The possibilities and future of online education

Online education has been on the rise in recent years, but the corona crisis has accelerated this development. In March, all educational institutions in The Netherlands, including Maastricht University, had to switch from offline to online education in no time. Before the virus turned our world upside down, we spoke with Dr. Boris Blumberg about the possibilities and future of online education.

Normally, Problem-Based Learning is central in the education of Maastricht University. Personal contact between students and between teacher and student plays an important role in this system. When the government announced that all educational institutions in our country had to close immediately, our largely offline university suddenly turned into an online university. Both technically and didactically, teachers and other employees had to adapt to a completely different way of working. Now that we are a few weeks later, it seems that students and staff are slowly getting used to their new daily routine. In studies that allow this, the university will continue to offer online education until the end of the academic year.


In early March, when everything was still ‘normal’, we spoke to Dr. Boris Blumberg about online education. As captain of MaastrichtMBA, he was closely involved in setting up and organising the EuroMBA Online Track. This online MBA programme has been part of the MBA portfolio of UMIO since 1 January 2020. The biggest advantage of online education is the flexibility it offers, Blumberg acknowledges. “By attending online education, students are not tied to a fixed location and can decide for themselves when to study and at what pace”, says the MBA captain. “This can be an interesting option for professionals with a busy job, but also for people who naturally prefer to sit behind a laptop than next to a fellow student. In addition, it offers opportunities for people who live in remote areas. We may not be bothered by that in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, but I know that, for example, Stellenbosch University in South Africa has many students who have to deal with it.”

Relocation of infrastructure

Do educational institutions themselves also benefit from offering online education? Is it, for example, cheaper than offering regular education? Blumberg thinks that nothing sensible can be said about that at this stage. “Replacing regular education with online education is actually a shift in infrastructure and therefore costs”, he says. “After all, you replace classrooms with server rooms, online platforms and other online facilities. And make no mistake, those facilities also cost a lot of money. I think it is currently still very difficult to make a statement about the difference in costs between the two types of education.”

EuroMBA Online Track

Lower costs are therefore certainly not the reason why Maastricht University started the EuroMBA Online Track on 1 January 2020. Blumberg: “Compared to the US and the UK, we are lagging behind in online university programmes in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. For the past 25 years, UMIO was a partner in the EuroMBA programme. When this programme was discontinued last year, we decided to create a new online MBA track to serve an emerging market. It was high time to start with this, because other markets have already developed much further.

Dr. Boris Blumberg.

Here, the megatrend of digitalisation comes into play. The opportunities to provide high quality online education have grown tremendously. The quality of video and audio is much better than a few years ago, as is the quality of online education platforms. And for our MBA target group it is very natural to communicate digitally; after all, they have been using mobile devices for most of their lives.”

The different nationalities of the students are a major strength of the EuroMBA Online Track. “The students all have different backgrounds and different world views. By discussing and exchanging ideas, they enrich each other’s thinking. That is very valuable. The personal approach is also a strength of our programme. There are 3 residential weeks in which the students come together at various universities in Europe. And within the online modules we work with small groups. We will never allow mass groups of students, because then we cannot guarantee personal attention. Last but not least, the education of the EuroMBA Online Track is of high quality. We work with top teachers and have maximum international recognition with our Triple Crown accreditation from the AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA institutions. Our track recently finished as the highest-ranked online MBA study in the Netherlands in CEO Magazine’s Global Online MBA Ranking. Globally, we finished in 13th place. That says a lot about the quality we offer.”

Blumberg is not afraid that the EuroMBA Online Track will keep students away from the Executive MBA Track of MaastrichtMBA. “I think it is important that students choose Maastricht University, and in that respect we have only increased the MBA options. So hopefully we will be able to bring more students here.”

High quality education

Online courses are often criticised because there is little or no proper and regular interaction between students and teachers and students. As a result, students may not be able to learn at the same level as students in regular education. What does the MBA captain think about this criticism? “There is some truth in it, of course”, he begins. “You give lectures via the internet and have no influence on what the students actually do behind their laptop. In addition, you cannot simply cast your regular 1.5-hour lectures in the format of a webinar. After half an hour of screen time people drop out. It must therefore be shorter, without this being at the expense of depth and differentiated thinking. You have to be creative with that. On the other hand, current techniques allow us to monitor much better to what extent students have really learned. We can find out exactly how long they have been active within our platform and what they have contributed.

