Wolfgang explains how he leads digital transformation at Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and tells us how he learnt project management from being a chef.
How would you describe your role at Frankfurt School?
I am part of a team of imagineers at Frankfurt School. In terms of digital transformation, we are responsible for trying to turn a vision into concrete action items. It’s about getting people on board and helping them feel comfortable with change: helping them see change as an opportunity to be more productive and creative.
It’s a mixture of being Captain Cook and being a scrum master. We are responsible for smoothing the way. Together with the business units, I analyse the current situation and the challenges and opportunities they’re facing. We evaluate potential solutions together, evaluate the risks and complexity of a pilot project, come up with a roadmap and do a first ‘baby step’ with a minimum viable product.
How did you come to your role?
I joined FS this year. The organisation saw the demand to align all the digital and transformational requirements from the different business units across the organisation to ensure synergies and costs effectiveness. I try to apply my 20 years of working in the digital field – at startups, marketing agencies and global corporates – to the higher education market.
In the past, you’ve worked as an arthouse cinema manager and a chef. How have these roles informed the direction of your career?
People always say there's no through line in my CV, but to me it makes total sense. In the end, it is all about trying to changing people’s behaviour for the better.
I learnt project management from being a chef. If you don't do your meal plans in the morning you'll be stuck later on. It’s about organising workflows, assigning responsibilities and allocating the necessary resources.
I worked in a little organic store for a while. I started to do A/B testing to see how I could improve the sales of coconuts. I thought maybe the reason people don't buy them is that they don't know how to open them. I did a test by putting some stickers on them which explained how to open them as if it were a manual. As a result, I was able to sell more coconuts. Now, whenever someone says to me that they're a sales expert, I ask them to sell me a coconut.
I’ve also learnt a lot by being a local community manager, running meetups, hackathons and TEDx conferences for over 10 years.
What are the main challenges you face in your role, and how do you try to overcome them?
To achieve a consistent level of commitment to transformation across the organisation. Making sure no one fears transformation. And on the flip side, making sure that those who seem over-motivated about transformation have a realistic view of what the organisation can achieve.
Innovation is about exploration, going where no one has gone before and overcoming the fear of failure. I always try to lead by example. I never try to force someone to change. If you try to force someone, you will fail
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
Going there every morning and saying 'yes, we can do this'. Seeing the feedback from people who agree that change needs to be happen. Innovation is about judging the risk: what can happen if we fail, what can happen if we succeed.
Image from Frankfurt School
How would you describe Frankfurt Labs?
We’re getting a new campus and Frankfurt Labs will be part of the new opening. It's an answer to the demand we currently have from students. They say they want to do skill training and meet people who goals in common with them. So we thought it would be worth us having this honeypot for ideation.
In the US, lots of business schools have started to set up innovation and startup centres. It’s a reaction to the fact that students are asking themselves “should I invest 20k into my MBA or into my first startup?”. Universities are no longer the gatekeeper of a career path. Frankfurt Labs is our response to this.
It will basically focus on the ideation process. It will be 800 square metres in total. 400 square metres will be something like d.school at Stanford. Then on the other side, 400 square metres will be like MIT Media Lab. It's a bit like a circus and I'm the director. It's up to the actors and the audience what comes out of it.
It's an explorational tool for FS. We have a framework but we don't really have a master plan. We will do iterations and see what's working and what isn't.
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