imim – where “weak ties” promote creativity and innovation

“First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin”? For imim students, this Leonard Cohen song would have to be sung the other way around: After having met at Berlin University for Professional Studies last week, they will meet again in November in Manhattan for visits at The New York Times and other media companies (in between, there will be two more attendance blocks in Elche and Madrid/Spain and at the Poynter Institute/Florida).

The Berlin week focussed on improving innovation managers’ soft skills — especially in terms of communication and leadership — by reflecting on their cultural, professional and personal background. The week started off with Gerhard Apfelthaler lecturing on intercultural differences in media economics and management. Gerhard, who is Dean at California Lutheran University and one of the beta-testers of GoogleGlass, spoke about the cultural traits that enhance innovativeness, such as individualism. According to him, individualistically oriented U.S.-type cultures are more productive and acceptant of new problem-solving methods than collectivistic ones (not that individualistic cultures don’t have their downsides, as well).

From professional to personal

British-Swiss media management professor Lucy Küng analysed innovation strategies in media corporations and provided the students with solutions for problems in their day-to-day work. One of her most important “take-away messages”: In order to create an environment which fosters innovation, boost your weak ties! According to social network analysis, each one of us has “strong ties” (family, friends) and “weak ties” (people, with whom you share an interest). These weak ties help stimulate our creative and innovative abilities — much more than our closest relationships. Lucy characterised imim as one of these innovation-fostering environments.

On the personal level, Thomas Bauer supported the students in improving their communication skills; he will follow up with a seminar on leadership in 2015 and will also provide feedback on the group’s development.

Visits at Welt Digital and KircherBurkhardt

A highlight of the week was a visit of the content marketing agency KircherBurkhardt, where founder Lukas Kircher inspired imim students not only with his venture’s portfolio, but also with his entrepreneurial spirit. He recommended keeping a close eye on media channels like The Verge (created in cooperation with Vox Media; former Washington Post journalist Ezra Klein just announced that he would found a new publication at Vox). 

A second highlight was, Romanus Otte, General Manager of Welt Digital, inviting the group to the publication’s brand new newsroom. Though part of Welt Digital, daily Die Welt just happens to be printed on paper. Editor-in-chief Jan-Eric Peters had a off-the-record talk with the students in order to explain Welt Digital’s strategy. 

For the next attendance block in Spain, Romanus Otte gave the students the assignment to come up with ideas for start-ups or projects in their respective countries. The task will be rounded off by students presenting their projects to foreign investors in a mock “elevator pitch”: Each student is allocated about 1 minute to pitch their idea to a fictitious investor whom they happen to meet on the elevator.

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