by Tarcia Hendricks

Business

Continuous learning is imperative for survival of business leaders

Business leaders should return to academics in today's complex business environment
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Academic institutions are at the forefront of research in leadership, management and business and in order for business leaders to remain on top, it is imperative that they equip themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills to successfully navigate South Africa’s challenging business landscape.

This is the view of Juan Van Der Vyver, an alumnus of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) who is currently the general manager at one of the largest privately owned agricultural concerns in South Africa. Van Der Vyver believes that continuous learning, which is simply the replenishment of knowledge, is a prerequisite for being able to add more value to an organisation and to be more adaptable to survive in an ever-changing world.

Edith Kennedy, Manager: Stakeholder Relations at the USB, says that the institution puts great emphasis on current research and knowledge and says that it is imperative for business graduates to regularly  familiarise themselves with evolving trends in the business environment, allowing  them to analyse current trends and build solutions based on applied research.

“It is important for business schools to share their research and knowledge with alumni via continuous learning platforms such as monthly business talks, regular master classes and annual seminars, as these platforms bring together business professionals to discuss recent developments within their environment, as well as issues from an academic and business perspective.”

Kennedy says that these platforms also allow alumni to use their skills acquired during their studies to continue to future-proof themselves with new and updated knowledge that will add value to the industry they are in.

According to Van Der Vyver, the USB’s refresher forums have assisted him to reflect on the many tools and techniques that he was exposed to during his MBA which he has used to successfully solve many business challenges and identify new business opportunities.

“It has been said that an MBA is a mile wide and an inch thick. I have found that a significant benefit of continuous learning platforms is the retention of all the knowledge and skills that are gained during a very short and intense MBA programme. Another major benefit is the business networking and idea sharing that happens at these forums.”

Business Partner’s Human Resource Executive General Manager, JM Smith, says that it is imperative for today’s business leaders to continually be exposed to learning opportunities, in order for their businesses to remain relevant. He says that continuous learning not only aids business leaders to view and evaluate their own business in a broader context, but also exposes them to an additional network from which to tap into new expertise.

USB alumnus and management consultant and education specialist, George Matu, adds that networking is the business of today and says that the USB’s refresher forums create a safe and relevant environment to network with other leaders, share ideas, learn from each other and do business where possible.

He notes that not only are business concepts changing rapidly, but so is the language of business. “If one does not keep up to date with the current language and forms of communication, stagnation and poor performance is a guarantee.”

There are two high-level Masterclasses running in October. The first one is entitled “Transforming your organisation using a systemic approach” with Dr Elisabeth Dostal and the second is “Flexible business models – the new reality” with Dr Steyn Heckroodt. These sessions also provide opportunities for networking amongst attendees. 

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