February 12, 2021

Are ecosystem strategy projects and workshops better online?

It seems like online works well. But are online projects and online workshops better compared to in-person workshops?

Empty lecture hall.

We started the new year by continuing our mission to help (future) business leaders navigate ecosystems. A big part is teaching them the core concepts of and mindset required for ecosystems. And under normal circumstances, this happens with face-to-face workshops.  

However, Covid-19 lockdowns all over Europe have forced us to conduct all our workshops and strategy projects online. Are these online formats better or worse?

To answer this question, we want to share our “online-only” insights from working with students, executives, and organizations that apply our concepts. 

Online Bachelor course: This is how a university should be!

After almost three months and 14 online sessions, the first bachelor course “Business Ecosystem Design” at the University of Applied Sciences Berlin ended with the final case study presentation in January. 

The students had to analyze companies like Tencent, Peloton, and Pfizer using our processes and tools for ecosystem strategy and design. The objective was to derive new business opportunities through ecosystems. 

In the end, the feedback of the interactive course (using Mural most of the time) was very positive. One student said:

 “The application-oriented, creative, and engaging course design made it really easy to understand and grasp a complex topic like ecosystems. This is how a university should be!”

An online whiteboard capturing a semester’s work: More than 40 students were working together at the same time on ecosystem strategy topics for three months.

Executive education at „Russian MIT“ with 50+ CDOs and CTOs worked well

Prof. Julian Kawohl held a closed Online-Masterclass for CDOs and CTOs as part of an executive program of the Russian elite business school Skolkovo.

Nikolai Verkhovsky, Deputy Director of the Digital Transformation Center at Skolkovo Business School and Professor of Project Work.

“We had a productive experience together with over 50 students of the open enrollment program CDTO (Chief Digital Transformation Officer) exploring Julian’s Ecosystemizer approach for building business ecosystems. As a result of our short session, we received lots of positive feedback from students and are grateful to Julian for joining us on our educational journey in the world of Digital Transformation.”

Following the positive feedback, Julian was invited to conduct another session exclusively for the top management of an Eastern European telco player. 

This also marks the 50th executive education session and we are very happy that Ecosystemizer has gained a high acceptance among top managers of companies, as well as, well-known academic institutions. 

Learn more about our Masterclass or find our Masterclass dates for 2021.

Strategy projects work online, too

So far we have been helping more than 20 companies with the ecosystem strategy sprint program. We use our toolset to reduce the risk of false investments and to identify ecosystem growth opportunities. 

We are very thankful to our current clients (among them two European banks and one global professional service company), for being open to collaboratively create a productive, digital workshop environment. This allows us to continue working with them on specifying strategic options and designing ecosystem business models. 

The feedback grid is the essential tool we use at the end of each online workshop to learn from each other. This is where we ask what everyone liked or didn’t like, what could be improved and which questions exist.

Excerpt of a feedback grid after a workshop


It seems like online works well. But are online projects better compared to in-person workshops? Yes and no. 

At the moment they are necessary and force us to use digital tools for the better. We experienced that education can be converted easier into interactive formats in cases where it wasn’t possible before. For example, it is sometimes not possible to make highly interactive (executive) education workshops a reality due to location constraints. In addition, online whiteboards like Mural or Miro speed up the process of some exercises (like voting) and make workshops more efficient.

On the other hand, we are no robots and thrive on face-to-face interaction. And it is more difficult to build a trusted relationship as the personal connection is missing. For example, reading subtle gestures of a group to identify agreement or disagreement is not possible through video conferencing. Workshop efficiency also depends on the participants. Online collaboration requires digital skills that naturally younger students inherit more. Some clients lag behind with no fault of their own and it is harder to help from a distance.

In the end, we believe that the right mix would be best for all. It would combine higher project efficiency and less business travel with personal connection and trust. This is better for all of us and our planet.

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