As I mentioned earlier, we keep the level of education high by giving students a lot of personal attention. In addition, we ensure that the assignments for students are of master’s level. This means that we do not work with multiple-choice answers and that we assess the result – be it a paper, presentation or video – with substantive feedback. So not only a grade, but also an explanation. The students learn from that.”

Online versus regular

Online education is the future, according to Blumberg, but that will never be completely at the expense of regular education. “There are always people who have a strong preference for face-to-face education. In addition, not every subject is suitable for online education. For example, an ICT course such as learning to code is very easy to set up online. However, that does not apply to a management course on leadership skills. Personal contact is very important in this. That is why we chose the balance between online modules and residential weeks on location at the EuroMBA Online Track.

Maastricht University has always been an innovative player within the Dutch academic playing field, and I think that we are now also confirming this reputation in the digital age.”

If you are interested in more information about MaastrichtMBA, then please visit

Webinar series | Moving forward together

Join us online in April and May for a live series of five webinars that address some of the most urgent and important questions for any individual or organisation dealing with the consequences of the current corona pandemic.

We aim to open up a dialogue with professionals and organisations to create a joined understanding of what would be the best way forward. Each webinar will start with a 15-20 minutes presentation by the speaker, followed by a 15-20 minutes live debate and Q&A with participants.

Register now!

You can register yourself here for the webinars you like.

UMIO werkt mee aan ondernemersplatform coronacrisis

De coronacrisis heeft een enorme economische impact, waarbij geen enkele sector buiten schot blijft. Om deze crisis het hoofd te bieden, is het cruciaal dat we elkaar helpen. Daarom heeft MKB-Limburg een interactief platform opgezet voor ondernemers in Limburg. UMIO is als expert betrokken bij dit initiatief. Met behulp van een forum, trainingen en andere activiteiten brengt het online platform ondernemers en experts bij elkaar. Deelname aan het platform is gratis voor alle ondernemers in Limburg.

Op het forum van het platform kunnen ondernemers en experts elkaar treffen om informatie uit te wisselen over verschillende onderwerpen. Hier kunnen ze van elkaar leren en elkaar inspireren.

Afgelopen maandag ging het online trainingsprogramma van start op het platform. Dit programma bestaat uit verschillende online trainingen die als doel hebben om in verbinding met elkaar de huidige problematiek het hoofd te bieden. Elke week komt een nieuwe module aan bod. De thema’s van de modules zijn: Inventarisatie, Crisismanagement, Netwerken & Samenwerken, Inspireren, Innovatie & Efficiëntie en Toekomstbestendig Denken.

Naast het forum en de trainingen kunnen ondernemers wekelijks deelnemen aan een live Q&A-sessie met experts, bestuurders, vertegenwoordigers van belangen- en brancheverenigingen en ervaren business coaches.


Ben je als ondernemer actief in Limburg? Meld je dan gratis aan voor het platform via en doe mee!

We’re open! Mark Levels and social order in times of corona

Fewer meetings are being held, education is being provided in a different way, and some scientific studies are affected by the coronavirus pandemic. But Maastricht University is open! Within the available opportunities, staff and students are doing everything in their power to remain active and productive. In the story series ‘We’re open!’ on the university website, you can read about these members of our community.

This week, Professor Mark Levels of the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) talks about the influence of the corona crisis on his daily work. As research leader of the international consortium Technequality, he was due to speak last week at the AI Summit in Brussels organised by the journalism platform Politico. The measures to limit the spread of coronavirus threw a spanner in the works. Other than that, it’s business as usual for Mark these days – although his alarm clock is going off earlier than usual, and after-work drinks are now held online.

Read the full interview with Mark here.


The UM-led consortium Technequality, set up by Mark Levels and Raymond Montizaan, brings together a multidisciplinary group of experts from prestigious HEI’s around Europe to work with policy-makers to address AI and robotisation’s impact on the labour market. The research is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. Go to for more information on Technequality.

UMIO ondersteunt LIOF bij opzetten nieuwe strategie 2025

Where to play and how to play? Deze vraag stond centraal bij de ontwikkeling van de nieuwe strategie van LIOF voor de periode 2021-2025. De LIOF-directie wenste vanuit een outside-in perspectief de strategie te ontwikkelen, waarbij ‘Imagine Limburg in 2025’ als een blauwdruk centraal stond om een betere en duurzamere toekomst voor de regio te realiseren. Carmen Vonken en Edward Huizenga werden ingeschakeld om dit proces namens UMIO te begeleiden.

