Updating professional skills
Universities today offer more than under- and postgraduate courses and research opportunities in the classical academic subjects. Indeed, they are legally obliged to provide continuing education for working professionals and executives.
Emotional intelligence is one of the myths propagated in the business world which Markus Bühner, Professor of Psychological Methodology and Diagnostics at LMU, is doing his best to expose. According to its proponents, emotional intelligence – defined as the ability to recognize and manage the emotions of his-/herself or another person – is indispensable for success in one’s professional career and in one’s private life. But Bühner points that, so far, there is no empirical proof for such a contention: Measuring the ability to recognize the emotions of oneself or another person is a challenging task, he says. More importantly, no reliable ways of assessing of how people manage their own emotions and manipulate those of others are available at present. What has been shown is that tests ostensibly designed to quantify emotional intelligence add nothing further to what standard tests of personality and general intelligence reveal about a candidate’s prospects of professional success.
In this context, Professor Bühner knows what he is talking about. He advises personnel managers at leading firms on how to select the best candidates to fill open positions in their companies. His courses for working professionals on the recruitment of personnel are only one element in a broad array of evidence-based programs of further education developed at LMU. “The aim of these courses is not to bring firms up to date on the results of the latest research or the theoretical models on which such research rests. Instead, the idea is to engage in a dialog with the business world, says Dr. Claudia Schmitz, who heads a service unit that markets LMU’s targeted training courses for skilled professionals. “Qualified specialists and business executives who already have extensive practical experience in their professions don’t need professors to tell them how they should do their jobs. So our lecturers focus on introducing new ideas that stimulate the development of new approaches to the solution of existing problems,” she explains.
Learning to handle complexity
For example, numerous companies have commissioned Bühner to design seminars, develop tests, build up assessment centers or devise structured questionnaires for job interviews based on the results of his own research. And he has received and responded to inquiries from many others, answering questions such as the following: Can I as a recruiter simply follow my instincts, or decide on the basis of previous experience? Or should I choose new recruits on the basis of a standard intelligence test? “The use of intelligence and personality tests should certainly be part of any serious selection procedure,” Bühner asserts. “We have the evidence to prove that, as our own evaluations have shown that the inclusion of such tests can indeed help businesses to select better candidates.”
To cope with steadily increasing levels of complexity and constantly changing coordinates and conditions in the world of work, businesses are being forced into a never-ending search for new strategies and solutions. Continuing education within firms is one way of enabling firms to successfully confront these challenges. And Bühner is convinced that universities are very well placed to assist firms in making the best use of the latest research findings in their day-to-day operations. “And at LMU, we are able to work in interdisciplinary teams. In some projects, for example, IT specialists, statisticians and psychologists work together,” he adds.
Large numbers of businesses have recognized the value of utilizing the continuing education programs that third-level institutions have set up. For example, the municipal authorities in Munich recently decided to join the many banks, industrial firms and other entities which already make use of LMU’s adult education programs. The main reason for this, as Alexander Lendner, head of the city’s Office for Continuing Education, explains is that one can rest assured that the courses on offer are based on the very latest research in education. “Many of the service providers in this area rely more on the principle of trial and error. In the case of LMU, on the other hand, I can be sure that courses are securely based on trustworthy evidence – something which cannot be said of many other suppliers in this field.” In this case, the focus is on in-house training, a format in which courses are specifically designed for the particular customer concerned.
Another important advantage that universities possess is that they are regarded by commercial companies as disinterested and independent partners. “Particularly in the course of in-house training programs, outside lecturers become well acquainted with, and gain deep insights into the firms involved, and this familiarity with the context often leads to the establishment of long-term cooperation,” Schmitz explains.
Preparing academics for the real world
And collaborations with commercial entities can also be of benefit for researchers, as close involvement in the provision of advanced training stimulates them to develop new ideas and enables them to keep abreast of the latest trends and demands in the business world, as Professor Bühner points out. I need the direct contact with the practical problems that businesses face, which in-house training courses provide. Only if I have a solid grasp of the issues that are of current concern to firms can I design a research program that addresses these concerns.