Campus - 10.06.2021 - 00:00 

Open Innovation Days - inspiration for new learning and teaching

The building of the HSG Learning Center is taking more shape day by day. To develop the spirit which should characterise the innovative place of learning after its inauguration, the Open Innovation Days were staged from 1-9 June. Students, faculty members, alumni and alumnæ, members of staff and practitioners talked to each other in order to make the Learning Center tangible, experienceable and palpable.

10 June 2021. The Open Innovation Days, which were initiated by HSG Alumni, provided a wealth of contributions, which were tested in a kind of pre-lab. The field of experimentation involved a wide variety of people who have links to the Learning Center. In 30 panel discussions, workshops, presentations, keynote speeches and open debates, they set out a cornucopia of ideas, topics and possible formats of shared learning, teaching and working.

What does the Learning Center mean for the HSG?

The role that the HSG Learning Center plays for the University of St.Gallen was the focus of a lunchtime chat with HSG President Bernhard Ehrenzeller and Dominik Isler, Delegate of the President’s Board for the directorship of the Learning Center. All efforts aimed at making the Learning Center a place of contact teaching in which students, faculty members, researchers and practitioners would like to stay awhile in order to talk to and learn from each other, emphasised Ehrenzeller. To ensure that interactions would evolve in various ways in the new space, the directorship had drawn up an operating concept which would also be further specified after the inauguration of the learning workshop and be adapted to requirements and circumstances.

Dominik Isler compared the Learning Center with a beehive that was nourished by different formats and offered much leeway for spontaneity. "This is about coming into contact with people who are not in the same ‘bubble’ and have different opinions, perspectives and backgrounds," he explained. This was intended to stimulate people to cope with ambivalence and to develop a collective intelligence. The goal was to prepare students for responsible leadership roles in business and society more intensively than ever before.

With the Learning Center, the HSG was aspiring to establish a lively exchange between generations in which everyone would actively participate and want to learn something from it, explained the HSG President. It was precisely for this reason that it was intended to involve practice partners who would stay there for a time and not only participate in formats but would also be available for spontaneous discussions. The Learning Center would be doing pioneering work. “What will be tested here and prove successful, should later be extended throughout the University.”

The world of work, learning and research is undergoing change

The place for future work, learning and research was also the topic of the debate between Aldo Reibke, Head of Real Estate Development at the HSG, Erik Adler, consultant for new worlds of work, and further participants. Aldo Reibke described the University of St.Gallen as a great cosmos in which all those involved mutually influenced each other. In this working, learning and researching world, everything was called into question and many things were turned upside down. Regardless of all these changes, it was particularly important at the HSG that people – both students and employees – would be the focus.

The discussion round suggested that more meeting places should be created on the entire campus, not merely in the Learning Center. At present, there was not any space where you could stay for a while and have spontaneous conversations with other students. Aldo Reibke assured participants that this lacuna had been recognised and solutions were being worked on.

Skills in an accelerated digital world

One of the panel discussions brought together Maja Remensberger, Chief Learning Officer at Swisscom, Satoshi Probala, Learning Experience Lead at Swiss Re, Alex Blattmann, CEO of MaxBrain, and Ranjit de Sousa, Global President of Lee Hecht Harrison. Their topic was entitled "New world. New skills. Upskilling for an accelerated digital world".

All four emphasised that the pandemic was accelerating digitalisation in their company and that working from home was one of the most determinative effects. Creating the technical conditions for this required rapid action without too much bureaucracy. The panel also agreed it was less the technical aspect that was the great challenge, but rather how people dealt with work at home. “The switch to working from home did something to us. Some people were worn out faster, others felt lonely, and others again set up their desk on the ironing board because there was no other space in the flat,” emphasised Maja Remensberger. Executives were called upon to improve conditions.

Some of the technical implementation of digitalisation was pure craftsmanship, confirmed Satoshi Probala. However, soft skills such as collaboration, agile work, resilience and change management were become increasingly important. The big question would be how to integrate lifelong learning into day-to-day work, added Ranjit de Sousa. Alex Blattmann addressed the part played by executives. "If executives don’t manage to follow change, then their staff will be lost as well."

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