Touched down in Malta twice today, as the first landing was aborted. All went safely, but a good reminder that it always is necessary to close safety belts tightly and stow away things that can fly around in such a procedure, or others.
I had the pleasure to invite a group of 30 MBA students from the University of Hong Kong over for a comparative field trip Germany and France. We visited companies and institutions like Hessischer Rundfunk, Porsche, Mercedes Benz, the Multi-Generation House of the Gebrüder Schmid Foundation, EUROCORPS, the E.A.S.E training factory, an institution of the European Parliament, a Vinyard, BASF, HPP Consulting and the German Central Bank. We had excellent speakers and guides in all these venues and everybody, including me, learned a lot. On weekends and public holidays we strolled through cultural and historic places, and shopped down the Middle Rhine Gorge diving into medieval history. The weather was extremely changeable, but we were resilient to the showers and treated ourselves with great food choices. Now I am looking forward to read reflections and project reports due on May 19th. I am really eager to learn different perspectives and thoughts on my home region.
Yesterday I picked Malva to make tea. Tastes nice and the color is yellowish at first. Then I added some lemon to make it more refreshing and surprise: it immediately turned pinkish, more resembling the malva flowers. I repeated it on a white kitchen towel, and see the difference below. I tried to grasp the kitchen chemistry behind it by strolling through Wikipedia while drinking the tea, but remained unsuccessful. Does anybody know what happens here and why the color changes? Is it any drop of pH (I can try that tomorrow) or is it something else in the lemon?
About from an annual GDP growth rate of 5% people appear to become wasteful. I have seen it in East Germany after the 1989 reunification, when people were running to Aldi to buy fruits, while tons were rotting on the trees. I have also seen it in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, now Malta. I came back from a walk with a few branches of Malva to make some tea at home. On the way I met a neighbor, let's call him George. He became excited when he saw my Malva branches and told me, that when he was a child, they ate the flowers with honey. "Do you want some, George?", I asked him. No thanks, I got some Coke in the fridge.Read More
It was a pleasure to follow the invitation to give a guest lecture at the School of International Studies (ZIS) at the Technical University Dresden. It is the 4th year I received the honor to speak on different topics, taking the perspective of a practitioner in a school which has a far broader scope than this. This time it was on Opportunities and Risks along China‘s One Belt One Road Initiative. Again, I specially enjoy the discussions with the excellent students there and last but not least the friendly atmosphere in the faculty. At first sight, the small red brick building hosting the ZIS does not let you anticipate what a great reach this interdisciplinary center at the TU Dresden has. I had the pleasure to flip though a folder of alumni, and the little place is actually like the spider in the web of a global network reaching into institutions like the World Bank, OECD, Central Banks, major corporations and German and international diplomacy and even NATO. I am not surprised, knowing the students and the quality of teaching they receive.
Hamburg greeted me with extremely nasty weather. Still, I walked around a lot and was introduced by a friend to the new development of the "Hafenstadt". It is quite a colossal development and, given I dislike retro-design, I always find it difficult to match the new and the "old" of the Speicherstadt. Given the weather, I opted to visit the museums and my favorite is always the maritime exhibition, which brings me back to the time of my university studies and own travel. I guess that's what always happens when you love the subjects you studied: each visit you dig some level deeper. And then I found in the Arts Hall (Kunsthalle), another painting in parallel to Vermeer's Geographer. It's Corlenis de Man's "Geographers at work". I still favor the Vermeer though. Unfortunately, the photo exhibitions at the Deichtorhalle was just under construction for the next exhibition. After three sustained days of rain, I took the train back to Frankfurt. But I enjoyed being in the north. I even went “shopping” at my one and only clothing store, which is Ernst Brendler and got a woolen Troyer. I really needed it.
Over the years I was the subject of a few business cases, and also found it useful to build up an own stock of such cases for my teaching in postgraduate business programmes and Executive Education. The case method goes back to the law school of Harvard University where it was introduced in the 1870s. The approach to derive common principles from cases in a system where case law in place, appears reasonable. In 1920 the Harvard Business School introduced cases as a method to train management students. Normally, to “crack it” the students have to put themselves into the shoes of a business leader and derive a suggestion for action, using the information given in the text and also applying a framework or “theory”.
