What exactly is the DocNet Symposium?

In 2002, DocNet initiated an annual interdisciplinary scientific conference in St. Gallen. Since then, it has become one of the cornerstones of DocNet’s activities throughout each year.

Through a participatory atmosphere, it further gives opportunity for networking between science, politics and practice.

Our Symposium aims to provide a platform for young scientists to address and discuss socially highly relevant issues of overarching importance for the disciplines of economics, law, social sciences, and humanities. The concept is to offer a balanced mix of professional content, interactive discussions, and reflection. Furthermore, it aims to promote dialogue between active PhD students, established scientists, and experienced practitioners.

Last Symposium

The 21st DocNet Symposium took place on:

October 19 2023, 13:30 – 20:00, HSG Square

Topic: Leaving the Ivory Tower: From Academic Knowledge to Real-World Impact


Some impressions from our past symposia

20th Docnet Symposium

The DocNet Symposium in 2022 marked the 20th DocNet Symposium and took place in HSG’s new learning center, the so-called “Square”, on November 11. The topic was “[Self-]Leadership in Times of Crises” since these ears have been exceptional complex for societies around the world such as facing a global pandemic or, e.g., the war in Ukraine. The goal was to summarize potential learnings from individuals in three contexts talks: a corporate, a political/governmental and an individual context.

The speakers were:

Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Lang – Managing Director & Senior Partner at BCG – as an expert in a currently transforming industry, and founder/director of BCG’s Center for Mobility Innovation, Nikolaus will share interesting and relevant insights.

Dr. Florian Schulz – Head of Psychological Counselling Services at the University of St.Gallen – as an expert in psychology and researcher in “clinical organizational psychology”, Florian will include you in an active and eye-opening discussion.

Maria Soledad Rueda – Operations Coordinator at International Committee of the Red Cross – as an expert in humanitarian and development cooperation and with over 17 years of experience in some of the most challenging parts of the world, Maria will foster us to see crisis with another perspective.

19th Docnet Symposium

Is intelligence reserved for us humans and limited to our minds? According to the “Oxford Dictionary”, intelligence describes the ability of human beings to think abstractly and rationally and to derive purposeful action from this. For a long time, however, not only classical terms such as comprehension, cleverness or the ability of reasoning have been associated with intelligence. Complementary aspects such as emotional or practical intelligence are also becoming increasingly relevant in various areas of life. An emotionally intelligent employee is just as valued as the competence of practical intelligence to master the complex world of work. In addition, the presence of artificial intelligence concerns us more and more, in everyday life as well as in the work context.

The 19th DocNet Symposium addressed the central question: what is intelligence? We wanted to shed light onto different types of intelligence and define their relevance for our working world and beyond. To this end, we intended to consider different perspectives: What does research say about this topic? What kind of demands do companies have in this area? And what insights can we derive for ourselves personally?

18th DocNet Symposium

The 18th DocNet symposium was centered around the theme: Thriving in Chaos – How to Master Adverse Situations.

We live in a world of increasing globalization and digitalization, characterized by constant change and uncertainty. The recent pandemic has demonstrated just how fragile the global construct has become, inflicting chaos upon each and every one of us. How things will develop in the future is uncertain and at best ambiguous. One thing is for certain, however: it is not the first time we witness such chaos and it definitely will not be the last.

Naturally, not everyone deals with these situations in the same way. When chaos increases, it can affect our sleep, health, and overall well-being. For some people, these effects are so dominant that chaos is synonymous with negativity. But there are also many opportunities that come with the reformation of the status quo. Deepak Chopra once said: “All great changes are preceded by chaos.” Although in new and uncertain situations you probably feel fear and anxiety, it allows you to break out of your routine and achieve great and surprising things. We must first overcome our fear of chaos and then use it to find great ideas. In this way, leaving our comfort zones can lead to creative and unforeseen results. This is not just a matter of dealing with the problem at hand, but of adequately addressing it and even using it to make the best of the given situation. Making order out of chaos is a learning process over time. With the right systems in place, we can not only persevere in moments of chaos, but thrive.