Het was LIOF-directeur Tys van Elk die UMIO benaderde om samen proactief en op een vernieuwende manier werk te maken van de nieuwe strategie voor 2021-2025. De rol van UMIO was om te onderzoeken bij welke maatschappelijke uitdagingen in de regio LIOF een rol van betekenis kan spelen en te adviseren hoe die rol kan worden ingevuld. Dit resulteerde in december 2019 in een adviesrapport voor een nieuwe strategie.

Carmen Vonken.

Plan van aanpak

Naast Carmen Vonken als projectleider en prof. dr. Edward Huizenga als strategisch expert, bestond het projectteam uit een projectcoördinator van LIOF en 9 studenten van Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics (SBE). Op basis van 2 intensieve meetings met het managementteam van LIOF stelden Vonken en Huizenga een plan van aanpak op voor het onderzoek. “Dat bestond onder meer uit 31 interviews met verschillende partijen in Limburg, België en Duitsland”, aldus Vonken. “Naast vertegenwoordigers van MKB-bedrijven uit verschillende sectoren interviewden de studenten onder andere vertegenwoordigers van VNO-NCW, diverse banken, Fontys Hogescholen, MKB Limburg, Industrie- und Handelskammer, maar ook de RvC-leden van LIOF.”

Prof. dr. Edward Huizenga.

3 duurzame transitiethema’s

De presentatie van de eerste onderzoeksresultaten voor LIOF en Provincie Limburg werd gecombineerd met een co-creatiesessie met deze partijen. “Daarin hebben we kritisch gekeken naar de overlap tussen wat de markt wil en waar LIOF kan helpen”, geeft Huizenga aan. “Vervolgens hebben we samen een prioritering gemaakt van de verschillende thema’s, hetgeen 3 doelthema’s opleverde: gezondheidstransitie, energietransitie en grondstoffentransitie. De studenten hebben deze thema’s daarna verder uitgediept. Ze gingen daarbij op zoek naar antwoorden op vragen als: Welke sectoren zijn belangrijk binnen deze thema’s? Wat is de economische impact? Wat wordt al gedaan in de regio op deze gebieden? Welke partijen zijn belangrijk? Hoeveel werkgelegenheidsgroei is er binnen de sectoren?”

Economische verbinder

Aansluitend vond een nieuwe co-creatiesessie plaats, deze keer met LIOF, Provincie Limburg en het Ministerie van Economische Zaken en Klimaat (EZK). “Daarin hebben we gezamenlijk gekeken naar de rol van LIOF”, legt Vonken uit. “LIOF bood tot nu toe netwerk, advies en financiering, maar er zijn wellicht ook nieuwe rollen weggelegd voor de organisatie. Is LIOF bijvoorbeeld niet de ideale economische verbinder binnen de regio? Daar hebben we kritisch naar gekeken. 2 weken later presenteerden we ons adviesrapport aan alle LIOF-medewerkers. Zij reageerden positief en enthousiast. Dit rapport is als het ware een blauwdruk voor de nieuwe strategie van LIOF. Cross-sector en cross-border samenwerking spelen daarin een belangrijke rol.”

Veel voldoening

Zowel Carmen Vonken als Edward Huizenga kijkt tevreden terug op de samenwerking met LIOF. Vonken: “Ik vind het mooi dat we een grote groep professionals binnen en buiten LIOF bij dit project hebben kunnen betrekken, en daarmee ook draagvlak hebben gecreëerd voor de strategieformulering. Tijdens de eindpresentatie merkten we dat het gezamenlijke doel van een nieuwe strategie voor de regio echt leeft bij alle betrokkenen, dat was geweldig om te zien! Daarnaast vond ik het prettig om te vernemen dat LIOF zeer tevreden was over de kwaliteit van ons werk en de studenten.”

“Het geeft mij veel voldoening dat we op een inclusieve manier een strategie hebben ontworpen die betekenisvol is in het dagelijks leven van mensen en bedrijven in de regio”, geeft Huizenga aan. “Deze strategie raakt aan de grote maatschappelijke uitdagingen van gezondheid tot voeding en de grondstoffen- en energietransitie. Zo maken UMIO en LIOF de strategie betekenisvol vanaf dag 1.”

Verdere invulling

LIOF is in 2020 direct aan de slag gegaan met de verdere invulling van de strategie op basis van het strategieplan van UMIO. Het gezondheidstransitiethema wordt als eerste volledig uitgewerkt in een meerjarenstappenplan.

Putting the humanity back into technology – 10 skills to future proof your career

This article originally appeared in Ambition, AMBA’s thought leadership publication (in print and online), and has been republished on this website with the permission of AMBA.

