Digital Transformation & Entrepreneurial Leadership

January 14, 2018

The WU Executive Academy's unique transfer method

Organizations have to face up to the challenge of embracing digital transformation. At the same time, they must not neglect their existing markets and strengths. In the course of delivering a multi-day training event for a German MNC, the WU Executive Academy’s executive education team demonstrated how organizations can gain a clear understanding of their next steps.

Change, transformation, upheaval or even revolution – there are many terms to describe the effects of digitalization on businesses. What is clear is that digitalization affects all industries. Market realities are increasingly changing, not only because of trends such as crossfunctional working but also because of growing competition from newcomers with radical business models. What is less clear, however, is how to embrace digital transformation in practice: How fast can organizations change and how fast do they need to change? Which of their established methods are still usable and useful? How can they manage the delicate balancing act of responding to change and sticking to time-tested approaches?

The task

Questions such as these are a matter of concern for finance and insurance businesses as well: powerful start-ups with lean structures are harnessing the potential of digital approaches and are thereby increasing the pressure on established players in these industries. Recently, the WU Executive Academy’s executive education experts supported a German MNC in gaining a clear understanding of how to best embark on its journey towards digitalization. A customized program lasting two and a half days led the organization to identify possible avenues of action. “We set the scene with a transfer method,” explains Helga Pattart- Drexler, Head of Executive Education. In the run-up to the training, the participants had to work on a concrete scenario, namely a business case developed specifically for this event. For this task, the participants focused their attention on five aspects: customer experience, way to work, innovation, collaboration with start-ups and leadership.

Visualization of the custom program
An overview of the workshop's concepts

The implementation

“The workshops themselves make it possible for the participants to fine-tune their approaches to embracing digital transformation,” says Helga Pattart-Drexler. Here is what the training involved: On the first day, a field trip took them behind the scenes of the start-up community, which is an invaluable source of ideas and inspiration, especially for large organizations. Interacting with the founders of start-ups and gaining real insights into their ways of working allowed the participants to experience the spirit typically present at these young and dynamic businesses. Yet above all else, it provided them with an opportunity to think about possible business models and about what their organizations can learn from start-ups.

The next day, the executives received fresh academic inputs on the topic of digitalization and were once again reminded of its significance. Afterwards, they developed their own coping strategies. Harnessing their creativity, they worked not only on new business models and revenue streams but also on ways to overcome both uncertainty and the fear of making mistakes. Some even drew up concrete offers for clients. What mattered in this context was not to create perfect results but to act swiftly and to understand the new market realities.

The third day was all about implementing the newly acquired knowledge in practice. In the course of a simulation, the participants had to respond quickly to changes, which trained their leadership qualities. The simulation was quite a challenge, but one they tackled with great enthusiasm. “At the end, there was an open discussion about the individual contributions,” says Helga Pattart-Drexler. Experts from the fields of digitalization, innovation, entrepreneurship and product development hosted and taught the workshops. One such expert is Thomas Funke, who co-founded the Tech Quartier Frankfurt and has started several start-ups.

The outcome

Why was this training event special? Learning from others, gaining first-hand experience and developing and implementing one’s own concepts were all part of it. It is thanks to this special approach to the transfer of training that the WU Executive Academy turns theory into practice and creates sustainable outcomes for organizations. The process of closely examining existing strengths and new opportunities results in concrete products and solutions. As participants work on tasks designed to reflect their specific needs and requirements, they experience not only how to embrace digital transformation but also what the individual can do to help bring it to life. There are no dry lectures; instead, the training focuses on actively developing strategies together for practical use – and in the future dealing with digital matters will be considered a key leadership skill. “One of our top priorities is to ensure that participants can readily transfer the things they learn in our programs to everyday business,” says Helga Pattart-Drexler, adding that the transfer is supported not only by steps taken before the workshops as well as methods used during the training delivery but also through tailor-made follow-up measures.

As far as the project under discussion is concerned, individual coaching was provided after two months in order to help the participants recall and reinforce what they had learned. “This approach makes it possible for organizations as a whole to see digital revolution as an opportunity and not a threat,” explains Helga Pattart-Drexler. Participants develop as individuals, and, in doing so, they take their entire organization forward. “This is a wonderful example of how to achieve training success and a meaningful and long lasting transfer of learning,” concludes Helga Pattart- Drexler, who is very pleased with the training results.

The WU Executive Academy’s executive education division specializes in developing in-house training programs for national and international organizations. Click here to see a selection of these company solutions.

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The effects of digitalization impacts all industries. What does this mean for companies?

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