Teaching Philosophy Of Achilles Georgiu, Program Director At CEU Hungary
- 18 Jul 2018 9:45 AM
My personal objective is to burn pictures in people’s minds via metaphors and visual stories to transform them into future e-Leaders, who understand technology evolution and the adaptation to everyday business environment with the emphasis on human aspects and personalized motivation.
Can humanity keep control of technology and use it for good or will technology take over?
One of my personal goals is to help as many people as possible to see the big picture and understand their own part in it a little bit better. It is a great privilege and honour for me that during these years I had the opportunity to influence the future of hundreds of people from all over the world and could contribute a bit to their personal reinvention.
How difficult is to teach people about technology evolution and the impact on their businesses?
At the beginning of my teaching career I failed several times. Teaching students with mixed backgrounds was particularly challenging. Several times, most students in class had only a business background and zero understanding of technology while the rest of the students were techie experts without any clue about business.
Teaching those teams separately would have been an easy job but teaching them within the same class was a disaster. It took me quite some time to develop special techniques, that could help me build a bridge between business and technology.
One of the best ways to ensure this is to take the key learning elements to a neutral environment by using such metaphors and simple stories that both sides can easily understand. Having established a common ground, students can adapt and localise the key messages to their own language but also can understand easier what is happening on the other side of the river.
This is my bridging technique for connecting the two worlds. Once a student said: “Today I learned something and not just learned about something…” This sentence was a great reinforcement; since then I feel very confident about my teaching philosophy and approach, that it is working even in a diverse group of students regardless of their gender, age, cultural or business background.
Understanding technology is particularly challenging: everything changes so fast, that if something is written down in academic publications it may already have become obsolete. Students are not interested in the past but they are curious about the present and even more the future, therefore my courses need to be updated very often.
I remember when a student came back for a second degree a few years after getting the first one. It was just a coincidence that he took a course that had spawned from another one under a different name. After the course, he told me that just within 3 years the content had changed dramatically and the intersection between the original “IT for Managers” and the new “Digital Transformation” course was close to zero.
Many people ask me “how do you access the latest knowledge and what is your primary source of information?” I have a global network of alumni who are interested in Technology Evolution - so whatever happens on the other side of the world it is guaranteed that I will know about it within a few hours.
Having all these modern technologies in the classroom, does it make easier to teach people about technology?
Many people say that we, who are teaching at CEU, have an easy job as we have the privilege to teach in smart classrooms, rich in latest education technology devices. Indeed, this is very fancy but it brings a lot of new challenges and responsibilities for the instructor as well.
Students expect more than simply watching slides presented on huge screens.
The education material I use needs to be developed for blended learning, facilitating the content delivery through every possible channel of communication; moreover, courses need to be transformed from push- into pull mode, to help the students learn through actions and active participation.
Confucius said “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
Now is the time to turn it into reality. Technology can help us establish interactive classes with multidirectional communication and new ways to combine face-to-face, offline, on-line and automated approaches.
The role of the professor is also changing. Imagine an orchestrator and conductor who is not only to define the knowledge elements but who also needs to create a multidimensional learning experience personalized down to the individual level. It is like having 50-80 reins in your hand and you need to feel even the smallest energy change in class.
This is what I like the most as it needs continuous attention and constant focus on every student in class.
How does your teaching approach changes when you need to teach those who are born in a world surrounded by technology?
More and more Y generation students populate our classes and the Z generation will follow very soon. This makes me wonder, how I can adapt my teaching approach to fit their needs and develop new techniques that could help me establish an effective and efficient link with them.
Using all the new technologies and accessing them through every possible communication channel will not be enough anymore – I need to learn their language and understand their unique behaviour: content should be disassembled into correlated knowledge elements called quantums, that can be digested more easily by the future generation of students.
Last year I was a member of the organizing committee of the Scratch conference, which was hosted by CEU. It was extremely exciting to see the new methods to engage the minds of our kids. Personally, what interests me the most, is how to build the best possible communication channel with my own children…
What kind of courses are you teaching?