Author: Dave Coplin

Our future success as individuals will hinge on our ability to be able to use technology to help make whatever we do better, says Dave Coplin.

For the last three decades I have been working with the world’s largest technology companies helping people to truly understand the amazing potential on offer when humans work in harmony with the machines.

I have written two books, I’ve worked with businesses and governments all over the world and recently I’ve been inspiring and engaging kids and adults alike, all with one single goal in mind, which is simply to help everyone get the absolute best from technology.

After thirty years of working at the bleeding edge, I know that the only really important thing about all of our futures, is not the technology itself nor how it will develop but instead is simply about how we as humans can evolve and adapt to make the most of the incredible potential it offers us every single day.

In an age where algorithms answer our questions and robots do much of our ‘heavy lifting’, what we really need is a way of combining the best of technological capability with the best of human ability, finding that sweet spot where humans and machines complement each other. With that in mind, here are my top ten skills that will enable humans to rise, to achieve more than ever before not just at work but across all aspects of our lives:


When it comes to creativity, I absolutely believe that technology is one of the most creative forces that we will ever get to enjoy. But creativity needs to be discovered and it needs to be nurtured. Our future will be filled with complex, challenging problems, the like of which we will never have encountered before. We’re going to need a society of creative thinkers to help navigate it.


While the machines are busy crunching numbers, it will be the humans who will be left to navigate the complicated world of emotions, motives and intentions. In a world of the dark, cold logic of algorithms, the ability for individuals to understand and share the feelings of others is going to become a crucial skill. Along with creativity, empathy will be one of the most critical attributes that defines the border between human and machine.


As well as teaching ourselves and our families to be confident with technology we also need to be accountable for how we use it.

Just because the computer gives you an answer, it doesn’t make it right. We all need to learn to take the computer’s valuable input but crucially combine that with our own human intuition in order to discover the best course of action. Our future is all about being greater than the sum of our parts…


One of creativity’s most important companions is curiosity – it is the gateway to the best way to be creative with technology. We walk around with a device in our pockets that has access to every bit of knowledge, every opinion our society has collected over the past couple of millennia and it’s right there at our fingertips. But how often do we think of it in those terms? And what do we choose to do with all that knowledge? Two words, “cat videos”. I’m being playful of course, but part of the solution is to help all of us, especially kids, be curious about the world around us and to use technology to explore it.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking will be the 21st century human’s superpower. If we can help individuals both understand and apply it, we can, over time, unleash the full potential of our connected world. With every single piece of content we consume, from whatever source and on whatever topic, we need to be asking ourselves as to whether we should believe the content to be true rather than simply assuming it is.


One of digital technology’s key purposes is to connect humans with each other. Communicating with others is as essential to our future survival as breathing and yet we’re often just not that good at it, especially when we’re communicating with others who aren’t in the same physical space.

Learning to communicate well (and that includes really effective listening) regardless of whether that is on-line or off-line is one of the basic literacies of our digital world.


Building on our communication skills, collaboration is the purpose for much of the reason behind why we need to communicate well. Technology enables large numbers of people to come together, aligned around a common cause but we can only harness the collective power of people if we can find the best way to work together to unleash our collective potential.

Lifelong learning

The future doesn’t stand still and now more than ever, that means neither can we. While we used to think about education as a single phase, early on in most people’s lives, the reality is that learning needs to be an everyday occurrence, regardless of our age or stage of life. Thanks to new technologies like artificial intelligence, skills that are new today will be automated tomorrow and this means we can never afford to stand still.


The by-product of a rapidly changing world is that we need to help people learn to embrace the ambiguity such a world presents. More traditional mindsets of single domains of skills and single careers will have to give way to the much more nebulous world of multiple skillsets for multiple careers. In order to make the transition, people are going to need to find a way to preserve and develop enough energy to be able to embrace every new change and challenge so that they can both offer value and be valued by the ever changing society they are a part of.

Digital confidence

As a technologist, and an optimist, I am convinced that our future success as individuals will hinge on our ability to be able to use technology to help make whatever we do better. Regardless of the career we choose, our and our children’s lives will be better, more successful, happier and more rewarding if we are confident in how we can use technology to help us achieve more at work, in our relationships and in how we enjoy ourselves.

None of these skills were picked by chance, or because they give us hope for a more human future irrespective of the development of technology. They were specifically picked because they are the very qualities that will complement the immensely powerful gift that technology brings us. Better still, these are the skills that, despite what Hollywood or the media may say to the contrary, will remain fundamentally human for decades to come.

