Yannick Bammens is associate professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Department of Department of Organisation, Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Maastricht University. Yannick is programme leader of the MSc programme Entrepreneurship & Business Development, as well as founder and head of the GSBE research group Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship. His current research centers on corporate innovation and entrepreneurship, with a particular interest in the setting of midsized and family-owned firms.
Yannick holds a Master degree in Business Engineering (magna cum laude) from KU Leuven (2004), and a PhD degree in Business Economics from Hasselt University (2008), both in Belgium. He has been affiliated with Maastricht University since 2008, first as an Assistant Professor (2008-2015) and subsequently as an Associate Professor (2016-present).
Yannick is involved in the MaastrichtMBA programme as lecturer at the Executive MBA module on Entrepreneurship and New Business Development.
I have been affiliated with Maastricht University since 2008, currently as an Associate Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship. While born, raised, and still living in Belgium, I thoroughly enjoy working in the city of Maastricht – it is a beautiful historic town with an emphasis on “living the good life” with its many pubs and restaurants. These are great attributes when inviting foreign scholars or organising conferences. Furthermore, since a young age I’m quite familiar with the Maastricht region; my mother is originally from Valkenburg (a small town near Maastricht) and I still have family living there. Therefore, there is a personal connection with the region too.
Several academic scholars would call themselves first-and-foremost researchers, with the teaching part only coming second. However, I personally enjoy the synergy between both. Of course, research informs our teaching – but it also goes the other way round. Our research tends to be highly specialised; that is because we are competing at a global level to get our research published in the best academic journals.
Our teaching activities force us to zoom out again, to see the big picture, because a course cannot be about a single specialised topic but should instead offer students a holistic view. Students can also trigger us, especially MBA students who have some working experience. They can tell us how things play out in practice, and why our academic models may (not) hold for their particular business. This creates a fruitful dialogue, which is strongly facilitated by the “Maastricht way of teaching”, namely in small groups with our students actively engaged.
My expertise lies in the area of entrepreneurship and corporate innovation. In fact, I’m research leader of a cross-departmental platform called Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) and programme leader of our master-of-science specialisation programme in Entrepreneurship & Business Development. Because of this background, and my keen interest in these topics, I was asked to design and teach a module on entrepreneurship for our MBA students. I have been doing this for several years now, and it seems students are not complaining too much about me as UMIO keeps on inviting me back to teach in their MBA program — an invitation I gladly accept.
I have two main objectives with my MBA entrepreneurship class. First, I want to familiarise our students with “the entrepreneurial way of decision-making”. The more elevated the level of uncertainty in the business environment, the more relevant these entrepreneurial decision models become. Some students may already be familiar with concepts like Design Thinking – but there is more, particularly for the very early stages of new venture development when there is no clear target customer yet.
Second, I will talk about entrepreneurial collaboration models. With this, I mean ways in which corporates can collaborate with startups to enhance their own innovation potential. In recent years, especially in the field of digitalisation, we have seen a major increase in such corporate-startup collaborations, but they are not without obstacles and risks.
In entrepreneurship, we prefer to stay away from trying to make predictions about the future – so, asking me what the world will look like is a tricky one. Instead of making bold predictions, entrepreneurs rather focus on those elements they can influence themselves, and co-create the future together with stakeholders. But to answer your question, I do see a few possibilities in the entrepreneurship area. First, having lived through a pandemic, executives will want to mitigate the negative impact of potential future pandemics. This clearly creates opportunities for startups offering novel digital business solutions.
Second, and relatedly, working from home and avoiding time-consuming business travel by having online calls instead, may stay with us. While this creates various benefits, it also lowers opportunities for interpersonal trust-building and for reliance on social mechanisms in tie formation – be it between colleagues, or between organisations setting up partnerships. It will be interesting to see to what extent startups offering new technologies, like blockchain, will be able to fill this gap. Entrepreneurs are unlikely to let a good crisis go to waste.
This crisis has shown me the incredible resilience of organisations. As individuals we have our weaknesses, but when many people with a common objective join forces – which is basically what an organisation is – even the biggest challenges can be overcome. Let us not forget that Maastricht University faced two crises in 2020. First a serious cyberattack, which meant nothing could be done online, everything had to be handled old-school, face-to-face.
Fast forward a few months, and we are in the midst of a global pandemic where everything, from teaching to research to management, had to be done fully online. I’m curious to see how Maastricht University not only bounces back from these crises, but actually bounces forward – using some of the gained experiences to make our organisation even more competitive and future-proof, for instance in the digital space.
Practise what you preach. Academics are typically not viewed as very entrepreneurial. We have our nose in the books, we present at dull conferences (well, dull for the outside world, of course exciting for ourselves). However, in fact, you can be entrepreneurial in any setting — that is what I teach my students, and that is also what I try to do myself. Also, at university opportunities arise – and it is up to you as an academic to seize these. Therefore, I am happy to have co-founded the CIE research platform – which in no time attracted over 40 research affiliates from different departments. I am pleased to have redesigned our master-of-science programme in entrepreneurship, more than doubling the number of student registrations.
And most recently, of initiating the AI Club at our school. I think artificial intelligence will have a major impact on our economies and businesses; we did not have any structure in place to join and channel forces on this topic, so I created one together with some colleagues. In the meantime, over 50 scholars signaled they want to join the AI Club. In short, I am proud to practice what I preach – namely being entrepreneurial, even in a large and bureaucratic organisation.
At the beginning of the pandemic I bought 2 plants to liven up my home office a bit. A full year later, one of them is still alive. I am quite proud of that. Happy to share this personal achievement with your readers!