Normally, the Masterplan e-learning platform makes companies fit for digitization. Now the Bochum start-up of the founders and CEOs Stefan Peukert and Daniel Schütt also offers his transformation course at the University of Witten-Herdecke. What they want to achieve with their plan to establish digitization as a degree program and why it is high time for a rethink on a grand scale.
LEAD: Is a rethinking of digitization necessary for the younger generation, ie students?
Stefan Peukert: Absolutely. That has nothing to do with age. The young target group, that is, the students, are commonly seen as digital natives. It is often forgotten that knowing how to use the best Instagram filters or how to work with platform models and digital ecosystems and how to move the digital economy forward is a huge difference. There is also a lot of catching up to do with the younger generation.
LEAD: What do you want to achieve with the students?
Stefan Peukert: We have three pillars. First of all, we need a different mindset that is open-minded and proactive in addressing digitalization. The keyword “mindset” is often used as a buzzword, but what we want to try is to demystify the digital transformation. How do platform models work? Why are Google and Amazon the big winners in the end?
Another very important aspect is that the world is changing in ever shorter technological and social cycles. This has a big effect on economic and political organizations. So we want students to know what’s happening out there very early. And in the long term, we hope that we will also advance Germany a bit, and above all Europe a bit.
LEAD: Keyword mindset – to what extent must a rethink take place?
Stefan Peukert: The whole topic of digital transformation is mistakenly considered very technical. It is assumed that you simply need the right tools. The much deeper transformation that needs to take place is a mindset change in the organization.
A cumbersome organization that does not reward risks can still buy such good tools and get external consultants – if it does not take employees, a digital transformation will not work.
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LEAD: Your core business is actually with companies – so why start now at the universities?
Stefan Peukert: That always sounds pathetic, but we want to give something back. Because we believe that digital education is really an important issue and because we see that we are internationally relegated and that gets worse. We also have to develop large platforms from within Europe, otherwise our European values will fall by the wayside.
LEAD: What do you mean?
Stefan Peukert: Whoever develops the technology also controls which values are conveyed. We are not in a good situation when all major infrastructure players come only from the US and China.
LEAD: How is it that we are so lagging behind?
Stefan Peukert: In Germany, you can build a sustainable, good business, but for a truly global business, the German market is too small. You make yourself comfortable on the home market quickly.
In addition, product innovation is diametrically opposed to our German corporate culture, which focuses more on avoiding errors than on rewarding risks. We prefer to develop for years a perfect product as well as to bring a little younger on the market and to test.
LEAD: And why does not it work at the European level?
Stefan Peukert: In the EU, there are 28 different countries with different languages and jurisdictions – it is easier than American or Chinese companies, if you can reach directly with the core product many hundreds of millions of people.
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LEAD: Did you first have to convince the University of Witten / Herdecke to offer their course?
Stefan Peukert: No, there you were very open-minded, cooperative and thankful. The universities have recognized how important the subject is and that they are unable or even difficult to map this themselves. This cooperation should also be the beginning. We want to do this throughout Germany and throughout Europe.
LEAD: Is this already happening on an international level?
Stefan Peukert: We are still moving at the national level. We will get ten more universities this year. From August / September we will also offer our courses in English and the program will be rolled out internationally.
LEAD: At the universities there is already a rethinking happening?
Stefan Peukert: You can not generalize that. Some are advancing on the topic of digital transformation, others are not on the screen. It will be the core topic of the future.
LEAD: Why this urgency?
Stefan Peukert: If you look at what has happened in the last ten years, that was probably just a drop in the bucket. Digitization is seen as a detached topic in computer science, but in the long run all areas and all disciplines will be subject to enormous digital transformation.
And that goes beyond the economy. We have the same effect in politics. The cycles are getting shorter and shorter, the digital election campaign is becoming increasingly important and probably the most important cornerstone in the future. If there is no basic digital understanding developed by the general population, we will have a hard time.
LEAD: You offer the university course for free – what is in it for you?
Stefan Peukert: First of all, we really want to give something back. Digitalisation as a subject of study is something that we would have liked to have as students themselves. So far, however, such an offer does not exist at all, and if the state universities develop a curriculum and learning opportunities, the processes take much longer than if we already pro bono offer our finished, already proven product.
LEAD: So the next step is to do it all at government level?
Stefan Peukert: There are open to cooperation with everyone, be it government or government agencies. We will announce another big project in September. But we are still at the beginning. One thing is certain: We have to do something now, otherwise we will have a hard time in Germany and Europe in the next few years.