The Silicon Review
The definition of a university makes it clear that it is an institution of higher education and research that awards academic degrees in various academic disciplines. Apart from this, one question which often looms around our head is what makes a university great? Some of the legendary universities out there have a rich endowment and terrific storied histories. Universities, in general, know that their reputation is significant for attracting the best and brightest students. In the end, what makes a university great is a combination of autonomy, leadership, and freedom. Institutions must be more agile and be less bound by clunky bureaucracies and externally imposed standards. Globally there are various universities offering exemplary services, but one that stands out from the rest is KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Since its inception in 1827, KTH has developed into one of Europe’s leading technical universities and an important knowledge development arena. As Sweden’s largest university for technical research and education, KTH brings together students, researchers, and faculty worldwide.
Together with business and society, KTH is working on sustainable solutions to some of humanity’s greatest challenges: climate change, the energy supply of the future, urbanization, and quality of life for a rapidly growing, aging population. KTH’s research and education cover both science and all branches of technology and architecture, industrial economics, social planning, history, and philosophy. The innovative climate promotes versatile solutions, and KTH‘s education creates a new generation of engineers, architects, and teachers. KTH’s vision is as President Sigbritt Karlsson outlines Diversity-Equality, Internationalization, and Sustainability. Drawing from these lines, first, it must show a commitment to breadth and excellence in all fields of human inquiry, not simply in a particular niche; Second, world-class universities engage in cutting-edge research whilst at the same time teaching the next generation, their students. Third, great universities must allow their researchers the freedom to experiment, succeed, and sometimes fail. Finally, world-class universities have permeable boundaries. This means encouraging interdisciplinary research and teaching; it means working with the private sector, such as fostering and encouraging partnerships with industry and encouraging international collaboration. World-class universities look outward and think beyond conventional boundaries today. KTH educates students more and more of whom will go on to live and work in a range of cultures.
In conversation with Dr. Tigran Haas, CEO of Centre for the Future of Places at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Q. How do you monitor the performance of subordinates? What guidance and direction did you find most effective?
Review their work in progress regularly is one of the most effective ways to monitor them if you are there, and you take notice. Tell them you have been in their shoes, so, so many times before. Assist them in using review and monitoring tools. It’s all about: Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Making mistakes is human, and one should learn from them. Taking high risk gives a high reward. Check their ideas, passion, work stamina, and love for the game. Taking courses and developing their skills is in-continuous work. Also, make them read the latest and the best management and leadership and work ethics discipline.
Q. How do you promote diversity among employees? What are the values that are used to foster a positive culture?
It’s about diversity and inclusion as a DNA philosophy. It is embedded in our bone marrow. Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace today must include understanding the following things: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Sexual orientation, Religious affiliation, Generation, Disability, Personality type, and Thinking style. It is crucial to hire and maintain a diverse workforce, so gender and racial/ethnic initiatives will be launched and maintained into the foreseeable future. Build an inclusive environment while using multiple practices and measures. One must seek diversity and create inclusion but also drive accountability, foster a positive culture through Learning from strengths and weaknesses but also promoting flexibility and catering to diverse individuals. One of the keys for leadership strategy must be the (common, open, and sustainable) culture one creates, and that is what we read in best management books and practice in best work environments: Emphasis on employee wellness, provide meaning, create goals, encourage positivity but also work for hardship scenarios, foster social connections, listen but also do! Finally, as a CEO, one must encourage collaboration and communication when developing strong workplace culture and always facilitate learning opportunities and champion those who do the job well!
Q. What is KTH’s philosophy or vision?
For me to answer that, I need to say the core belief I have when it comes to universities and labs, centers, platforms, and institutes within is VISION, CORE VALUES, and COMMON CULTURE. These three things need to exist if one is to have perfect oiled, diverse, and professional machinery in place. KTH is very similar to MIT, and the vision is in line with MIT’s – “to make a better world through education, research, and innovation.” KTH prides itself (justly) on three pillars of sustainability, diversity, and internationalization. When you merge these two sets from MIT and KTH, you can see that they provide a dependable source of solutions for diverse global challenges. I take examples of both places, as I currently belong to both of them. Both institutions continue to excel in this ambition through their research and innovation centers and labs. By extension, they also pride themselves on their students’ achievement in different companies and organizations across the globe. MIT is the global leader in education and research, and its core values comprise “integrity, collaboration, student-centeredness, community, diversity and inclusion, and innovation.” One misses internationalization, but it is all over the place. KTH might have three that I mentioned, but they fit well into these.
Q. What strategies and Services do you provide in your organization and what is the progress so far on different levels?
World Class Conferences, Symposiums, Talks, Seminars, Expert Advice, Education, Books, Research Reports, Consulting on best-case projects, and others. How was CFP’s progress from the start till now? CFP from 2016-2020 has experienced the dynamic synergy that results from the free flow of ideas and contributions of people from all backgrounds. We are also firmly committed to attaining and sustaining the highest level of quality in our research and associated programs and projects, as well as a major push for internationalization on all levels. We put all of our support behind our post-graduate students’ work so that they have the broadest freedom to express their passion fully while experimenting with innovative ideas. With its holistic and interdisciplinary approach and project-based environments, CFP allows engaged groups of individuals to do their best work. Since its initiation in September 2016, CFP’s staff and researchers have contributed to more than 150 new books, academic publications, book reviews, and research reports. We have pioneered a plethora of new systemic and clustered “Academic Conversations” - The Centre for the Future of Places Event Dictionary. The first-ever female academic series has been established, with 20 international scholars coming with the total number of events numbering over 200.
Q. Finally, in what ways has the current COVID-19 outbreak impacted the institute’s operations?
University and college campuses such as KTH and MIT are places where students study, socialize and live close to each other. They are also the nexus for social and cultural hubs where students are brought together from all corners of the world and where social and human capital is produced. Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus and the unprecedented impact it’s had on our society, they had to adapt to teaching, researching, and networking online and, most importantly, to do everything they can to protect their students’ lives faculty. Maximizing online learning and teaching, developing robust but flexible systems, gathering information, and applying the best practices have been some of the hallmarks of this difficult period, as well as great collegial and comradeship throughout. The higher education sector has withstood pandemics and turbulent economic times in the past, and it will withstand them again, preparing to be adaptable, resilient, and sustainable in the long run. In a network society, city of bits, and the new digital age, universities are better placed, more than ever, to provide students with an easily accessible online version of their courses. We have to learn and adapt, and we also need to prepare for the tougher challenges ahead of us, as unfortunately, there will be many more of these to come.
Meet the leader behind the success of Centre for the Future of Places at the
KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Dr. Tigran Haas, Director, Associate Professor of Urban Planning + Urban Design, Background and Degrees in Architecture, Urban Design, Environmental Science and Regional Planning and Development. Dr. Haas has also been teaching Project Management and Leadership: Strategic design and implementation of projects for 10 years. Post-Doc Fellowships at MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, UC Berkeley and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has been a guest professor at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management (ZSEM). He has been the Former Director and Chair of Civitas Athenaeum Laboratory (CAL) and the co-founder of the first ever Scandinavian Masters in Urban Planning & Design as well as the founder of the first ever Scandinavian International masters in Urbanism Studies. Currently he is the CEO/Director of the International Centre for the Future of Places at KTH focusing on sustainable public realms. His core focus area is urban planning, urban design and architecture. Author of 65 scholarly articles, 8 books, 4 research anthologies and 45 conference papers.