Michael Hilb is an entrepreneur, board member and professor who designed the pioneering ‘Realising Digital Value Creation’ course at the Executive MBA University of Zurich. The course will immerse participants in incubator settings around the world, connect them with global change agents and give them a compass to thrive in a rapidly changing digital age.
We sat down with Michael Hilb to learn why this particular program will be critical for leaders.
Professor Hilb, thank you for speaking with us today. Before we dive into the course you’re leading, can you tell us what drew you to the University of Zurich?
My pleasure and thank you for this opportunity. I’m always happy to discuss innovative ventures and that is exactly how I would describe the new program at the University of Zurich. I would say I was drawn to the University of Zurich because of the pioneering nature of their new EMBA program.
We are in a unique period of fundamental change. We hear the word digitalization used quite frequently but what is it, really?
Digitalization is not a technology. Nor is it a function. It’s the new normal. And, while this age is disrupting many industries and causing upheaval, it also offers tremendous opportunities for pioneers. Pioneers are individuals who can spot change, see it as an opportunity and want to shape the future.
Yet, despite the growing need for pioneers, many EMBA programs offered by universities are still quite traditional. The University of Zurich recognized a need in the market and created this pioneering Executive MBA. A pioneering program for pioneers if you will. This type of program will be the new normal in a few years but for now, the University of Zurich is leading the way and I’m pleased to be part of the venture.
Tell us more about the trends you’ve seen that prompted you to design the program’s “Realising Digital Value Creation” course?
A few years ago, as the age of digitalization was dawning, I was working at a large company. I experienced first-hand how fast everything was changing. However, I also realised that if you are quick to spot the opportunities in change, you could build new businesses and create value.
Having this pioneering spirit and being able to spot ideas and turn them into value, whether financial, social or environmental, helped me thrive. As an entrepreneur I realised I needed to help future pioneers to master their ability to create value in rapid change.
Being able to take a value creation perspective is what differentiates the dreamers from the doers. Therefore, I’ve designed a course that stimulates would-be pioneers in their thinking and action by exposing them to different perspectives and challenging them to turn ideas into impact.
Can you give us a brief overview of the course?
Certainly! There are two sections to the journey that span the length of the program. We begin with Mastering Digital Value Creation to provide critical frameworks and an overall orientation for the coming courses — a compass if you will. The second section is all about applying the compass in interactive start up environments. Under the guidance of entrepreneurs and key experts, participants develop their true north and turn their ideas into value.
You’ve designed your courses to be delivered in incubator settings around the world. What is it about the incubator environment that is critical to this course?
To be able to understand and, more importantly, create value in the digital age, we need to ideate, prototype and design in the field.
By delivering the course in incubator environments, we get the pioneers in the mindset required to innovate.
I will be joined by carefully selected change agents who will be an integral part of the incubator experience. We will have representation from large tech companies like Google who have been pioneers in their own right; serial entrepreneurs who have gone through the process of spotting opportunities and failures; and more established companies who have gone through digital transformation. All these change agents have one thing in common — they have dramatically transformed businesses.
And since we are selective about whom we admit into the program, we anticipate that we will equally enjoy learning from the pioneers and their wealth of experience and ideas.
One take away from this course is that students will learn that you cannot rely on formal structures in the age of disruption. I hope that by interacting and exchanging ideas with these change agents, our pioneers realise the power of networks in being successful and continue to leverage the connections they make through this program.
Speaking of mindsets, what attitude or approach should participants bring to this course?
To succeed in this program, and in their careers today, leaders need character, competence and courage. However, the most important ingredient is curiosity. In fact, curiosity is the most relevant predictor for success among business leaders according to many experts. This is a quality we will look for in our applicants.
Why do you believe your students will be better prepared for the age of digitalization after this course?
After completing this course and the program, our pioneers will have developed key skills to thrive in the digital age. They will be able to spot opportunities, become very clear about articulating the opportunities in change, develop ideas of how to shape these opportunities into real outcomes and importantly, transform ideas into impact.
Why should employers support a high-potential choosing this program?
Smart employers will benefit from sending their high-potentials on two levels. First, if a company has a concrete project in the works, this can become a change idea that the pioneer takes from ideation to value creation during the course of the program. Of course, the employer can choose to hire a consultant for such a project, but that would cost more. Instead, by choosing this program, the employer benefits from the pooled insights of all the change agents the high-potential will rely on during this journey.
Second, for organizations to thrive in the digital age, their high-potentials need to learn to be pioneers. However, pioneers require an environment in which they can take risks. And, despite their best intentions, organizations often shy away from committing time and resources to allow their talent to flex this muscle. In this program, employers benefit from the environment we create in which their high-potentials can take risks, make mistake and learn from them under the careful guidance of successful change agents.
The sponsoring organization will immediately recognize the investment as their high-potentials start looking for new opportunities, spot value in change and develop their ability to turn ideas into impact.
Michael, thank you for taking the time to give us an advanced look at your unique course design. We’re excited to see the ventures that spring from this year’s class.
As am I! Every class is a new venture for me. The participants are constantly pushing each other and me to break new ground and innovate. As an entrepreneur, I view each class as a start up venture and it is invigorating.
The University of Zurich’s EMBA in General Management, Focus on: Digital Transformation is still accepting applications from would-be pioneers for the intake 2019-2021 which starts in October 2019. Learn more today.
Prof Michael Hilb will be delivering a ”taster lecture” with material from his course on 22. August 2019 at the University of Zurich. For more information and to register for the lecture please register here.