Founded in 2017, the Johannesburg Business School (JBS) at the University of Johannesburg was one of the last business schools established at a leading tertiary institution in South Africa. To date, it has cemented itself as one of the top academies in South Africa to pursue a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), pioneering a fresh and holistic approach to business.
The school aims to disrupt the conventional business-school model and, instead, introduce modes of learning that are immersive, interactive, and practical, making their curriculum one that is future-fit and relevant in the age of Industry 4.0. JBS seeks to produce business administrators, innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders of the future who are equipped to deal with real-world scenarios.
Lyal White, the senior founding director of JBS, emphasises two unique features that places the institution in a league of its own: “At JBS, we tailor our modules to be suitable for the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). We look at the future world of work and focus on ways to prepare South Africans and Africans for a business sector that is transformational and technologically enhanced”. Secondly, JBS’s curriculum has been specifically developed to look at Industry 4.0, and the accompanying breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), through a lens that is hypersensitive to the South African—and African—context. “We want to connect Africans, and delve into the myriad of rich knowledge and experience available to us on the continent,” he adds.
When pressed on exactly how JBS is disrupting traditional modes of learning, White explains how the institution seeks to “humanise” the realm of business. In their methods of teaching, the focus is shifted away from students merely being lectured to engagement and interaction with individuals, and the facilitation of constructive discussions and workshops. Educators also look at business from a holistic point of view, integrating the humanities and courses based on storytelling.
“We are here to teach you about business, but we are also here to learn about living. It’s important to remember that, before we are business people, we are humans—and we are in a social system where we need to interact and connect with people around us.”
To this end, JBS incorporates numerous key modules into their business-education pedagogy. One such module is on contemporary management, which takes a close look at contemporary issues in humans’ day-to-day lives, the prevailing social and political climate, and other newsworthy topics, and analyses how they impact small to medium enterprises (SMEs), for example. This teaches learners how to confront and manage uncontrollable external factors to their business.
Then there is JBS’s innovative approach to design thinking. Although a common theme in most business schools, the institution has taken this one step further by looking at design in the natural world. “Biomimicry helps us do exactly that—mimic nature—to improve our efficiencies,” explains White. “How much has this actually been looked at in business? It helps us improve our efficiencies and changes the structures of business to suit a world that is no longer confined to just a nine-to-five office environment.
“This is exceptional to do in an African context because we are in the heart of a natural world that has never been understood and is not advanced further.”
In addition, JBS encourages students to choose from a selection of international elective courses, based in Latin America or Asia, that brings to the fore the importance of cross-cultural experiences, diversity, and cultivating a global mindset.
Ultimately, Johannesburg Business School is determined to cultivate a new crop of business-savvy individuals who are worldly, future-fit, and creative—and who will be creating new business models and employment opportunities that will propel a thriving African business landscape to new heights.
Article originally published in Fast Company SA’s December 2019/January 2020 issue. Grab your copy to read more.