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Campus - 21.04.2023 - 09:00 

Extreme athlete as coach: HSG students become business consultants during their bachelor’s degree

Towards the end of their bachelor’s degree, HSG business students are required to solve real-life problems faced by companies: in a practical course, they apply all the knowledge gleaned during their studies - and gain insights into the working world. During the course, they are coached by an extreme athlete, among others.

21,000 kilometres on a bicycle, partly through Siberia, 5,000 kilometres on foot through South America and 450 kilometres swimming in the sea: this is how 35-year-old Jonas Deichmann circumnavigated the globe on his own from the end of 2020. The German extreme athlete spoke to HSG business students in February 2023 to get them in the mood for a milestone in their bachelor’s studies: in the so-called Capstone project, students become business consultants for one semester. They develop solutions for real problems that a wide variety of companies present to them. “Have the courage to go your own way. You have to break down big visions into small goals”, Deichmann advised the students. 

During the 2023 spring semester, these students will work with practical partners such as the Swiss Army, the consulting firm PWC and various start-ups from the sustainability and education sectors. “In doing so, they apply their knowledge gleaned during nearly three years of study and work in groups on problems for which there are no predefined solutions”, says Heiko Bergmann, HSG Titular Professor of Entrepreneurship, who organises the Capstone projects. The students take a scientific and interdisciplinary approach to finding solutions: they interview experts, they conduct intensive research, they conduct surveys, and they apply techniques to promote creativity and decision-making. Experienced HSG faculty staff assist them as sparring partners.

Capstone strengthens practical experience

The format was introduced in 2021 as part of the reform of the HSG’s bachelor’s degree programme. “Capstone focuses much more on practical experience in the business administration bachelor’s programme at HSG”, says Bergmann. It thus complements the bachelor’s thesis, which is usually more theoretically oriented. “Capstone gave me the opportunity to work in a group where there is a wide range of expertise. And by working with companies, it prepares us students for what might lie ahead in our professional lives”, says HSG bachelor’s student Estelle Wavre. She completed an analysis of the market potential of vegan dog food for a company as part of Capstone during the 2022 autumn semester. “I’m convinced that this type of project is more informative than any other theoretical course”, says Wavre. At the same time, she says Capstone gave her team the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge from strategic management or marketing to market research. “It was also an excellent opportunity to identify in more depth where our interests and strengths lie”, she continues.

Students practice self-critique

“In fact, promoting students’ abilities for self-reflection is an important learning objective of the Capstone projects”, comments Bergmann. All students write a paper about what they have done and learned and critically examine their own work process. Furthermore, self-reflection, self-critique and agility are also required in the collaboration with the companies: after an initial research phase, the practical partners must approve a project proposal from the students. After an interim presentation mid-semester, it may be necessary to incorporate corrections requested by the companies. At the end, the students present their results with a short video and documentation, among other things, for which they again receive detailed feedback. Correspondingly, extreme athlete Deichmann told the students, “Difficult projects are about stepping out of your comfort zone. And, of course, it takes passion to succeed”.

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