University of Mannheim, Mannheim Business School

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Leadership Education Meets Professional Soccer

A renowned business school and a successful Bundesliga soccer club form a cross-disciplinary collaboration to gain insights into how data analytics can be used for leadership development and effective people management.

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The soccer club TSG Hoffenheim came in fourth last season in the Bundesliga, Germany’s top soccer league. It was its best result to date.

Among soccer teams, TSG Hoffenheim is leading in the use of technology and big data in soccer, cooperating closely with its main supporter, software giant SAP.

For example, it uses the in-memory data platform SAP HANA to optimize the training of its players. It also recently expanded its cutting-edge Research LAB to conduct intensive research on people analytics.

TSG Hoffenheim and Mannheim Business School (MBS) agreed to enter into a long-term teaching and research collaboration with the focus on data-driven people management. While TSG Hoffenheim is an expert in using people analytics for maximizing the performance levels of its players, researchers from MBS and the Business School of the University of Mannheim (BSUM) will provide innovative insights from the field of leadership education and development from the business environment.

Together, both partners are focusing their research on how predictive analytics and worker-related data can be successfully implemented in organizational structures in order to make more accurate HR decisions.

This unique cross-disciplinary collaboration allows both institutions to combine their best expertise in their respective fields and to gain valuable and new insights into how data analytics can be used for leadership development and effective people management.

Innovation Description

The recently established collaboration between a top-tier business school and a successful Bundesliga soccer club is the first of its kind in Germany and probably Europe. This innovative partnership, which is planned to be long term, will focus on current issues in the research fields of HR management and leadership development.

Academic supervision in all HR-related activities and projects is ensured through the close involvement of professor Torsten Biemann of BSUM. Biemann belongs to Germany’s leading experts in the fields of human resource management and leadership. Also closely involved is the chair holder of information systems at BSUM, professor Christian Becker.

The collaboration with TSG Hoffenheim is based on three pillars—education, business, and research—to ensure a mutual transfer of knowledge in these three areas.

TSG Hoffenheim’s cutting-edge research facilities are accessible for researchers and students of BSUM and MBS, while the joint platforms, such as the “HR people analytics workshops,” ensure a transfer of knowledge to TSG Hoffenheim as well as to other participating corporate partners, such as SAP, Nestlé, Roche, BASF, and John Deere.

The collaboration was established in 2017 and is still in its initial phase. However, various activities have already been compeleted, and others are scheduled to take place in the near future.

Based on participants’ feedback from the last workshop in November, MBS is considering development of additional educational offers to add to its portfolio. These additions would focus on innovative models of how to use people analytics efficiently in leadership development and in data-driven people management.


Even though the majority of executives indicate that data-driven insights in HR would significantly affect profitability, surveys from KMPG and the Economist Intelligence Unit & Human Captial Institute indicate that nearly 80 percent of business leaders still use their gut feeling and personal opinion to make decisions that affect talent-management practices.

Thus, key anticipated future insights of the collaboration between TSG Hoffenheim and MBS will be to understand how predictive people analytics and worker-related data are successfully implemented in organizational structures, and how human bias and subjectivity in people decision-making are reduced.

The insights gained should lead to more efficient and effective leadership decisions by evidence-based management, and further will enhance approaches to leadership education and development at BSUM as well as MBS. Participants, especially those from MBS’ executive MBA programs, will learn how to address data problems, how to overcome a possible aversion to data-driven people management, and how to use people analytics to gain a competitive advantage for their company as well as for their personal leadership skills.

The above-mentioned additional educational offer, which will be in development until 2019 and which will focus on the use of purposeful and sustainable people analytics in the business environment, is another concrete impact of the innovative collaboration between the Bundesliga soccer club, TSG Hoffenheim, and MBS.

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