CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION AT WORK
Since his graduation from the Master’s Degree Programme in Innovation Management in 2017, Tuomas Holma has been able to put the acquired skills into practice both in his own enterprise and as an employed business developer.
“I chose Innovation Management because I knew I wanted to work in small companies, where you have multiple roles and you really can put your creativity into use. The studies gave a lot of confidence for that.”
Innovation embedded in teaching
When looking back to various classes and projects during studies, he mentions the encouragement for innovative ways of making presentations that really boosted the students’ skills for self-expression and making contact with people – very essential in creative business work.
“We even used dramaturgy and made presentations from complex theoretical concepts by acting, and used other forms or art as well. Might sound crazy, but when you really do something different and creative, it makes the theory sink in a lot more effectively.”
At the moment, Tuomas works in a wholesale company that supplies fresh and puréed vegetables to grocery retailers. His main duty is to launch the export of their products and develop their internal processes. Before that, he worked in a company that was in the middle of a merger. In both cases, an understanding of how to lead a change and how differently people react to different things are really important lessons learnt from the studies.
Cultural exchange - every day
Along with a deep understanding of innovative business development work, the day-to-day cultural exchange in a diverse student group is something that Tuomas truly values. For instance, he volunteered as a student tutor for international students, helping them to settle in Finland, and was also involved in the local start-up spirited Kuopio Entrepreneurship Society .
“These voluntary projects as well as the company that we established with my classmates have been the best possible playground for testing the lecture materials in practice. In our company we worked on projects in which we could utilize our student networks and the skills of people from all over the world. The networking aspect is huge in this programme.”
The friendships and collegial support don’t end when the studies do.
“We have active WhatsApp groups in which we discuss on weekly basis. Obviously the relationships matter in personal life, too – it’s nice to meet friends when you are travelling abroad, for example. In this programme, networking happens automatically as like-minded people come together.”
INNOVATIVE AND INTERNATIONAL
When talking to Andreas Küblbeck, a 2nd-year student in the Master’s Degree Programme in Innovation Management, you can immediately tell that he is really enthusiastic about the studies.
“It is so invigorating to study after a long period of working life. Actually I combine work and studies all the time – it’s definitely a challenge but also a win-win situation for the company and my own skill set.”
Work and study - a win-win situation
Andreas moved to Finland in 2007, following his Finnish wife, as he had the opportunity to take a gap year after serving 8 years in the German army. He started business studies in the local University of Applied Sciences and ended up doing an internship in Medikro, a local company that manufactures medical devices for lung-function testing. They needed someone who could speak German – and he has been a part of the company ever since, now managing sales in Germany and Nordic countries.
“I had been eyeing this Master’s programme in Innovation Management since it emerged. I asked both my employer and the UEF business department staff if it is ok to work and study at the same time. I’m happy it worked out because the practical work gives a lot of perspective on the real-life application of the studies. I think quite a few of my fellow students have already found employment even before graduation.”
Creative or not creative?
For Andreas, the contents of the Innovation Management programme feel very current and up-to-date, as creativity and innovation is something that no business can do without.
However, he had his doubts about the creative aspect in the beginning.
“I wasn’t sure if I’m a creative person. I was doing my everyday sales job and enjoying it, but I hadn’t really considered myself as the most creative type. Still, I decided to go for it and challenge myself – and I’m so happy I did. I feel the studies have really boosted my creative thinking and problem-solving skills.”
One of the most memorable things about the studies was a course where the students taught each other with different methods – dance, visual art, acting, sounds or building with lego blocks… Something different that made everybody think differently.
“At first I was puzzled and thought I was going to totally embarrass myself. But it turned out a really enjoyable experience when you saw people throwing themselves into new things and open up. Truly a magnificent experience.”
Another moment during the studies Andreas won’t forget is –surprisingly – when he missed a lecture.
“Everybody was talking about the lecture - I was so disappointed I couldn’t attend! It was a guest lecture by a renowned person from Kuopio Theatre who was teaching improvisation. However, I was happy that my fellow students passed the main message on to me: in a nutshell it was about not dumbing anybody’s ideas down but instead, encouraging the flow of ideas instead by replying ‘Yes, and’.”
He has been applying this approach in his daily life ever since, and it has been eye-opening.
“This kind of thinking makes things a lot more enjoyable, both at work and in personal life. It gets people out of their shell and engage more. A truly important lesson regarding innovative and creative businesses all over the world.”
HARNESSING CREATIVITY AT WORKPLACE
Outi Piisilä, a second-year student in the Innovation Management programme is an inspirational example of lifelong learning and how combining a 10-year long work experience in engineering and new ideas from studies leads to amazing personal development.
“I graduated with a Master’s degree in Technology, majoring in environmental technology, but I’ve always been interested in so many phenomena of the world that I decided to study more. This Master’s degree programme is the perfect fit for me as it is really multifaceted and deals with global megatrends and societal issues. I would say that the studies are even closer to social sciences than business studies in their very traditional sense.”
Dealing with constant change
For Outi, the most important outcome of the studies has been gaining a deep understanding on leadership and management, as well as learning what it takes from the leader to make the organisation able to innovate in the highly pressured conditions of today’s working life.
“The biggest theme that cross-cuts most of the courses is constant change - how to deal with change that due to technological advancements and globalisation never stops, but speeds up instead. There is no ‘normal’ to go back to anymore. This is an essential topic to tackle as a leader.”
Constant change is present in Outi’s personal life as well, as she has been combining studies with hectic life with small children.
“At times it has been hard and very time-consuming, but still doable with strong commitment. My partner has been very supportive so that I have had the ability to study in the evenings and late nights when necessary. However, the studies are so intriguing and stimulating that I don’t count the hours.”
Besides inspiring teachers and study content that she considers as very relevant in working life, Outi would like to give credit to the modern facilities and teaching methods at the UEF. The methods vary: there’s traditional lecturing and online-courses but also more experimental methods like drama.
Also the close-knit student group has played an important role in making the most of the studies.
“This is the first time I have found a study programme with people who think like me and who I can discuss with in a very deep level. Many of the students are a bit older and have several years of work experience like me. We have very fruitful conversations in which we can reflect on our real-life experiences.”
Outi has made lifelong friends with both Finnish and international students in the group.
“I’ve invited the foreign students of our group over to our place. It’s nice to be able to show what everyday life in Finland looks like. All my fellow students are precious contacts that will likely stay with me as peer support in Whatsapp groups, lunch meetings and visits in the future.”
Useful takeaways for working life
Before starting the Master’s programme, Outi worked in a multi-industry company Savon Kuljetus Oy that is specialised in logistics, infrastructure construction and aggregate production. Now she has been on study leave, but she is working with her colleagues in a different way as she is writing her thesis on organizational citizenship behavior.
“I have interviewed 9 colleagues for my research. It’s been very touching, as we have had such wonderful and deep conversations that we would never have had in everyday working life.”
When she returns to her full-time job, she will be concentrating more on HR and competence development, which is something that the Master’s studies have a lot to offer for.
“I have gained a lot of knowledge on how to develop management policies and strategies to enable innovation in an organisation. I believe the key elements in that are openness, co-operation and co-creation.When organisations are run openly, it encourages trust and people are not afraid to talk about failures. That way we can create a dynamic organisation that is able to learn and deal with change.”