The value of Executive Education in South Africa

The rapid change in our technological society means that business models need to respond to changes in fast and smart ways that can ensure that the businesses remain competitive and relevant in a climate where consumers are spoilt for options. Responding to these rapid changes requires one to have access to thinking methods and strategies that have been tried and tested on multiple scenarios, which is where Executive Education programmes come in. These programmes, depending on the length, scope, and type of the course, largely offer insights on design thinking, complex adaptive systems, management, leadership and other aspects that are crucial to running a business successfully.

Executive Education programmes are aimed at aiding managers, individuals, teams and organisations to achieve new heights. As a result, there is a strong focus on teaching critical skills such as innovation methods and business strategies in a learning environment that offers candidates the opportunity to network and often interact with industry leaders and other various movers and shakers.

It is important for industry leaders and those who aspire to have a significant impact within their industries to remain engaged in conversations about trends within those industries. These individuals also need to understand the thinking tools that pertain to strategy and thinking within the industries they are trying to lead or contribute to. A lot of leaders and business managers run their businesses from their intuitive knowledge, experience in the job or industry as well as the knowledge they get from the staff. While it’s important to always draw on the internal knowledge of the company, it’s also important to study and explore external factors that affect internal operations. It’s important to study how other people have responded to various problems and the kind of strategies they used to respond to solving problems, strategies that can be brought in to your organisation and adapted to the needs of your company.

Executive Education programmes are important for businesses and business leaders because they are often run by scholars and industry leaders who have taken the time to understand what works and what doesn’t as far as business, management, and innovation are concerned. The schools offering these programmes have taken the time to study and analyse why some businesses succeed and others fail, which makes for valuable insights and reduces the chances of failure.

Jonathan Foster-Pedley, dean and director of the Henley Business School — ranked number one in the country and 22 in the world by the Financial Times — says their programmes are aimed at building “the ability to think well, make sense of complexity, be novel and inventive, and be courageous enough to go into new areas; and skilled enough to succeed in them”.

He further says that the grounded, practical confidence that their graduates attain from the courses, linked to a better understanding of themselves and others “help make them real drivers of change, who are self-starters with good business and creative acumen”. Design is an important part of Henley’s business approach, especially as far as customised courses are concerned. “We co-create in-depth with our clients because we want results and the type of designs we create get results,” says Foster-Pedley.

Executive Education programmes vary and what you choose should largely be informed by your interests, time commitments, and the desired learning outcomes. There are short-term courses that range from two to three days, and three-week courses such as the Global Executive Development programme offered at GIBS Business School, which include one week of travel, this year to China, as part of their strong focus on mixed learning methods.

Executive Education programmes are largely divided into custom courses and open courses. Custom courses are tailor-made for the client’s specific needs, while open courses are largely based on flagship and standard programmes that the school offers.

The more specific you are about what problem you need to solve in your business or industry, the more you are likely to get more value out of your chosen programme. Executive Education programmes offer insights based on research and practical expertise on how to run a successful business, find ways to make the most of your local resources and discover new opportunities for growth.

When choosing a school to enrol for an Executive Education programmes, you want to make sure that the school is cutting edge in terms of the research it produces around business strategies and methods of innovation. You need a school that will equip you with the necessary managerial skills to respond to change. It should ultimately be leading (or align with your interests) with the latest thinking in business excellence, design thinking, big data, strategic management, methods for innovation, and is ultimately multi-layered in its focus on the various aspects of the business, including management, clients and the socioeconomic conditions in which the business is operating.

As part of your research for finding a school, look up frameworks for business, strategy, leadership, and innovation that the school uses and find testimonies from alumni on their thoughts about implementing the tools they have learned within their organisations. Executive Education is different from a “university education” or the theoretical education we get from universities, which is often aimed at preparing us for the workspace and giving us critical tools to navigate through society. Executive Education, on the other hand, is aimed at preparing you to be a leader in the workplace. Because a lot of the programmes are targeted at individuals who are far ahead in their careers, the programmes tend to be more practical in what and how they teach.

When choosing a school, make sure that the school is adept with world trends around business thinking and strategy and that they aren’t stagnant and stuck in the past. While Executive Education is mostly for people who are in managerial, executive or leadership positions in their careers, it can also play a significant role for those transitioning from one job to another, changing industries or starting their own business.

Another important way of ensuring that you have chosen the right school is to consider the partnerships that the school has with other accredited and acclaimed schools or organisations. This widens your network and offers plenty of learning opportunities and future collaborations with the organisations, schools or individuals from these schools. The affiliation to the institutions will go a long way to widening your own network.

“We really have a strong focus on mixed learning methods and blended programmes where candidates can partake in the course, both online and in person,” says Professor Nicola Kleyn from the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business, ranked 42nd on the Financial Time’s list of the best business schools in the world. “It is important for anyone who considers themselves an industry leader or aspired to be one to be constantly learning, which is why we’re always hosting open dialogues on various topics here at GIBS, to encourage a culture of constant learning,” she adds.

There has been a surge of growth in short courses, as more and more people are trying to adapt to our rapidly changing society by equipping themselves with the latest trends that pertain to business management.

Last year, the Financial Times released a list of the best business schools in the world. In that list, the Henley Business School ranked 22nd overall, the Gordon Institute of Business was ranked at 42, the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business came out at 67. So, those looking to get into Executive Education programmes don’t have to go too far to find world-class programmes.

Welcome Lishivha
Welcome Lishivha
Welcome Lishivha is a Travel Journalist whose written for Getaway Magazine for 2.5 years. He also writes for the Mail & Guardian on a variety of topics, including travel, book reviews, opinion pieces and has profiled prolific young South Africans in the papers’ 200 Young South Africans supplement.
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