“Culture of the 2nd Chance”: HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management hosted the FuckUp Night Leipzig on July 20, 2016.

On July 20, 2016, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management hosted the FuckUp Night Leipzig at the Schmalenbach lecture hall in Leipzig.

During the event which started at 8 pm, entrepreneurs such as Christoph Hempel from the Leipzig Lakers basketball club and other brave speakers talked about how their start-ups, projects and ideas failed. The event was sold out and approximately 200 visitors filled the big lecture hall, listened to stories about difficulties, hurdles and mistakes, networked and had fun.

HHL Dean Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart said, “The FuckUp Night does not foster a culture of failure – who would want to encourage people to fail? It is rather about a culture of second chances as every entrepreneurial action includes uncertainties. It is about allowing mistakes and learning from them.”

About HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management

With over 165 start-ups established by HHL alumni over the past 18 years, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management has developed into an incubator for company creation. The founders’ entrepreneurial commitment has created more than 2,800 jobs already. In 2013 and 2014, HHL reached one of three first places as the best entrepreneurial universities in Germany in the Start-Up Radar ranking published by Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Founders’ Association of German Science) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BWMi). According to the Financial Times, HHL ranks first in Germany and fifth globally for its entrepreneurship focus within the M.Sc. and EMBA programs.


stranz_wiebke“It was the first time for me that I attended an event like the FuckUp night. I think the format is great and necessary especially in Germany where failing is often not an option and sometimes perceived critically and negative in society. Even though, failing or drawbacks are part of the entrepreneurial process. I have great respect for the speakers as they share also imprudent actions of themselves from the past in front of two hundred people, which requires a lot of courage. The atmosphere during the event was relaxed as it is typical in the start-up scene. Also, the participants were interested and open-minded. The different speakers showed that failure can happen at various stages, forms and peculiarities. In Christoph Hempel´s speech it became clear that idea generation might occur spontaneously and in daily life. Furthermore, leadership skills are crucial and indispensable when the organization grows. The case of Mathias Fege showed that failure can be triggered by external effects, like the loss of the industry partner. The fuck up of Ele Jansen demonstrated that academia and research are not exempt from failure.”

Wiebke Stranz, Research Associate, Chair of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management


jansen_e“I spoke about how I ran up against academic norms and orthodoxy. Writing my dissertation, I dedicated myself to exploring new horizons, not only in terms of content but also formally. While I received a lot of praise throughout the process, my submission was rejected, because it was different. I went through all the stages of grief and finally rewrote the whole thing according to common practice. Ironically, at my PhD-ceremony, I was lauded to now be ‘a well-formed and adapted member of the academic community’. What a slap in the face. I don’t think that being adapted leads to new findings at all.

Let me explain though that in Australia (where I graduated) external reviewers assess all theses. This is different in Germany, which allows Ph.D. candidates to walk new paths with their doctoral advisors. I highly recommend PhD candidates to stay fresh and do things differently with confidence and genuine self-reflection. Academia needs young innovation. Experiments are natural to Science, and failure fosters resilience. It’s the essence and livelihood of research and knowledge creation.

Overall, the evening was relaxing and inspiring at the same time. I had a conversation about the connection of electrical engineering and spirituality! And I learned about ishin-denshin – loved it! Such enthusiastic lateral thinking suits HHL.”

Ele Jansen, Corporate Consultant for Innovation Strategies Probst & Partner; Lecturer at University of Technology, Sydney, Australia; Co-founder Learn Do Share


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About the Author

Lis Schulz
Online Marketing Manager at HHL