Crisis Creates Turbo Innovation

by Prof. Dr. Carsten Bartsch | April 07, 2020
Our guest author Prof. Dr. Carsten Bartsch believes this crisis will bring lasting change in the way we teach. Having successfully switched to online courses in March 2020, Prof. Bartsch shared his three key learnings.

Is the corona crisis the long-needed wake-up kiss for our academia?

This article was first publish on LinkedIn by Prof. Dr. Carsten Bartsch.

We are currently experiencing a lot of changes in the way we live our lives – in all parts of our lives. But don´t be fooled – many of those changes will be here to stay!

“Digital Transformation. A topic, academia loves to talk about, to research, but is very hesitant to implement.”

A crisis becomes the driving force of change

Crisis creates turbo innovation. Why am I so sure about this? Well, because I have been experiencing this for a couple of weeks now while teaching classes at my home university, HDBW – Hochschule der Bayerischen Wirtschaft, at HHL – Leipzig Graduate School of Management, for the ABC Business Academy and at Karel de Groote University, where I just finished a one-week program in “Product and Brand Management”. All these classes have, of course, been entirely digital. The Corona lock down keeps all of us inside – for a good reason.

We have been discussing the digital transformation of universities for a long time. We have seen MOOCs, massive open online courses, developing, we have seen innovation leaders like HarvardX move forward. But we still did not see a large-scale revolution in the way we do academia. Professors and students have still been holding on to the “traditional” way of teaching and learning. With some severe restrictions.

Teaching and learning are still largely constrained by time, place and organizational borders. Two and a half years ago, I gave a presentation at the Hub Conference in Berlin, portraying a picture of a “University 4.0” – digital, global, connected and highly agile. People found it interesting – and then continued as usual.

Welcome to the digital transformation in academia

Now, we are forced to change! To be open for innovation. To be open for technologies, that have long been there, but have not been used in an academic setting. Welcome to the digital transformation in academia. A topic, academia loves to talk about, to research, but is very hesitant to implement themselves. Now, we have to – or sit idle for…well, we do not know for how long!

So all of a sudden we are embracing online teaching and interaction approaches. And we find out, it´s even fun! Professors are challenged to reflect on their style of teaching, students are exposed to the approaches of global, digital communication they will be getting to know anyway, as soon as they enter the corporate world. Welcome to the world of digital teaching!

“If you don´t try, you might never fail – but you will also not be learning and growing and instead one day be extinct like dinosaurs!”

All types of teaching are possible online

I have been teaching a number of classes in the past couple of weeks – using pretty much all types of didactics there are in my field of Business and Management. I have been using class presentations, seminar discussions, case study work, online-simulations (I used Markstrat), student group works and student presentations. I even included guest speakers.

And on top of that, I have created a digital management forum – bringing together current and former students of mine from all over the world (some of them I had not been in touch with for years). And guess what: it all went well! Sure, we all had to get used to this new way of interaction. But believe it or not: It didn´t take more than 30 minutes and we had all gotten so used to interacting digitally, we didn’t even notice it anymore!

Be open for change and try out something new. Engage and be yourself. Dare to try and to fail. If you don´t try, you might never fail – but you will also not be learning and growing and instead one day be extinct like the dinosaurs!

About Prof. Dr. Carsten Bartsch

Professor Carsten Bartsch was forced to reinvent his course “Digital Business Modeling and Entrepreneurship” in only 24 hours. As one of the first professors affected by the closing of the campus in March 2020, he quickly developed an online course using Zoom. In an interview for the HHL Blog he talked about his experience in transforming his formerly offline course to an online course.

Prof. Dr. Bartsch teaches at all three HHL campuses, i.e. Leipzig, Cologne and Munich. He offers courses in the fields of Strategy, Marketing and Entre-/Intrapreneurship in both the MBA and the MSc programs.

Tips to foster knowledge-driven interaction

So, with all this experience, here are my top three hacks I learnt to appreciate in all those weeks – and I am sure, they are not restricted to academic settings, but can be useful for all kinds of knowledge-driven interactions (e.g. coaching, consulting):

Be interactive: if the screen in front of you invites to fall into monologues, don´t be surprised if your audiences´ eyelids are being beaten by gravity. Interact! Engage! And don´t believe you need nerdy tools like online surveys or so to create interaction. Be yourself, address people directly, throw in a thought-provoking statement to spur a discussion. You will see, how open and appreciative your audience will be about that – and they will be so ready to participate.

Be authentic: Be yourself and don´t try to be someone else in front of the screen. If you tend to speak loud in class, do so in front of the screen (your audience´s computers can be volume adjusted), if you are an active presenter (yes, I admit, I am one of those), stand up, walk around and show your sneaker game during your presentations. Your audience won´t mind. The contrary is true, they will be appreciating you breaking through the monotony of sitting still in from of a screen for hours.

Be open: Trying something new is about challenging yourself and about changing. And yes, we don´t need all the literature to understand, that we deeply resist change. That we are afraid of the unknown. But why? What are we afraid of? How can we assume that everything out there is automatically negative – without having even tried it? Be open for the change to come, try it out yourself ! You fail in something? No worries, learn from it!

This is such a wonderful and creative environment right now, where everyone is trying him-/herself out. And you know what? We all enjoy it! The only ones who might hold that kind of failing against you, are the stubborn hypocrites who never try anything new themselves – and will one day be extinct like the dinosaurs.

“Workout for the unknown!” -Charlotte Rahe

Did I touch upon all potential areas of change in academia right now? Definitely not. Why? First of all, because these thoughts and experiences are deeply personal – and of course up for discussion. Second of all, we have not even finished our first month of this highly transformational period. So, continue to be open, continued to work on yourself and continue to drive the change!

View it also as an entrepreneurial opportunity, that might fundamentally change the business model of academia. But that is a new story – for a new article!