Excursions complement classroom learning at Karlshochschule International University, foster academic curiosity and enrich student education. This year’s excursion of the master group went to the Rhineland respectively the County of Berg. The idea was to analyze and discuss a wide variety of environments in which leadership takes place.
First the graduate students accompanied by the Professors Andreas P. Müller, Bernd Ankenbrand and me visited the headquarters of Bayer Material Science (BMS), a world leading manufacturer of polyurethanes. Here the main topics of discussion were leadership, innovation and sustainability along the value creation chain. Although BMS does only produce chemical raw materials, Dr. Michael Graefenstedt, Vice President at BMS, displayed the importance of understanding the consumer, who is in fact three or more tiers away from BMS’ place in the value creation chain. Furthermore we held one of the very first pieces of foambeing a result of the so called “dream reaction” in our hands. It is an old chemist’s dream to make CO2 react. Here the CO2 from industrial exhausts has been converted into polyurethane a raw material which can be used to build windmills or isolation materials.
On our second day we had a two hours discussion with Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller-Kirschbaum VP of Henkel‘s laundry and home care division incorporating brands like Pril, Persil, Somat, Dixan and others. Also here in Düssldorf the connection between leadership, innovation and sustainability was the core subject of our discussions. Henkel’s sustainability vision “Achieving more with less” means to create value by reducing the companies footprint at the same time. A real challenge for corporate leaders since the real lever for better sustainability or reduced footprints is often not the product itself, but more the application – for example: when your dishwashing needs less time, less heat and less water.
Later that day we had a discussion with Frank Stolpmann of smb-consultants, a Dusseldorf based mergers & acquisition specialist introducing us into his field of business. We talked about how to repare a take over, how to evaluate and sell a company and how leaders can improve the post-merger integration processes.
The final day dealt mainly with the cultural environment and a brief look into the history of leadership. First the graduate students visited the Gesenkschmiede Hendrichs an industry museum in the city of Solingen – a former scissors factory. Here the students were confronted with the industrial and social challenges of the 19th century.
Later that day the discussions with Dr. Achim Stanneck, a art historian and specialist for Dutch art in the 15th and 16th century added a further and highly interesting perspective on leadership and aesthetic.