Best of Both Worlds: Developing an Innovative Mindset in Between Cultures

“I believe innovation is not about some sort of fancy theories or development. It is about seeing the same old problems with a new perspective.”

Ange Ou describes herself as a multicultural person. She was born and raised in China, finished high school in Australia, and earned her bachelor’s degree in Laws and Arts (International Relations & Economics) at the University of Queensland. Ange, who has spent half of her life outside of her home country, graduated from TUM School of Management, completing her studies in the Master in Management & Innovation program. We caught up with Ange, who is currently working as a business consultant, to ask her about her experiences in driving innovation in Germany and China, two completely different economies. She gave us some insights into these two business worlds and told us how what she has learned from her master’s studies shaped her innovative thinking.

Why choose the Master in Management & Innovation?

Working as a lawyer, Ange had been familiar with the legal perspective for some time. However, she realized she wanted to see what is on the other side of the table and broaden her knowledge into the business world. As TUM offered a broad program – a cross-section featuring start-ups, family businesses, big enterprises, and hidden champions – it provided the ideal base for Ange. She had no management education beforehand and enjoyed putting the pieces together in the different modules of the young professional program.

Furthermore, the program seemed appealing because of its small classes and the exchange project with China’s Tsinghua University. The trip to China with the whole class turned out to be one of Ange’s favorite experiences during her studies. Together with another Chinese classmate, Ange could use the opportunity to show the fellow students around their home country. The students formed good friendships and shared common memories. It was a unique bond that would not have been possible if they had studied in a class of hundreds of people, believes Ange.

Expectations met

Joining TUM, Ange expected to be faced with challenging projects, diverse cultural influences, and close relationships with the students in the small classes. And she was not disappointed. In a class where the students came from seven different countries, “every class was more like a summit than a lecture.” They brought their diverse backgrounds and experiences into the classroom and helped to strengthen the interactive way of learning. Moreover, the students were able to apply what they had learned to real-world projects. This way, they received insights into various industries and got to know different ways of tackling problems. As Ange explains, “I never knew that I am so much a lawyer until I worked with business people and engineers, which led me to see the power of interdisciplinary collaboration.”

Approaching things with an innovative mindset

All these different influences and approaches became decisive in teaching Ange innovation. “I believe innovation is not about some sort of fancy theories or development,” she says “It is about seeing the same old problems with a new perspective. From there you can find a better solution, which of course comes from your diverse personal experience, your professional background, and your studies.” Ange concludes, “The program taught me to solve problems using different solutions – it broadened my mindset and made me see different perspectives.”

Driving innovation in Germany and China: where are the differences?

After graduation, Ange co-founded a consulting firm, together with her husband, specializing in organizational structure and family businesses between China and Germany. Currently, the graduate is consulting a Chinese private company in the education sector. Ange has seen what enables innovation – and what holds it back – in these two countries. While Germany is very good at ensuring quality in executing ideas, sometimes an over-emphasis on quality in the beginning could slow the process down. In China, ideas develop faster, it also makes competition fiercer – there is less fear of failing, and therefore the race to innovate is tight, explains Ange. “Innovation needs people who believe in the product,” she says. “In China, the problem is not the lack of money – it is about who has a great idea and who gets to invest in it first. Whereas in Germany, I think people are less willing to throw money into half-formed ideas. I like the speed of innovation in China and the quality of the Germans. So I am trying to find a balance between the two. That, I believe, will drive better innovation.”

Creating a future for younger generations

In the future, Ange aims to combine her experiences from Germany, China, and Australia and solve problems for companies and their customers. Reflecting on her current projects, she shared that education is an industry where driving innovation can be tough, as it will take a few years for the effects of innovation to show. However, investing in education can be worth it. “Education is a meaningful industry because you create a lot of value for teens at a young age, and who knows which small things you do today will change their life in the future,” argues Ange.

For now, Ange wants to establish her company. And maybe, in the future, found another start-up. She was able to use the Master in Management & Innovation program to open up her perspective, challenge herself, and find her place in the business world. “The world is changing, and young people should become more flexible about where and how they can create value,” she says. “It is not just about having a super-fancy CV, but it is also important to work hard and find your point of difference. I am in a luxury position because I already found my passion – I know what I want to do and how I can create value in a unique way.”

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