Five minutes with Wim Vanhaverbeke

Wim Vanhaverbeke, Professor of Strategy & Innovation Management at Hasselt University, and Visiting Professor, ESADE Business School and the National University of Singapore

How has the case method changed over the 25 years you have taught it?

The case method was previously used in business schools, but is now used in many schools and universities at different levels of teaching.

The cases have changed too: they are now shorter on average, used for different purposes and cover a wider range of topics.

More and more institutes engage in case writing, leading to an enormous variety of cases studies one can use. However, this trend is also creating a growing problem in terms of the quality of cases produced.

How do you apply cases to your specialist domain of technology and innovation management?

I look at the topics I want to cover in a course and search for interesting cases. I try to align the case studies and the literature I recommend.

In the classroom, I focus entirely on the case analysis and conclude with a short reflection on how the case is an application of specific management concepts, models or theories.

Teaching case studies is an art you learn over time. It’s a process of asking the right questions, moderating the discussions, and summarising the main insights. Wrong answers are as interesting as good ones, as long as you can turn a problematic answer into new questions, probing students to reflect on why it is a problematic answer, which in turn should give an indication what a good answer could be.

What is it you like most about the case method?

First, it forces you to think from a management point of view; in situations which might be quite complex. It’s an applied way of teaching and therefore very valuable for management studies.

Second, I still remember many cases 20 years after reading them, while textbook content is easily forgotten after a few months.

If you could be transported into another profession for one week, which would you choose, and why?

car lights

I’m intrigued these days by the disruptive power of digital technologies. Many companies face major problems, as new entrants with entirely new business models make an inroad into industries that have been dominated by a few large incumbents. Some incumbents try to cope with these changes in a proactive way. Examples are the energy sector, healthcare, automotive and many more. So, a week in Enel, Philips Healthcare, J&J or BMW would be wonderful.

How do you relax?

If you asked this question to my kids, they would answer that I should relax more, so there is still some work to do on balancing life and work. 

I have always been into jogging but I have run more regularly in the last year, just to improve my physical condition. Biking is the other sport I like. Listening to classical music is a type of relaxation during working hours. Dining, watching movies and travelling are my favourite ways to relax.

Do you have a favourite quote or guiding principle?

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein.

We still focus too much on developing intelligence in our educational systems, but we should focus much more on imagination and creativity.

About Wim

Wim Vanhaverbeke is Professor of Strategy & Innovation Management at Hasselt University. He is also a Visiting Professor at ESADE Business School and the National University of Singapore.

Wim is also a dedicated open innovation researcher collaborating with different partners in universities and companies around the globe, and frequently speaks at leading international conferences.

Wim’s work has been published in a number of international journals such as Organization Science and Journal Management.

In addition, he was recognised by the International Association of Management of Technology (IAMOT) as one of the top 50 authors of technology and innovation management during the period 2008-2012.
tw @wvanhave

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