For inspiration in this regard, we want to consider different perspectives. What insights can we derive from current research? How do companies perceive and handle such situations? And which approaches have proven to be the most successful?

17th DocNet Symposium

Often students and professionals face questions in their careers such as: Why am I doing this? Is it truly worth it? Wouldn’t it be simpler just to quit? Yet often in life it is our own motivation, purpose and passion that pushes us forward and allows us to persevere even when giving up seems to be the simplest solution. As John. F Kennedy said, “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”. The 17th DocNet symposium was centered around the theme: Motivation – What makes you get out of bed each morning?

16th DocNet Symposium

Time is running – do we need to catch up?

We often hear people complain that there either is not enough or too much time. We easily run out of time when we enjoy ourselves or when we must meet this urgent deadline. On the contrary, clocks seem to stand still when we wait for a train outside in wintertime. Einstein himself probably described this inherent relativity of time best: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute – and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.”

Thus, it is not just about the mere unstoppable passing of time, but it is about the circumstances under which time passes. Is time really the limiting factor to our lives, as which we often perceive it? Is time really a linear construct? Let’s pull our heads out of our daily lives’ boxes! Let’s start looking at time from different perspectives:

Time as a restriction focuses on the challenges within our business and personal life. How do managers cope with time as a bottleneck? How can a single parent raise children besides his or her job?

The perception of time deals with how we perceive time in different situations. How can we explain that sometimes time flies by and sometimes stands still? Do different kinds of time exist?

Time as a life changer considers how technological development, such as digitization and robotics, influences our behavior. How do we evolve in this context over time as individuals?

Competing against time focuses on sports and how time affects athletes when they are battling against the clock. Are such athletes living in a tunnel isolated from the ordinary life? How do you force yourself to conquer time?

Time as a gift reflects the question how advancements in the medicine industry increase the time that we have on earth. Are the humans already born who will never die? How do terminally ill people wish to spend the time they have left?

15th DocNet Symposium


Decision Making – Art or Science?

Yes, or no? Now, or never? A, B, or C? Our life is characterized by a plethora of decisions. Every day, we make roughly 100’000 decisions, only 100 of which are conscious. Many of our decisions seem trivial, but in hindsight affect us more than we dare to admit. One decision can determine our personal, family-related, financial, professional and social future. And yet, is it actually possible to make “right” decisions? Is good decision making a science that can be studied and learned or rather an art which is largely out of our control and subject to coincidence? These and many more questions will be discussed and challenged at this year’s DocNet Symposium from various perspectives:

Perspective I: Decision making as a field of study
Understanding the cognitive processes underlying human decision making is subject to many academic disciplines. Nobel Prize laureates Kahnemann and Smith called into question whether humans make decisions based on rational choice and defied the concept of Homo Oeconomicus. Artificial intelligence may lead to automatization of decision making so that the relationship between humans and machines is on the verge of being changed fundamentally. Science has attempted to grasp decision making in its entirety, yet many aspects remain unsolved. Against this background, the DocNet Symposium may generate fruitful discussions that shed more scientific light on the cognitive processes behind our decisions.

Perspective II: Decision making as a competitive advantage
Top executives are believed to master their every decision – they are trained to know intuitively when to make a judgment, when to abandon a path and when to let others take control. Oftentimes, these decisions need to take account of different organizational objectives at once, requiring executives to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of their choices precisely. Proficient decision making considering multiple equitable outcomes is called ambidextrous decision making. Ambidexterity for instance requires to simultaneously factor in dynamism, exploration, statics and exploitation into every strategic judgment. We are curious to learn how executives implement ambidexterity and how certain key experiences shaped their approach to making high-impact, high-responsibility decisions.

Perspective III: Decision making as a controversy
Is it really true that we live in post-factual times? Do we tend to make decisions mostly based on emotions instead of facts? Populism and fake news become more and more subject to our political debate and the sheer multitude of conflicting information can become more puzzling than helpful. The question arises whether the ever-increasing amount of information available through various communication channels leads to desensitization and detachment from facts. In which case, what would be the consequences for our political system? Is democracy put at risk? We are looking forward to analyzing these and many more questions with selected speakers from politics and society.