Especially, in cases where I was the subject myself, like in “Shanghai Volkswagen: Time for a radical shift or gears” (2005) it strikes me how oversimplified the students propose their suggestions. Sometimes, when I google on the web, I find sample solutions and interpretations which really make me laugh. For example one was praising my strategic foresight of a decisions, while in reality it was 3 in the morning in a meeting room and I wanted to get my team to get some sleep before the board meeting on the same day.
Also, the in cases, which I published myself with colleague I can well imagine what really went on in the manager’s mind and this had far more dimensions than we can state in this format. And I can imagine, most other case have the same issue, specially those written by pure academics who never actually decided anything of substance. There is normally more than one solution, the situation is more complex than stated in the case and the information is given, is not sufficient to come up with a real proposal which would work outside the textbook.
There was some critique to the case method, that there should be more of a philosophical undercurrent included in decision making, for example by Donham and Whitehead in Business Adrift. Also, in 2016 a paper by Todd Bridgman, Stephen Cummings, and Colm McLaughlin is "Restating the Case: How Revisiting the Development of the Case Method Can Help Us Think Differently About the Future of the Business School". And of course Minzberg commented critical and others. Still the Harvard style machine kept running.
I use cases only for introductory purposes and to have some “lab environment” of an isolated problem. That’s useful, but not sufficient. After that, I immediately switch to real-life examples, where finding and analyzing information available and useful is part of the assignment. I was never a big supporter of frameworks anyway and I honestly have never seen any complex problem, which can be solved by for example by a blabla-Matrix. It may help to structure initial thoughts or communicate with people who have been trained in the same jargon. But it’s unlikely to deliver an intelligent and holistic solution.
I find business problems extremely interesting to solve. But cocking by the book does not appear to me being the golden bullet, specially when you look at the books the management profession has. I fully agree that learning by doing and dealing with real-life problems is a good element in business education. But is that really what we are doing with these cases? It looks pretty 1920s type of analysis to me. And “doing”? What do you mean? A presentation is not the kind of “doing” I normally experience.
Anyway, now I have to think about a teaching note for a new case which will be published soon. They always come as a package. I am always a bit puzzled when Professors need teaching notes. But they come as a package. It’s a bit like you need a recipe to make a pizza. Hope they grow quickly into cooking gourmet meals. Don’t slide into hot dog. Enjoy.
There was a teriffic storm in Malta. My plan to enjoy an earlier start of spring there, than in Germany, did not succeed. There were even biblical scenes of fish bashed out of the sea onto the roads. Some of the offshore fish farms broke open in the wild sea. Back in Germany, I spent most time in the National Library in Frankfurt and stroll through the museums from time to time, when I need a break. I closed my Facebook account, as it became too repetitive and actually a bit boring. Those missing me there, can follow here on my website, which I will revive a little in the months to come. I kept the Instagram account though, and if you visit this website from a PC browser you can see this “snaps” in the right hand column.
Just back from Milan and visiting the Pinacotheca di Brera, I ran into Tizian again in the exhibition of “Tizian und Renaissance in Venedig” (Tizian and the Renaissance in Venice) in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. Then went over to the Schirn Kunsthalle to see the sculptures of Gironcoli exhibited there in a single room. At least it let me put Murphy by Samuel Beckett put on my reading list, which was taken reference to.
Even in the mornings the grass still has its white iceing, spring is around the corner. It was a short winter after an endless summer of 2018, and it feels like only now the new year has really started. It is time to get out in the forest and this weekend I went back to my home turf, the Westerwald. It is a region, said to have chilling winds, but that every little sunshine pierces the heart. So, what can be a better place to go for greeting the first mild and sunny days? I also visited the Archeological Institute and Museum at Monrepos. Back being a student a student, I was involved in Paleolithic excavations with a research group around Gerhard Bosinki. This was the cradle of this museum and I was extremely happy to see, it is in such good shape and very active.