Professor Jürgen Weigand joined WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management back in 2000 as Chairholder of the Institute for Industrial Organization. Since then, he has spearheaded the launch of both the Full-Time and Part-Time MBA programs, led in the position of academic director for the Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA, and is now deputy dean and associate dean for academic programs. With a wealth of expertise and strategic insights, Professor Weigand is a respected proponent at WHU, commanding the attention of both students and peers. He has seen the early beginnings of the MBA programs to the #1 ranked study options they are today. We talk to Professor Weigand as he looks back at his first foray into teaching and what tomorrow’s students can expect from the WHU MBA Program.
What are the most essential skills for MBA students?
I recently discussed this topic with our full-time batch who graduate this summer. What they all highlighted were interpersonal and social skills. While knowledge and hard facts are important, being an effective team member or understanding individual strengths is crucial. A team is more than the sum of its parts. Of course, students need other skills, such as digital competencies, but these will be commonplace. It is a given that you learn to use new software. This is where the MBA program from WHU can really make a difference, with its personal growth and leadership development module. By fostering self-awareness throughout the course, you can develop as both a person and a leader. If you grasp the opportunities offered, there is the potential for some genuinely transformational growth.
How did you first start teaching?
When I completed a diploma in economics (today’s equivalent of a master’s degree), I became a research and teaching assistant. I started teaching as the assistants oversaw the exercise sessions, which followed the lectures, so students could practice what they learned in class. However, my first official experience teaching was in executive education right after the fall of the Iron Curtain. I was invited by German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche to visit East Germany and teach senior members of former GDR (German Democratic Republic) companies about a market-based economy.
What is your teaching style?
Teaching in the past was usually someone standing at the front of a room leading a lecture. Every now and then, a student might dare to ask a question. The exercise sessions I experienced as an assistant opened my eyes as they were interactive from the start, with plenty of dialogue with students. This is why my style now is heavily interactive. I invite MBA students to participate in the discussions and contribute their own experiences and knowledge. Often, I am more a moderator than an instructor; I bring it all together. I combine this style with what I aim to teach, but often it is more of an exchange than a classic “lecture” experience.
What can MBA students expect from your courses?
I provide MBA students with the theoretical and economic underpinnings of strategy. My area of expertise is industrial organization, which I translate into strategy. What do we need for business strategy in a structured, systematic way? How can economic models help us to better understand what kind of market situation we might be facing? Who’s the competition? And how can we position a company and its products competitively?
Any advice for prospective students?
When we consider the Full-Time MBA, around 87% of the student body is international. Many have never visited Germany or Europe before. It is an entirely new environment and can be culturally very different for them. It requires courage to take that step, and I always congratulate them. Even in difficult times, they come here, to another country, to learn and develop as leaders. So always take courage!
Otherwise, my advice for prospective students is to interact as much as possible, not just in the classroom but also outside of it. Think outside of the box. In fact, think beyond any of the boxes you have known so far! Approach every day with an open mind and be ready to learn from every experience.