Perspective IV: Decision making as a race against time
In many professions, decisions of great significance need to be made correctly and most importantly: quickly. It is astounding still that the processes underlying these decisions oftentimes differ immensely. While judges may use extensive information during a trial period to form their judgment, this is far from being the case for medical emergencies, stock exchange trading and referees. Members of these professions are under high pressure to act within seconds. We seek to assess the strategies for successful decision making under great stress and see what any of us can learn from professionals that are used to making such decisions on a daily basis.


14th DocNet Symposium

Erfolgreich Scheitern – sind wir bereit dazu?

„Scheitern ist keine Option“, sagt Elon Musk, Multi-Unternehmer und Visionär, der den Internetbezahldienst PayPal, den Autohersteller Tesla und den Weltraumreiseveranstalter SpaceX gegründet hat. Stigmatisiert und verbannt – Scheitern verkörpert das Gegenteil des Wohlfahrtsversprechens der modernen Gesellschaft. Die Tabuisierung von Scheitern verortet der renommierte amerikanische Soziologe Richard Sennett im unauflöslichen Widerspruch zwischen dem „Stereotyp des schrankenlosen persönlichen Erfolgs“ und der „erschreckenden Allgegenwart des persönlichen Versagens“. Dieser Widerspruch, geschildert von Sennett am Beispiel der amerikanischen Gesellschaft, fordert die Frage heraus, ob Scheitern eine Plage des Erfolgszwangs oder womöglich eine unabdingbare Erfahrung auf dem Weg zum Wohlstand darstellt.

Auf den Spuren des Scheiterns breitet sich die Gewissheit aus, dass das Phänomen omnipräsent ist – sowohl in Kultur, Politik, Forschung als auch Wirtschaft versagen Ideale, Konzepte und Innovationen. Scheitern ist ein wichtiger Teil unseres Lebens und unabdingbar für das Weiterkommen unserer Gesellschaft. So scheitern nicht nur Individuen in ihrem persönlichen Streben nach Erfolg und Wohlstand, sondern die Geschichte hat gezeigt, dass jedes politische, soziale und auch ökonomische Konzept irgendwann an Grenzen stösst. Die Frage ist also nicht, ob wir scheitern, sondern wann und wie wir damit umgehen.

Die dunkle Seite des allgemein vorherrschenden Erfolgsmodells wird langsam, aber stetig aufgebrochen. Die Perspektive von Thomas A. Edison –  „Ich bin nicht gescheitert – ich habe nur 10 000 Wege entdeckt, die nicht funktioniert haben.“ – hebt die konstruktive Seite des Phänomens hervor und lenkt den Blick auf neue Möglichkeiten als Konsequenz eines vermeintlichen Rückschlags. Denn Scheitern bedeutet auch Denkmuster aufbrechen, die Normalität in Frage stellen, das Wagnis, dass Unmögliche zum Alltag werden zu lassen – ohne die Angst, die lähmen kann, ohne die Zuversicht, die verblenden kann. Ein Blick in die Vergangenheit verdeutlicht, welche Bedeutung die Erfahrung des Scheiterns für den Erfolg aufweist. Die persönliche und kollektive Erfahrung des Scheiterns ergibt sich als Gegenpol zum Begriff des Erfolgs; Erfolg wird gar erst möglich durch Erfahrung und kognitive Abgrenzung des Scheiterns. Ein besonders eindrückliches Beispiel in diesem Kontext ist die Erfindung des „Post-it®“ durch den amerikanischen Mischkonzern 3M Ende der 1960er Jahre. Die Entwicklung eines nur leicht haftenden Klebstoffs geht auf den Firmenchemiker Dr. Spencer Silver zurück und war zunächst ein Misserfolg, da es keine wirtschaftliche Verwendung für 3M gab. Durch Zufall entdeckte ein weiterer Angestellter von 3M die Nützlichkeit der Erfindung Jahre später. Art Fry war passionierter Chorsänger und hatte das ständige Problem, dass seine Lesezeichen während der Proben aus dem Gesangsbuch fielen. Da erinnerte er sich an die Erfindung des nur leicht haftenden Klebstoffs bei 3M und die Idee des „Post-it®“ war geboren, heute eines der grössten Aushängeschilder der Firma.