But if we are to make this happen, we’re going to have to think very differently about the potential of technology in our lives and the relationship we currently share with it. We owe it to ourselves and our kids to help ensure we don’t just learn to survive in the 21st century but instead we learn how to thrive. If we can get this right for ourselves and our kids, we are going to get some amazing prizes as a result.

The rise of the humans starts with us, and it starts now…

Dave Coplin is former Chief Envisioning Officer for Microsoft UK, he has written two books, worked all over the world with organisations, individuals and governments – all with the goal of demystifying technology and championing it as a positive transformation in our society. 

Employee engagement and retention: give your people a reason to stay

This article originally appeared in Ambition, AMBA’s thought leadership publication (in print and online), and has been republished on this website with the permission of AMBA.

Author: Kath Howard

Slow down your revolving door of talent by following five basic strategies that have organisational effectiveness as their ultimate aim, says Kath Howard

If I’m ever on trend in clothing terms, it’s a happy accident.  I do however seem to have been ahead of the trend when it comes to having a ‘portfolio career’. I have never felt the need to find a forever home of work. And I’m certainly not alone, with increasing numbers of UK employees moving workplace each three years.

The rise of the ‘portfolio career’

This career approach isn’t confined to millennials or those in their early career. And the barriers to finding something shiny and new are reducing. Online job boards available 24/7 when a bad day at work tips into ‘I need something new mode’ and instant online job applications removing the time burden of finding a new role. The impact on organisations can be a near never-ending revolving door of talent, and the time and financial cost of responding to this. It’s perfectly understandable for a leader to question why they should want to invest time, money and resource in developing and supporting this revolving door of employees. There is an uncredited meme that frequently does the rounds on LinkedIn, which provides a quick answer:

Leader 1: ‘What if we develop them, and they leave?’

Leader 2: ‘Ah, yes. But what if we don’t, and they stay?’

I would argue there is always a point to developing and supporting our people; it is how we ensure we bring greater humanity to the world of work. This blog post will explore how we can achieve this in a context where your employees aren’t looking for their forever home of work.

Meaningful employee ‘retention’

A quick note on the concept of ‘retention’. The definition of ‘retention’ is the ‘continued use, existence, or possession of something or someone.’ There is something incredibly transactional about this concept, and also in how organisations respond to it. I have always wanted people to stay in my teams because they are engaged and there is mutual benefit in the relationship. If I’m tying them in purely because they can’t get a part-time job elsewhere or because I’ve said they’re ‘tied in’ for a year after completing an expensive training programme, that doesn’t feel good to me. I want people to follow me, not to bear with me.  Meaningful retention interventions need to be tailored to the individual, respecting how different our needs and motivations will be and about ‘staying’ rather than being ‘retained’. I have written an entire book on the topic of people-centred HR strategies, People Not Paperclips: Putting the human back into Human Resources’, which was published in February 2020. A central theme of this book is on treating people like human-beings and not diluting the impact of people interventions through a false hope that one size can fit all.

The label ‘portfolio career’ gives the impression of a career that has been carefully curated. In reality, this is not the case, and therefore there is no formula to judge how long someone is going to stay in our organisation. If I were to find myself in the right role where I could apply my skills to make a difference to others and still grow and develop, I’d build myself a picket fence, throw up some wisteria and refuse to leave until I decide to retire. We should assume that people do want to move on regularly, or that we know what is important to each person based on very broad demographics e.g. all millennials want the same thing. What we do know with certainty is that this approach is now a common lifestyle choice and we need appropriate strategies to support our people to do their best work whilst they’re with us, and to attract them back when they’re ready.

Not all turnover is created equal. The goal is to for your best people to stick around, and for those people who aren’t contributing to leave the organisation. Obvious, but so often not the reality in organisations. I’m reminded of a great analogy shared by Bruce Webster, which he called the ‘Dead Sea Effect’. As we know, the Dead Sea lies between Israel and Jordan and is incredibly salty, due to the water being below sea level and leaving only through evaporation.  Webster argues that many organisations are like the Dead Sea.  New joiners flood in, as the water enters the Dead Sea from Jordan, but the more talented employees evaporate. The talented employees are less likely to tolerate toxic cultures or a poor cultural fit, and they’re more likely to have external opportunities to shift or evaporate toward.  The residue is often the less talented employees, some of whom will relentlessly share how disengaged they are but are unlikely to move on.  So, we need to keep people, but they need to be the right people. Cue a myriad of expensive talent development programmes? Not at all – know who you want to keep and talk to them about making that happen.

To build on this, start with the basics below and review how they land within your unique context.

