Is a doctorate worth it? I also asked myself this intensely before I started my doctorate in 2015. According to Survey of over 30,000 doctors on Specialists with a doctorate earn around 20,000 euros in business administration and law even 33,000 euros more per year than graduates. But why do doctors make more money? How can a PhD improve me so that I can make more money?

Since (today) October I am finished and can officially carry the doctorate. After getting the certificate from the mailbox, I paused for a moment. I reflected on what skills the degree brought me. Of course, I have a lot more salary than my colleagues (around 25,000 euros), but it depends on the knowledge. Because: You have to earn a salary. That’s why I asked myself: What skills did I acquire through the doctorate that differentiate me from others?

Reading tip: Methodology of my doctoral thesis

Methodical and abstract thinking

My reflection showed that I had learned a new way of thinking: abstract thinking. For me, abstract thinking describes the ability to omit details from a large number of information and to generalize and thus simplify them. This reduces the content to the essentials and generalizes it. The result is that what was previously unknown can be generated and new solutions can be created. You approach problems openly and find new ways to solve them.

By the way, abstract thinking is not the same as logical thinking. This is often confused. Abstract thinking reduced to the essentials and creates generalizations while logic is based on reason and judges on the basis of arguments.

In order to implement this type of abstract thinking, the researcher needs data, which he collects using scientific methods. Of course, these cannot be used 1: 1 in non-scientific everyday life, but the basic ideas can also help in professional life. In the following I show how I use the methods I have learned in everyday working life. Through this I can collect data, which I can evaluate with abstract thinking and create new solutions.

Literature analysis

A literature analysis is almost always the first step in an academic paper. Already at this point I noticed that reading is not always reading. The problem is: How can I summarize essential information and compare different literature sources. The advantage: I can compare different opinions and agile approaches and quickly grasp a large amount of literature. So I stay open and don’t get stuck on a solution. During my doctorate, I methodically analyzed and compared 2056 literature sources. Even to this day I scan the current management and IT literature with such a method and derive general tips from it. Many of them can also be found here on the blog.

Reading tip: Literature analysis


An essential element of the data collection are interviews, i.e. the dialogue with experts. During my doctorate, I learned how to ask open questions and how to evaluate them in a meaningful way. Particularly in dialog with employees, I can filter and summarize the essential information from many dialogs. In this way I can summarize key messages and see where the current pain points are in the department. I believe that it is easier for me to summarize the essential points from various employee appraisals and to evaluate them systematically.

Reading tip: Expert interviews


In my case, the survey method was always closely linked to an online questionnaire. I now also use a questionnaire similar to the Spotify Health Check – once a month. Here I record the mood and evaluate it with a correlation analysis. For example, I know that employees who are more likely to be in operating criticize the processes more than project people. This is just one example of many hypotheses that I regularly evaluate through a monthly survey.

Reading tip: survey

Case studies and observations

It is important to regularly observe what is happening in my own department, i.e. what is happening in my department. I continue to conduct my own case studies and closely monitor my actions and processes. To do this, I create observation logs and evaluate them like a scientific case study. Observing is something to be learned.

In this way I can draw insights from observation and also create frameworks that I can show management. Particular advantages are that my organizational development can be transparent for management and the case studies can be communicated as success stories in the company. I also use it to reflect on my work on a regular basis.

Reading tip: Case study

Evaluation of empirical data

The task now is to evaluate the wealth of information that has been collected through literature, interviews, surveys and observations. These are evaluated in the form of hypotheses or frameworks, which are derived and checked on the basis of data. It prevents the tunnel thinking that I often experience in managers. It is precisely through the hypothesis approach that new insights can be gained that would otherwise not be possible. In Corona in particular, I do not rely on tried and tested, but question critically old habits at all times and try to gradually replace them with new ways. Through constant data collection and evaluation, I manage to adapt this to the company.

Well-established people will now contradict me that this knowledge can be gained through the famous gut feeling and experience. However, I believe that, especially in my department with over 25 employees, it is no longer possible to grasp the full complexity without systematic methods. It is precisely the gut feeling that leads to tunnel vision, as I often perceive.

Reading tip: Hypotheses


A doctoral thesis helps to think abstractly and to reduce knowledge to the essentials. I have learned to grasp a lot of complex information, to generalize it systematically and to derive hypotheses which I can permanently check. In practice, the approach is often known as Lean Startup. Of course, there is a risk of being too scientific, but I believe that I have found a good balance with a pinch of science to make practice a little more tangible and to be able to cope with my everyday life as a manager much better. I believe that a doctorate is definitely worthwhile and I will continue to keep up with the times, both scientifically and in practice.

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Dr. Dominic Lindner

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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