Digital Transformation can be considered an umbrella course where we explore the general impact of technology not only on business transformation but in a wider context, including the socio-economical, and also the ethical aspects of digitalization starting from the human level up to the overall transformation of the world.
Innovation Imperative is the course where we focus on how key business players have reacted to technology disruption and what kind of new models they apply to reinvent their businesses. In this course, I invite C-level representatives from global and local companies and instead of having them present to the students, students form groups who have to assess the selected companies and present their findings in front of the representatives of the company by keeping a mirror to them.
e-Leadership focuses completely on the individual level; in this course we work more on soft skill aspects of leadership and the way it has transformed due to the impact of technology innovation. The course is building heavily on the Absorption Model of Leadership which was developed by me in cooperation with Prof. Zoltán Buzády and has been published in several journals like OD Practitioner or Harvard Business Review.
Best Practices in IT Management is the most tangible course as here we explore down to the lowest possible details the processes, tools and human-related aspects of how to run and manage the IT organisation within a company. At the end of the course students are participating in real-life simulations where they have a discussion with a group of randomly selected C-level people and present their business proposal to them.
My favourite of all courses is the Consultative Selling and Negotiations. This course builds heavily on active participation in class. Students are exposed to role play activities where they can get a feeling of real-life situations during personal and/or team negotiations. The stress is on practical exercises in planning and negotiating.
Each course has its unique objectives and scope. Although the courses are not chained up there is a healthy correlation between them, so a student who takes a course, gains relevant knowledge of that specific topic but if they choose several of the courses they can explore the topics from different aspects and can leverage the knowledge gained in one course also in the other ones.
For example, the skills developed during the Consultative Selling & Negotiations can be very useful during the discussion with C-Level people in Best Practices in IT Management. It is like having a fish in a tank: just by observing it from different angles student can see the different shapes of it – from the front it is a thin line, from the side it is an ellipsoid and this observation can help the student put together the picture of the fish.
How can you find time and energy to work both in business and academia?
The answer is simple. I teach what I do and I do what I teach. When I am working in business I always try to understand the reasoning behind and when I am teaching in class I can always leverage my experience from the field and support what I say with real-life examples.
What I love most is the synergy between the two disciplines; although they seem to be far enough from each other they can be used complementary – this is exactly what makes it exciting. When I teach I completely forget my daily job and vice-versa.
The freedom of mind boosts creativity: it happened many times that I could solve a business challenge that was bothering me the whole day during teaching in class, or I had a great idea from the field with which I could enrich my lecture.
My energy comes primarily from my personal curiosity and positive attitude. I am always happy to meet interesting people, to learn from them and CEU is the best place to combine all of these. But the students are my greatest reward; I have obligations towards them and I feel responsible for their successful transformation.
They are vulnerable during the journey and we as teachers need to become their mentors for a while. The key of success depends very much on how effectively I could take the individuals out of their comfort zones, and push them closer to their limits which takes them to the real learning zone, but I always have to pay attention not to let them into their risk zone.
Using a simple metaphor: a rubber kept intact is in rest mode so I as a teacher need to help the student to stretch it out as close as possible to the point that it will not break. In some of my courses like e-Leadership or Consultative Selling and Negotiations we can really take this practice into the class.
That is also the reason why I have a personal commitment towards my students: I am always accessible to them with 24/7 availability and a confirmed 15 minutes reaction time (unless I am teaching in class). Many people smile when they hear me state this, until they try to contact me during the night for the first time…
What is your personal motivation?
A few years ago, I met with one of our alumni in a conference, 5 years after teaching him in class. It was very interesting that we could not even remember each other but he could recall what he learned from me – I was proud of this as my personal motivation is to make people remember at least one thing; something that they can use in their whole lives.
Achilles Georgiu is the Program Director of the MS in Technology Management and Innovation Program at the CEU Department of Economics and Business
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