Five basic strategies for slowing down that revolving door of talent

  1. Hire the right people with honesty and openness.

    Effective ‘stay strategies’, as I’m now going to call them, start with hiring the right person. One of the most common reasons people leave their jobs within the first twelve months is a poor fit, so don’t oversell the position to candidates and be honest about the culture and team environment they will find when they join.

  2. Help people to understand how they can achieve a portfolio career with you.

    Offering structured development is perhaps less important than offering clarity for potential career development options to your employees. Rather than enticing people to stay with structured development events, we should paint a picture of all the career opportunities available internally. The civil service has historically been strong at achieving just this. People often move into vastly different roles, with the common thread being the leadership skills they have developed and honed.

  3. Give your people reasons to stay every day.

    Don’t leave your ‘stay strategy’ discussions for twice-yearly performance reviews, or for when someone is sliding their resignation letter across the desk to you. When people have decided to leave, it’s incredibly hard to get them to stay. Our most talented people are often quite self-sufficient and it’s all too easy to take them for granted and to assume they know they are valued and appreciated. So, don’t ignore the resigned boredom of your people. Boredom grows roots. Help your people to find meaningful reasons to stay with you through continual discussion.

  4. Tailor your ‘stay strategy’ to the person.

    Certain things really matter to certain people. Aligning your ideas for how to develop and support your people should be aligned to their values. We talk so much about organisational values that we can sometimes forget that people have personal values too, and the key to keeping those so-called ‘job hoppers’ is to help these people to manifest their values in your workplace. Find out what matters to them and help them achieve those things.

  5. Your stay strategy should be based on relationships that transcend the employment contract.

    No matter how many ‘stay in touch’ messages are written in someone’s leaving card, this is unlikely to happen without concerted effort on both sides. A person’s resignation is not the end of their relationship with you, but rather marks a shift to be a continued supporter as alumni. During my couple of years with Save the Children, we always appreciated so greatly that people really would come back to support such a special and important cause. Employment isn’t just a contract, it’s a relationship built on mutual benefit.

There are of course many more approaches you could adopt to slow that revolving door of talent, and to work with, instead of against, the inevitability that your employees will leave. If this is the new normal, let’s embrace it, and draw all the opportunities for innovation, creativity and diversity of thought that an ever-changing employee profile offers. We should be seeking the ultimate aim of organisational effectiveness, achieved on the back of a workplace with inclusion and humanity at its heart. There is no reason that what a static workforce should or could achieve is any better than the vibrancy of one cobbled together with career portfolio’ists. (I made it up. Thank you). Let’s develop stay strategies that will inspire your people to stay.

Kath Howard is the Founder of the organisation development consultancy, HeartSparks. She has been an HR leader, Chartered Psychologist and consultant across a range of industries and organisations over more than 20 years. Her first book, People Not Paperclips (Practical Inspiration Publishing) was published in February 2020.

‘The human leader: what if it all started with me?’

With the UM Star Lectures, Maastricht University wants to facilitate its alumni by bringing the university to them. The lectures offer the opportunity to meet each other in an informal way and at the same time to get inspired and share academic insights and experiences. On Thursday 6 February, Star Lectures took place in 14 different cities in 5 countries. UMIO’s director Mariëlle Heijltjes was responsible for the Star Lecture in Düsseldorf with the title ‘The human leader: what if it all started with me?’.

The lecture in Düsseldorf was the third Star Lecture that Prof. Dr. Mariëlle Heijltjes provided. In the past, she already spoke in Munich and Cologne. About a hundred alumni came to the atmospheric Maxhaus to meet and listen to the lecture about leadership.

“I wanted to paint a picture of what the attendees should pay attention to when shaping their own leadership role, show them which elements play a role in this”, says Heijltjes. “I think this is a very important topic because in today’s complex world, as a leader you can literally make or break people’s well-being and productivity.”

How to be a human leader?

“In that complex world of digitalisation, sustainability and globalisation, as a leader you must constantly navigate between directive and empowering behaviour”, Heijltjes continues. “Because on the one hand you have to maintain a certain order – after all, you have to deal with a budget, objectives and operate within set legal and moral frameworks – and at the same time you have to keep people inspired because the work is too complex to only follow the rules.

