Knowledge, Skills and Character

Hein Fleuren is part-time full professor at the department of Econometrics and OR, as well as partner and founder of BlueRock Logistics in Den Bosch. Since September 1, 2016 he has a special chair on Data Science for Humanitarian Innovation together with Prof. Conny Rijken from the Law School.

Students who followed the class Professional Business Analytics Skills (PABS) just had their final presentation, and I was proud, really proud! The presenters and the teams behind them lived up to expectations, probably giving the best presentation of their lives so far. They tried to integrate many of the aspects around a real case we – Goos Kant, Kuno Huisman, several invited speakers and myself – taught them. The teams had appealing and very clear slides. We have seen many good future BAOR consultants!

Perhaps I should explain why we do this and why it is important. The new education vision of our university is “knowledge, skills and character.” In many courses you follow, knowledge is central. These courses will always be needed, although I personally think the way that knowledge will come to you will drastically change in the coming 5 to 10 years. Why have a lot of lectures when there are so many excellent lectures online? And what to think of online courses, where you have a good mix of explanation, visuals, practice and further explanation where needed. When I started to work for WFP I had to take an online course on safety. It was a good course: well designed with lots of repetition, visuals of mines, illustrations of dangerous situations and how to act in particular situations. I could completely do it in my own time.

In our PABS course we still use the traditional lectures to gain knowledge on personality types with whom you have to work, about law around data usage, visualization techniques, change management and decision technology. In the future we will look for other opportunities here.

With skills you start to apply your knowledge in various situations. Your knowledge gets deepened, you consider different angles and your creativity is needed to solve particular problems. In a typical tutorial, we solve equations, build small models and ask questions to our teacher. In my opinion, we need more teaching here. Small misunderstandings of theory as well as really becoming fluent in the application of new knowledge requires personal contact and interaction with an expert – although even the expert is wrong from time to time!

In PBAS we had regular possibilities for teams to meet one of the teachers and discuss for example their acquisition interview or their project plan. I personally liked these moments very much because you work with 4-5 people and in 20 to 30 minutes you can do a lot (if it is well prepared by the team… J). From the course evaluation, we learned that the students wanted even more personal feedback – and I wholeheartedly agree! Accomplishing that is difficult in our educational system but we are going to think about it.

The final pillar of the before mentioned vision is character. This is harder to define, but I am a big fan of this university initiative. In one’s education, one should learn to find out what one wants to do in life with the obtained knowledge and skills. You can be knowledgeable and awfully skilled but what do you really want to contribute? Of course, this will be different for most of you. But it is important to find your passion, and as a consequence your contribution to society.

In PBAS we, for example, worked on ethics. For some groups in our role-plays we introduced some unethical things. It is important to find out for yourself what you do or do not tolerate. Additionally, we stimulated every team to think of the consequences of the proposed solutions (for managers, personnel, etc.).

Even though that many participants were enthusiastic, we realize it is only the beginning. I would like to thank all the PABS students for their enthusiasm, their effort and their feedback! I would also like to thank all readers of my column of the last year and I wish you all a very good summer!!

Text by: Fleur Heinen