#15 How a business school is reinventing itself

What to spend 20,000 Euros on – a degree or travelling the world?

What does a ‘Digital and Innovation Officer’ employed by one of Europe’s leading Business Schools – the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management – do? “Put things in motion,” says Wolfgang Weicht, who has been in this position since the beginning of the year. He places his longboard in the corner and then we sit down to talk over croissants and coffee.

Several things seem to be in motion at the Frankfurt School. A new campus situated much closer to the city centre is being opened in October, which will make the school more visible – not only due to the new location but also due to the new building’s architecture. This spatial change might complement an environment which, according to Wolfgang, is being shaped on the one hand by technological change (‘digitalization’) and on the other hand by people’s changing expectations (‘New Work’). These changes, of course, affect the way in which we think about and engage in education and teaching.

Wolfgang Weicht – Digital and Innovation Officer

A degree or travelling the world

“When a young person coming out of school today is thinking about what to do next and has 20,000 Euros available to invest in their future, their first choice is no longer necessarily going to be obtaining a degree in order to prepare for a vocation and career. Maybe they will choose to travel the world and develop themselves further in that way, or maybe they will start a start-up, because that is the bigger adventure.”

Digital tools allow for quicker and simpler access to knowledge that was previously exclusive to experts. Thus, the ‘gate-keeper’ function of universities is weakening. An individual does not need to be enrolled in an expensive university in order to listen to excellent lectures and have access to knowledge. But if that is the case, what functions remain for universities?

Creating value – not just for shareholders

“In addition to knowledge transmission, business schools will perform two main functions in the future. Firstly, the real social network between students and professors, but also to other actors within the city, is gaining in importance. The ‘user experience of campus life’ is becoming a distinctive value-added feature. Secondly, business schools in particular have the responsibility of approaching entrepreneurship in a holistic fashion – not just in terms of shareholder value. We must begin increasingly transmitting values and educating entrepreneurs who possess a sense of social and environmental responsibility.”

To ensure these values are not just passed along in the classroom setting, the Frankfurt School is developing and strengthening a series of initiatives. An example of such an initiative is the ‘Frankfurt Lab,’ founded by Wolfgang. It is a platform on which entrepreneurs, innovators, students and teachers can exchange ideas and negotiate about important values in a collaborative fashion. Another example is an independent edition of the TED-x talks held on campus at the Frankfurt School. They also have a ‘Health and Wellness Initiative,’ as the time-honoured concept of “mensa sana in corpore sano” is increasing in importance during the age of burnout, digital dementia and the struggle to achieve work-life Balance.

A chocolate-croissant against digital dementia?

Robos, zombies and creative people

“If we want to prepare people adequately for the future, we must ultimately enable them to be much more creative. In the future, one third of the work will be characterized by robo-jobs, one third by poorly paid zombie-jobs and one third will be made up of creative-jobs. ‘Creative-jobs’ do not mean artistic endeavors, but rather a type of work that can only be successfully completed by the application of humanities innate skills, including ideas, empathy, responsibility and social interaction.”

A business school that does not create egocentric soldiers of capitalism, but rather specializes in educating entrepreneurs who will bring added-value to society? That doesn’t promote knowledge consumption, but rather provides a platform for creating sense and engaging in self-exploration? A school in which professors don’t present recipe for future success, but rather one in which one undertakes a joint journey of exploration? That sounds exciting – almost as adventurous as founding your own start-up.

Wolfgang´s answer to Mikkel’s question from #interview 14: What happens when we work together in a truly interdisciplinary manner – with people who come from completely different industries? What experiences have been made on this Topic?

Often, the point is not to set out with the intention of trying to work together – rather, it is important to create platforms on which people from completely different areas will meet. An impressive example I’ve experienced was when, during a discussion at the space agency ESA, an employee of the Mars Mission began describing issues they were experiencing with image recognition and then a biologist from the Max Planck Insitute was able to help out with solutions used in her field of research. Something like that can hardly be systematically created, but we need to create the space and opportunities in which it is possible – the exchange of ideas will automatically create the added-value.

Wolfgang’s question:

“Why do we work?”