Ondřej Benda: the only constant in life is change, so learn the tools to manage it and you can get through anything!

Ondřej Benda has worked as NEWTON for fifteen years — as he puts it, he’s part of the furniture. Here he tells us how he balances his busy life, teaching multiple courses on management with absorbing personal hobbies including playing royalty in jousting tournaments, and a business carving mediaeval artefacts from bone. 

Which classes are you teaching on the English programme at the moment?

At the moment, I’m teaching Introduction to Study and Crisis Management. Introduction to Study is an onboarding course for the students, to support them with the transition from high school to university life.

And what about crisis management? 

It’s a second year course. Crisis management is part of management, and it’s associated with change management. One thing that life has taught me is that the only constant in life is change, and when change happens too quickly or unexpectedly, it has a tendency to become a crisis. And when you’re in that situation, it’s useful to know the basics of what you can do to get through it — and, if possible, to get through it intact. Because, once you’re a manager you’re responsible for things — for your company, for your employees, and, through them, even for their families — and that puts you under a lot of pressure, both personal and professional, and you can’t separate one from the other. But, if you know the principles, it doesn’t matter what kind of crisis you’re in, you’ll be able to apply them, and they’ll help you get through — to be able to manage your project, your company, to save it, while at the same time helping you not to disintegrate personally.

And the course is about both sides of this?

Well, it would be cool if we could do both, but it’s hard to simulate the feeling of crisis directly in the classroom. So we go through, ‘What is a crisis? How can you recognise it? How can you prevent it? How can you minimise the damage done?’ — all the tools that are available and how to use them. My own experience tells me that if you repeat the theory long enough, when the situation comes you will ask yourself, “Okay, what did they teach me in school? Maybe I can try it.” And it will help. 

Are you involved with anything else at NEWTON, outside the classroom?

We’re starting an ERASMUS project to define management competencies for the automotive industry. It’s an international project with other universities, and I’m excited to be on the project team. It’s really just getting started — I’m going to Bratislava in November for the kick off meeting. 

What’s the most interesting thing you’re working on at the moment?

There are so many things I'm excited about — I have my own small business carving bones to make replicas of mediaeval artefacts. And I ride horses — I got into jousting this year, and some of my friends have asked me to play royalty at tournaments, so these are the exciting changes in my life that I’m looking forward to. 

 

What is your current research focus?

I’m hoping to start my PhD next year, and for that I’m hoping to expand on research I did for my master’s thesis focussing on developing habits. I believe habits are really important parts of our lives and changing them, getting rid of the ones that are unsuitable — I don’t think it’s helpful to label them bad or wrong, as something that’s unsuitable for me may be fine for somebody else — and creating ones we do wish to have, is a topic that interests me greatly. I think it’s a topic that deserves serious research, and I’ve created a method for developing a habit or series of habits — I did some limited research on it before, but I'd like to extend it to a much larger sample of people for a much longer period of time.