Johannesburg Business School is guiding tomorrow’s leaders on the journey to digital transformation

The Johannesburg Business School (JBS) is forming future-fit leaders, repurposing all programmes towards the digital revolution – which is reshaping the global business landscape – while contributing to and drawing from Africa’s unique cultures. Following his appointment in March 2021 and widespread consultation with global partners, the dean of JBS, Dr Randall Carolissen, re-charted the school’s vision by crafting a new direction that focuses on digital transformation.

‘The current and future business environment is defined by the understanding, inculcation and adaptation of innovation in technology. Enterprises across the entrepreneurship spectrum must straddle the divides between technology and leadership and grasp implications for human relationships. The emphasis must be on business leaders re-orientating themselves as the premier agents of change,’ he says. ‘This is the world of the digital revolution and the requisite transformation required by the evolving paradigms.’

As Forbes Business Council member Robert Harbols puts it, ‘digital transformation is a mindset shift that fundamentally changes how an organisation uses technology, people and processes to improve business performance’. Appropriately handled, digital transformation is a road to a bright future for business and the entrepreneurs and managers who power it. It will enhance the economy’s competitiveness by expanding the space for disruptive innovators and introducing efficiencies to established firms. As business opportunities move steadily online, it stands to expand the footprint of SA firms internationally. It offers peerless possibilities for growth and employment – and intriguing career paths for enterprising people.

For this, SA needs a special sort of business leadership – people of vision who can lead the reskilling of the workforce and the reorientation of management practices to match the demands of the digitally transformed economy. This requires leadership that understands the human and technical aspects of the transformation, and is agile enough to operate effectively in a dynamic environment.

This is the challenge met by JBS. ‘The school’s vision is to become Africa’s leading business school in the field of digital transformation,’ according to Carolissen. ‘It aims to equip its graduates with the capabilities to thrive in the environment, while offering stakeholders across the economy opportunities for partnership and co-operation – which we call “co-creation” – to leverage the potential of the digital economy to its fullest for growth and development.’

Business education is no longer about teaching in the traditional sense. Increasingly, it’s about facilitating learning; about imparting applicable, practical skills for today’s business world. JBS is geared for this. Its content is relevant and up-to-date, addressing the demands of digital transformation and the economy it is producing. JBS’ educational philosophy is to encourage the problem-solving and creative thinking that today’s business world demands. What are the day-to-day implications of digital transformation for a given firm? How does the successful business executive look at a contemporary set of challenges and respond? And, above all, how does one stay on top of an innovation-driven environment?

Instruction is undertaken by stellar academic staff, including professors of practice, whose academic achievements are complemented by successful business careers. They are simultaneously thinkers and doers. Exercises – in the form of simulations – are crafted to mirror real-world situations as closely as possible, bridging classroom and career. Recognising that business careers are increasingly transnational, JBS ensures a window on the world through its network of partnerships with business schools abroad. These include Woxsen School of Business in India, China Europe International Business School Africa in Ghana, and Mozambique’s Instituto Superior de Ciências e Tecnologia, among others.

‘The digital economy is mistakenly interpreted as one that prioritises technology over people. JBS understands that business remains fundamentally about human interaction – and the scope for innovation, the complexities of managing change and the requirements of modern corporate governance make interaction and collaboration more important than ever,’ says Carolissen. ‘Emphasis is placed on the human dimensions of leadership, both in academic training and in the assignments that participants undertake. All of our academic programmes are supported by personal business coaching, as we believe this to be a vital component in facilitating the application of new knowledge in the workplace.’

JBS’ unique academic and capacity-building interests are delineated among its various centres. The Centre for African Business is a leading promoter of scholarship in the fast-growing continental economy, publishing case studies, and organising teaching and knowledge-sharing events. It is fostering African business expertise for the continent’s business future.

The JBS Centre for Entrepreneurship has positioned itself as a dynamic leader in co-creating solutions for the SA and African entrepreneurial ecosystem, focusing on incubating SMMEs within economically disadvantaged communities. The centre facilitates training and entrepreneurship development in SA through hybridised short learning programmes, start-up incubation (supporting about 700 entrepreneurs from idea to growth phase since 2008 through our Raymond Ackerman Academy Entrepreneurial Development programme), and co-creating value-adding solutions for entrepreneurs and corporates. The centre recently co-ordinated and implemented an SMME incubation programme funded by the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority and supported by Chemin as a practical implementation partner. The programme resulted in 50 SMMEs increasing their turnover by more than 250% in the past two years.

The executive education division offers training to managers and business leaders, to assist in navigating an unpredictable business world. Its course offerings make it the ideal partner for firms looking to upskill.

‘Our flagship programme is the JBS MBA,’ says Carolissen. ‘It’s an MBA unlike any other, equipping business leaders with the skills to tackle the digital transformation and succeed in the digital economy. The learning experience reflects dilemmas in the world of business, not simply academic requirements of the classroom. The MBA culminates in a Capstone Consulting project, which challenges MBA students to solve a real-world problem and recommend implementable solutions,’ he says.

JBS offers a variety of study options for various qualifications, in both traditional on-campus and online formats. These include a one-year postgraduate diploma in business administration and short-learning courses, also with a focus on digital transformation. ‘JBS is a new breed of business school for a new type of economy,’ says Carolissen. ‘It is charting the course through the digital future to the vast opportunities it creates.’

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