To successfully navigate between these two potentially opposing leadership behaviours, you need to be aware of how you respond to paradoxes and complexity. In stress situations, the default reaction is to close the shutters and fall back on existing (behavioural) patterns that you feel comfortable with. However, another option is to notice that you are doing that and to consciously work on remaining open-minded and curious with the aim of continuing to move forward. With the latter attitude, the chances that you keep your employees motivated and engaged are much greater. However, this requires a certain internal flexibility and resilience. So to be a human leader, you must be prepared to work with how your emotions, behaviour and thoughts interact. That way, you can better understand what you do well and what you still need to learn. If you are willing to keep investigating how that works for you, it becomes easier to navigate a complex environment.”

Interested and enthusiastic

During and after the lecture, there was a lot of interaction with the attendees. Heijltjes: “I had set up an interactive lecture so that everyone could actively participate. That worked out well; the audience was interested and enthusiastic. Because most attendees have experience with leadership roles, I think what we discussed provided them with words to express what they already knew intuitively and had experienced. That led to recognition, introspection and a lively debate.”

Pictures: UM Alumni Office

UMIO designs and provides leadership training of DAS-CAM programme

One of the key needs identified by the European Society of Cardiology is the training of future leaders in arrhythmia management and research. For this purpose, the educational programme ‘Diploma of Advanced Studies in Cardiac Arrhythmia Management’ (DAS-CAM) has been established. UMIO designs and facilitates the Leadership Development Trajectory that is part of several modules of this two-year programme. At the end of January, the participants gathered in Brussels for module 5 on ventricular tachycardia.

The DAS-CAM programme is a joint collaboration between Maastricht University Medical Center (MUMC+), European Heart Academy (EHA) and the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA). This unique course trains future leaders in arrhythmology from all over the world to deliver state-of the-art cardiovascular services.

Excel as a leader

In addition to substantive training in cardiac arrhythmia management, the cardiologists and electrophysiologists also learn how to excel in a managerial position. This is done through a Leadership Development Trajectory designed by UMIO and facilitated by Prof. Dr. Marielle Heijltjes, Prof. Dr. Piet Eichholtz, Martin Lammers, Prof. Dr. Jan Cobbenhagen, Prof. Dr. Simon de Jong and former colleagues of SBE, Prof. Dr. Hein Schreuder and Prof. Dr. Anneloes Raes.

At the end of January, the module on ventricular tachycardia took place in Brussels. On behalf of UMIO, Prof. Dr. Simon de Jong and Prof. Dr. Anneloes Raes provided the leadership sessions of this module.

The current group of 32 participants is the second batch since the start of the DAS-CAM programme. Their first module took place in February 2019 and their eighth and last module will take place in October this year.

More information

Do you want to know more about the DAS-CAM programme? Then go to the DAS-CAM page on this website.

Photos: Diana Berdún Mingo 

Personal and professional development: an MBA case study

This article originally appeared in Ambition, AMBA’s thought leadership publication (in print and online), and has been republished on this website with the permission of AMBA.

Author: Tim Dhoul (Content Editor, AMBA & BGA)

Google Key Account Manager and Digital Marketing Consultant, Guy Luchting, tells Tim Dhoul how studying for an MBA has impacted his career journey.

While studying for his bachelor’s degree in the Netherlands, Guy Luchting was selected for an internship at Dutch multinational, Heineken. The application process was unusual. Interviewees, including Guy, were secretly filmed as they responded to unexpected situations, such as being led to the interview room by the hand or the interviewer passing out mid-interview.

The resulting footage was used to create a viral marketing video, which amassed 2.8 million views within a week and has now had more than 5 million views. Known as ‘The Candidate’, it picked up a Gold Lion PR award at 2013’s Cannes Lions Festival. For Guy, who hails from Germany, it was an early opportunity to gauge where his career interests lay.

He reflects: ‘I was a great fan of Heineken advertising back in the day; I was studying hospitality management and watched all of the company’s YouTube videos. I see now that this was the beginning of my passion for advertising and creativity – I just didn’t know it then. Overall, it was an amazing opportunity, and an amazing stunt.’

The public attention the campaign, and associated footage, received took a little longer for Guy to come to terms with. ‘In the beginning, it was a lot of attention,’ he recalls. ‘I got recognised on the street, for example. I know this is weird, but it took me some time to say, proudly, that I was part of this, without feeling like I was showing off.’

Ultimately, however, he is grateful for the experience and how he benefited from it: ‘What I got from the internship was that I wanted to work in a creative advertising agency. I still follow what Heineken is doing. I think the company is a pioneer and an example of best practice in advertising.’

Developing a personal vision

Fast forward six years and Guy is now a Key Account Manager and Digital Marketing Consultant at Google, based in Dublin, working with clients who represent some of Germany’s top retail chains.

