Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Bullinger, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft until October 2012, will receive the Leonardo – European Corporate Learning Award 2012 in the category “Thought Leadership”. The award focuses on personalities who attach great importance to intelligent, sustainable and integrative growth for Europe in their innovative endeavours.
In this interview Prof. Bullinger talks about his common ground with the namesake of the educational award, Leonardo da Vinci, and his work in the area of education and innovation.
Prof. Bullinger, how important is advanced training in companies for intelligent, sustainable and integrative growth in Europe?
Advanced training in companies is of paramount importance. We all agree with the idea of lifelong learning. But nevertheless, we do not take it seriously enough. In order to achieve intelligent, sustainable and integrative growth, we would have to make lifelong learning a closer part of a company’s tasks. This is a new form of growth, in descriptive terms, which many of the responsible persons have not yet included into the code of practice in vocational training or academic studies. We should not imagine vocational training in terms of a school class in a closed room. In fact, many of the vocational training programmes take place directly in real work situations. Today, vocational training in companies is like rowing against the stream. If you stop, you will fall back.
How should companies go about vocational training in order to not fall back?
They should understand a company's vocational training as a central, integral part of a superior's tasks and not merely as something that is merely a part of the job. The executive management is responsible for the vocational training goals of its employees. They therefore have to be aware of exactly how they wish to fulfil this task, what future training goals will be and how they stand in the context of the company’s further plans.
The artistic head of this year's Documenta, Carolyn Christov-Bakargie considers artists the most important producers of knowledge. Named after Leonardo da Vinci, the Award also reminds us of the artistic side of learning and knowledge. How do you see the connection?
Leonardo was particularly characterized by his creativity and knowledge. Coming from the Documenta and the discussions being held there, the claim that artists are the largest accumulators of knowledge seems a little daring to me. But the decisive factor for a company’s assignment of tasks is that both have to come together: knowledge and freedom for trained creativity. Creativity in a company means that one is able to think something unusual through with new relationship patterns and to implement it. And in the course of that, creativity helps a great deal, but it has to meet with someone who is ready for it and has the necessary knowledge.
These two sides meet in the Bionic Learning Network, in which you work together with companies such as Festo.
That’s correct. And that is also important for university education, so that we do not only focus on the transfer of knowledge, but also include creativity-promoting subjects. While I was still active in teaching, colleagues and I lobbied for the idea that non-technical subjects should also be compulsory for students of mechanical engineering. In fact it was only implemented to a limited extent, but was characterised by the idea that more should follow.