Vor diesem Hintergrund hat sich das DocNet Symposium in diesem Jahr zum Ziel gesetzt, die verschiedenen Perspektiven zum Thema Scheitern und die heute gelebten Erfolgsmassstäbe zu beleuchten. Zudem sollen aus individueller und aus Unternehmensperspektive Erkenntnisse darüber gewonnen werden was schlussendlich eigentlich erfolgreich macht. Das DocNet Symposium sieht sich in der Tradition, sowohl jungen als auch erfahrenen Forschern/innen mit akademischen Ambitionen wie auch zukünftigen Entscheidungsträgern/innen aus Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft und Politik eine Plattform zu geben, Aktualitäten unseres Zeitgeschehens zu diskutieren und vom Erfahrungsschatz ausgewählter Experten/innen zu profitieren. Im Rahmen von Vorträgen, interaktiven Workshops und Diskussionen sollen die Teilnehmer/innen für das diesjährige Thema „Erfolgreich Scheitern – sind wir bereit dazu?“ sensibilisiert werden, um zu erkennen, welches Lernpotenzial sich in ihren persönlichen Erfahrungen verbirgt und welche Auswirkungen dieses Potenzial auf Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft ausüben kann.


13th DocNet Symposium

RISK – Walking a tightrope between chance and responsibility

DocNet, the club for doctoral students at HSG, annually organizes the DocNet Symposium – a one-day event where young scientists, students and practitioners have the opportunity to meet and discuss with experts a current topic which is of high relevance for society.

This year, the 13th DocNet Symposium focuses on the topic “Risk” and addresses the question how companies and societies can cope with the tightrope walk between chance and responsibility. “No risk is the highest risk of all” wrote Aaron Wildavsky in 1979. An observation which could be not of more relevance today in a society where risk is increasingly perceived as an “evil”. While it feels good to avoid risk and to live in a world of – potentially alleged – security, what does this mean for prosperity, technological development or entrepreneurship in our society? DocNet invites everyone who is interested in discussing those and other questions to join the 13th DocNet Symposium. The event will explore social, institutional, and personal requirements to take conducive risk under the general constraint of responsibility.

The symposium hosts keynote speeches by experts from science and business. They cover amongst others a philosophical introduction to risk and responsibility, first-hand experiences from dealing with regulation that targets risk mitigation for consumers or lessons learned from personal risk-taking by launching a venture in the field of pharmaceutical research. Above all, an extreme athlete will illustrate the risky tightrope walk between chance and responsibility – in the truest sense of the word. Workshops, a panel discussion as well as Q&A sessions ensure the right atmosphere for the exchange of ideas among participants and experts. 


12th DocNet Symposium

Business School 2030: Tailor-made responsible leaders or mass-produced corporate slaves?

The 12th DocNet Symposium 2014 organized by the doctoral association at the University of St.Gallen addresses one central question relevant for all scientific disciplines: How does the Business School of our future look like?

Living in rapidly changing and complex environments poses new challenges to management and universities alike. To date, practitioners and professors need to navigate employees and organizations through a difficult and complex social environment. Moreover, leadership as such relies more and more on social networks rather than on formal hierarchies. These developments need to be grasped and discussed by today’s leading universities: Which challenges are we facing? Which opportunities do we have? Hence, an adaption of the current status quo in business schools concerning their learning content and methods is inevitable.

Our 12th DocNet Symposium addresses this topic and sheds light on how doctoral students can contribute to the future positioning of the Business School 2030.

This year’s goal is to provide an adequate platform to all stakeholders for this sensitive topic. Thereby, a diversified and highly qualitative program fosters the discussion among students, researchers and experts from practice with manifold backgrounds.  Besides Q&As and interdisciplinary debates, interesting Key-Notes and Workshops reflect on aspects, tools and potentials of the Business School 2030. The 12th DocNet Symposium ends with a podium discussion to reflect the final thoughts.

Due to the presence of renowned, international key note speakers, the 2014 DocNet Symposium will be conducted in English language.