A Cross-Section of Our Year 2021: From Network to Blockchain

The year 2021 was an extraordinary one in many respects. And now that we are entering the home stretch, fortunately it is not only the crisis that remains as a noteworthy balance sheet. Hardly ever before have serious change processes – caused by the global pandemic and spurred on by the possibilities of digitalization – been initiated so quickly and so comprehensively. While companies, educational institutions and event organizers shifted their services and ways of working to the World Wide Web, people came together on digital channels, founded their own companies and educated themselves online to take advantage of the opportunities and requirements of the new age. For many, this has already paid off. And for many others, it still will. Because those who sharpen their profile today with an eye to the future may be called to completely new, exciting tasks tomorrow.

Our mission is, and always has been, to educate responsible talents and impart the necessary knowledge and skill-set, to enable progress and shape the future. Working closely with award-winning and renowned lecturers and practitioners, we are constantly evaluating the demands placed on modern leaders and addressing key trends in our Executive & Professional course offerings to provide them with all the tools they need to become highly effective and innovative decision makers. In our 2021 stories so far, we’ve touched on a few of these.

“Modern companies need technological literacy at all management levels,” said Prof. Claudia Peus, Founding Director of the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning and Senior Vice President for Talent Management and Diversity, TUM, in our spring issue this year. The reasons are obvious: If you look at the major business success stories of the last decades, such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, a common denominator becomes obvious. They have all leveraged the technological capabilities of their time to rethink products and services.

“For those who aim to replicate such a success story today, keeping an overview of the latest technological advancements and their potential is a must,” Prof. Peus affirmed. Whether it’s new developments in AI, blockchain, bioengineering, or the shift toward climate-friendly and socially sustainable living, decision-makers can only capitalize on the trends of the future with a certain level of technology understanding. “What is necessary for everyone is to capture the implications of a technology, including its ethical and social implications,” Prof. Peus also believes.

To ensure that such knowledge does not become obsolete as quickly as it is built up, continuous, lifelong learning is also important: “The last few months have illustrated this more vividly than anyone could have imagined before. After all we had to learn in no time how to collaborate digitally, hire candidates using digital tools, or even run an entire organization from home,” she explains, adding a perspective: “While hopefully the pandemic will be over in the foreseeable future – the need to learn will not.”

Continuous learning is also a must for harnessing data, as we showed in our second spring story. TThe fact that almost unlimited potential lies dormant here was also confirmed by Michael Reuter, who, is CEO and co-founder of the Munich-based Blockchain specialist Datarella and a guest lecturer in the Certificate Program “Certified Blockchain & Distributed Ledger Technology Manager”: “In terms of value, data is the new oil.”

In order to manage such complex, technical information in a secure and decentralized manner and ultimately use it in a profitable and meaningful way, however, a fundamental understanding of Blockchain technology will be indispensable in the future, he says: “Blockchain provides the foundational layer as a safer, more efficient, more resilient and more sustainable alternative to conventional data management approaches. Ultimately, this will enable new data-driven business models,” Reuter explains.

And not only that. Because once this still relatively new technology becomes the industry standard, it will also have a decisive impact on other areas, as Academic Program Director of this Certificate Program, Prof. Florian Matthes explained: “In general, using a blockchain makes a lot of sense for managing supply chains because people could benefit from transparency and more information about the products and properties that are in transit. Combined with identification systems that are currently developed for IoT, this new form of autonomous tracking and tracing could really become a game-changer,” he adds. For Michael Reuter, gaining the ability to assess which Blockchain could or should be used for which use case will be most important for decision makers. “Learning about the organizational, economic and regulatory aspects of Blockchain technology is essential for managers – and will be even more going forward.”

Of course, building a professional future is not just about accumulating skills and new knowledge. Targeted networking also helps open doors behind which new opportunities lie. In our summer issue, we took this into account and, together with Dr. Brooke Gazdag, an Organizational Psychologist, Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam and former Postdoctoral researcher at TUM, we also looked at the changed networking conditions in times of the Corona crisis and the triumph of social networks. According to Dr. Gazdag, establishing and maintaining contact has changed dramatically in the course of digitalization. But this should also be seen as an opportunity: “The key with any digital change is not to try to copy and paste our habits to the digital world but rather to recognize and analyze the changes. This helps us to identify opportunities opening up as a result of the disruption,” stated Gazdag. “In short, the key is to let the situation work to your advantage.”

Aside from the pandemic, the ways and means to a climate-neutral, sustainable and socially just future probably occupied us most in 2021. At the same time, many entrepreneurs had to concede that they had positioned their businesses in a way that was too short-sighted and susceptible to crises. Add to this a poor carbon footprint due to the careless consumption of resources, and many young talents on the labor market turned down such companies.

Consequently, for the first time, sustainability entered the consciousness of the general public and our economy in a more widespread manner. “Sustainability is a broad term and often used in the wrong context. Corporate sustainability is about more than just protecting the environment. It is a business strategy for long-term growth that generates profits and works in harmony with people and the planet,” explained Prof. Hübner, Chair of Supply and Value Chain Management at the TUM Campus Straubing, in our fall issue. Since the change to a sustainable company orientation cannot be made overnight and must instead be understood as a long-term, DNA-changing process, it is essential to initiate it as soon as possible – starting with top management. First and foremost, especially in view of changing consumer demands, it is crucial to signal a willingness to change at the top, according to Prof. Hübner: “Companies need to react to the market changes, especially because the COVID-19 situation has demonstrated that crises further accelerate developments. Therefore, understanding how to face social and economic changes and learning the skills to execute sustainable strategies that meet the requirements of a future economy is now more important than ever before.”

At the end of the road, we could be heading for a bioeconomy that combines economic and environmental considerations in the best possible way. In our fall issue, we explored this prospect in more detail together with Prof. Anja Faße, lecturer in the new certificate program “Sustainable Management & Technology: Transformation towards Sustainability”. “The holistic and interdisciplinary approach of the bioeconomy requires different sociopolitical and entrepreneurial approaches,” she pointed out. “It not only needs technologies that can produce sustainable products. It needs people who understand the idea behind it, transfer the bioeconomy into business, implement it and develop it further. These people need to understand both the requirements for the technologies and the basic economic and entrepreneurial ideas.”

In order to be able to develop and implement the necessary solutions, tomorrow’s leaders must first understand the need for comprehensive economic structural change. “By combining topics from micro- and macroeconomics, chemistry, engineering and life sciences with comprehensive knowledge in the field of the efficient and sustainable use of biogenic resources, we at the TUM aim to convey that knowledge using an interdisciplinary approach,” Prof. Faße said in the interview. “Topics such as a sustainable circular economy as well as the cascade concept of use will become the cornerstones of a future bioeconomy and will find their way into our course offerings accordingly. Those who choose to get familiar with them now will be the ones appointed to higher tasks.”

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