‘It’s a mixture [that involves] advising them on the digital market, technical troubleshooting and stakeholder management,’ he says, explaining that his role takes him to his home country of Germany frequently for meetings and workshops on product solutions with clients.

Guy Luchting.

Guy’s current role is his first since completing an MBA at ESCP Europe and the latest instalment in a career journey that has provided ongoing insights into what motivates him at work and what he excels at.

He explains that his desire to join Google stemmed from his Business School experience. ‘At ESCP, I developed a personal vision, and from that, I derived what I wanted to do and identified companies that would be aligned with this vision. Google was one of these companies. I wanted to work in an international environment and to learn from the best. When I read the job description and the nature of the job, I was hooked. I was reading it and I thought, “this is me”.’

Guy believes that it is not a job he could have done prior to his MBA. ‘Without it, my mindset would not have been ready to apply for a company like Google,’ he says.

Despite the current ‘techlash’ against Silicon Valley’s tech giants, he is quick to emphasise the strength of Google’s position when it comes to recruiting top talent. ‘If you are into business, but business with a purposeful twist, and you want to have an impact, then this is the company to work for,’ he argues. ‘The culture at Google is unique in so many ways that it will attract, and hopefully, retain people who are looking for something more, who are open-minded and see the big picture. I think that Google will continue to attract great talent, especially MBAs.’

While he does not feel able to comment on the current debate around privacy and the EU’s introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, he points to the importance Google places on its users. ‘The users are the centre of everything,’ he says. ‘Without them, Google wouldn’t be anything. If you don’t respect that, there won’t be a business and you won’t achieve anything. Google is a purposeful company, it’s more than earning money, it’s all the services that Google users can use for free, such as Google Maps, Gmail and Android [the mobile operating system developed by Google].’

Purposeful twist

This ‘purposeful twist’ is something Guy had been searching for prior to his MBA, when the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party rose to prominence in Germany ahead of the country’s federal elections in 2017. ‘The AfD gained a lot of traction in Germany and I was really shocked, thinking “this is not the Germany I want to believe in”,’ he explains.

At the time, he was working in Hamburg for the creative advertising agency, Jung von Matt/Havel, but took the opportunity to move to the company’s Berlin office to work on the election campaign for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

This project, during which he coordinated the production of advertising across TV, online and social media channels and drew up presentations for his superior to present to the Chancellor, was his last at the agency before he opted to embark on an MBA.

‘I was looking to change, although I never thought I would do a master’s degree. Then a friend of mine applied for Harvard and I thought, “well, if he is applying for Harvard, I can at least try for a master’s!”’.

ESCP Europe stood out because of its international dimension, the programme’s length and the fact that it would not require him to sit the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). ‘I was scared of
the GMAT and was working 10-14 hours a day already, plus weekends, and I thought, “I’m never going to be able to do that”,’ he admits.

‘It was all really spontaneous, but I liked the admissions process; it felt personal and I think you can see this in the people who joined the MBA. I went to the Berlin campus and was talking to a programme manager and one other person involved in the MBA. It was a nice, open talk and you could really tell what ESCP was about.’

Valuing diversity

Guy took full advantage of ESCP Europe’s international and multi-campus opportunities. ‘I did half a year in Paris and half a year in Madrid, and I went to Turin, London and Berlin,’ he says, before enthusing about the varied (personal and professional) backgrounds of his classmates; one had been working in Syria’s oil industry while another was a former shopping centre manager from the Philippines, for example. This level of diversity was valuable, although he admits he ‘should have asked way more questions and listened more’.

Having finished the programme in the summer of 2018, the class remains in touch, reuniting for graduation in December and establishing an active WhatsApp group. One of Guy’s former classmate even started working at Google at the same time as him, allowing for frequent catch ups.

Guy stresses that his MBA boosted both his personal and professional development. ‘It helped me to develop myself and my
self-confidence, to learn and strategise about my future,’ he says. He also valued the School’s use of the case study method greatly. ‘I enjoyed the cases – you really saw what the main problem is and how one can go about solving it,’ he says, adding that this has helped him to apply a more structured approach to problem solving in his current role.

Eight months into his job at Google and armed with a greater awareness of his career aims and motivations, Guy is focusing on developing in his current role.

‘My priority is to learn my job well; it’s complex and challenging,’ he says. ‘I enjoy working with clients and giving presentations, and I like the proactiveness and the business approach of sales.’

While he does not know what the future might hold, he is fully aware of the part his MBA experience has played in getting him to where he is now. ‘Without it, I would not be where I am,’ he admits. ‘I am really happy right now. It really changed my life.’