Written by Arlette Dumont du Voit and Christina Pfeifer
In a one week course about change management we not only learned a lot about change but also fell in love with the Slovenian city Ljubiljana and its warm and welcoming inhabitants.
Ljubiljana as the capital is the centre of Slovenia. With around 300.000 inhabitants it’s quite small but had a lot to offer to us. On Sunday after breakfast we started our day with a guided tour through the castle to discover living history. Every decade of history was described by actors and we learned that not only Frankfurt School students sometimes live in hamster feels but also the Romans. We got acquainted with live in prison, under the French occupation and Saint George who killed the dragon. Some of us made a boat tour on the Ljubiljanca, the small river, that wiggle through the city and gives during the hot summer days a little bit of freshness.
Change Management and Design Thinking
On Monday the course started with the warm welcome from Alma from the University and our teachers John and Jurij. The university made with our course a new step and changed to a live case in which we as the executives and all the younger students from the summer school had the chance to consult and help to overcome the change issues of a small family business that had acquired the bankrupt business of a former client.
ATECH CEO Davor Jakulin presented us the story of his company and the new acquisition. During a visit of the production plant in Materija his team showed us production facilities and made us acquainted with their products. Atech bought the former client Perles that produce tools and machinery and now has to be integrated as a new business into old structures. Thanks to Aleksander, who made ground research in building centres we could also see these products in live action. Beside our normal program we discussed in small groups how to overcome the cultural and business issues ATECH and PERLES and presented at the end of the week our change strategies. One of our class mates described Frankfurt School students as greyhounds in a race.
In a Design Thinking workshop we designed concepts for an ice cream take away and developed new business ideas. The creative process was improved by product samples organized from Jurij and our class mate Luka.
Every group was responsible of mentoring five younger students from the summer school program. Before this could take place John taught us what is important when we mentor other people: listening and asking questions. So in two sessions we improved our capabilities and helped the youngsters to find their own way instead of imitating others. For all of us this was an interesting experience. All students came from different countries and in our sessions we could observe the intercultural differences within communication and had to handle them with care. It was impressive how people change from uncertainty to creativity and strong ideas when somebody asks the right questions.
After an eventful week in Ljubljana there is a lot left to write home about, for which there was simply no time to do so. Let us sum up the most lasting and important take away from our summer school:
1. Ljubljana must be one of the world’s best kept secrets. We don’t think anyone of us expected such a vibrant and beautiful town and atmosphere even though people had told us before that is was “really nice” – an understatement.
2. The international program at Ljubljana University is run by a team of dedicated people with a warm smile, great heart and helpfulness. They made our stay very special!
3. Slovenian food is fantastic for all those who really need to gain a lot of weight in a very short amount of time. For all the rest of us, we will need to work off all that excess ice cream luggage that we built up along the way. A design thinking case on premium Slovenian ice cream that required extensive testing (how rapid can prototyping be?) was a great idea…
4. John, our teacher, is a great “Edutainer” who was fun and insightful to listen to. With the help of Jurij, a local business consultant and entrepreneur, he managed to also introduce us to the Slovenian business environment by exposing us to three cases of which one was to be our major assignment: presenting a change management solution to a producer of electrical b2b goods who recently acquired a b2c provider of electrical tools. Alma, the heart of the course organization, introduced us not only to her beautiful hometown but made us also acquainted with Slovenian culture and the great food.
5. The latter also allowed us to get to know a Slovenian business, their CEO and some of their team members – all very interesting, warm and open people – quite well through the case and their involvement, so much so that at some point we spoke of “us” and “we” when we referred to the company in preparation of the presentations.
6. Frankfurt School students are “greyhounds”. This is a quote of a fellow summer school student from a different university who said that he has never seen people so eager to chase the next challenge.
In all, we think it is fair to say that none of us regrets this choice or would have minded to stay for another week… We had a fantastic time and take away a lot of great memories of many, many nice moments, this being one of them.
Arlette Dumont du Voit is part of the EMBA Class and Partner at amontis consulting ag in Heidelberg. Together with Christina and other classmates she visited Slovenia for their international week.