Digital context is everything
Understand your business first, says Unisa’s Andile Nobatyi
There’s no point learning about digital transformation of business without first understanding the context in which it must be applied, says Andile Nobatyi, acting academic director at Unisa’s Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL).
He is responding to FM market research showing that many MBA and master in business leadership (MBL) graduates believe their programmes do too little to prepare them for digital transformation. He suggests it can’t be taught as a concept but rather as a tool within an existing business model.
“This model should be the point of departure, followed by digitalisation,” he says. “This requires that this activity is integrated within our curriculum design and delivery rather than as a standalone concept, or we might end up with digital-orientated graduates that cannot integrate such competencies within a business.”
Research also found a desire among students for more African case studies rather than the Western ones that have been the basis for traditional business school research. SA schools have all built up their African case study stock in recent years, but Nobatyi understands students’ desire for more.
There is no question of ignoring what is happening in the rest of the world. However, Africa should contribute to the global stock of knowledge, not simply draw from it.
“As we all seek to make sense of the world around us, everyone’s perspectives, beliefs and experiences matter in developing knowledge,” he says. “This does not mean cutting us off from the global village. The collapse of geographic boundaries should encourage us to extend our [African knowledge] to the rest of the world.”
Nobatyi sympathises with graduates who say their MBA and MBL programmes paid too little attention to public sector business issues. With so much emphasis on the private sector, students had little opportunity to understand how the state worked.
Nobatyi says the SBL partners with public sector agencies, such as the department of trade, industry & competition, to “contribute to alleviating social ills such as the unemployment rate, particularly in youth”. He adds: “We have taken heed of the call to train youth and the [US-funded] Young African Leaders Initiative, housed at our school, focuses on developing leadership skills of African youth.”
Like many business schools, the SBL has been affected by the shortage of supervisors required to oversee research by master’s and doctoral students. The school’s solutions include professor development programmes; co-supervision, through which inexperienced supervisors are trained on the job; and accelerated learning programmes that encourage young academics to undertake higher degrees.
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