about business books, he replied, ‘Give them to your competitors.’ Implied in that statement lies the necessity for lecturers to start thinking outside the box and to move away from textbooks and academic essays that are doomed to be outdated by the time they are released. And that is exactly what I am to do within my teachings, by incorporating real-time approaches, real-time strategies, and real-time developments.”

In the end, passing on the most essential key competencies for a successful career in management is what all the efforts and preparation come down to. “It might sound simple, but the most important and effective skill we teach is surely the ability to think independently, to critically analyze and to draw intelligent conclusions. You could call it the scientific method. Luckily, that’s a skill that won’t be outdated anytime soon – no matter how much the world changes,” Professor Welpe argues. ”In fact, it becomes more important with each passing day, and will continue to do so for as long as we are flooded with information, true and false. If your ambition is to lead and to initiate progress, you need that ability more than anything else. And in order to help you acquire it, I, in my class in the Executive Education, focus on initiating a mindshift that results in a new way of thinking.”

To give an example of how such a mindshift has the potential to shine new light on an old problem, Professor Krcmar, like his colleague Professor Hutzschenreuter, points out one of the most pressing challenges for companies today: “If you look at the core components of a digital transformation, many people think it is either technology, or people skills, or business models. But in reality, it is more about the fit between what the culture of the company allows you to think about, what the business models give you as a profitable approach to the market, and how to actually build and maintain the technology to support that value delivery. With our triple-accredited Executive MBA programs, we bring management and technology skills together while really focusing on that combination of the various factors and helping leaders to reflect whether they’re on a good course or if they could improve a little.”

Of course, making the best possible use of those skills not only requires possessing the skills, but also putting in the personal effort to apply them, to stay driven, and to internalize this new way of looking at problems and challenges. After all, not everybody is born to lead. “It’s a meta-skill to be willing to change yourself and to actually enjoy the change,” Professor Krcmar reflects. “But if you manage to instill enjoyment of change, the draw of development and of reinventing yourself, then you’re equipped to handle not only the challenges of digitalization, but also the next ones – whenever they come.”

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