The Innovative Futures initiative aims to teach advanced analytical and planning skills in diverse domains. This global colla- borative effort will deliver a series of new executive programmes for the next generation of South African leaders.
The initiative’s executive education Foresight Programme, conceived and developed at Stanford University, aims to provide emerging leaders in the public and private sectors with the theory and practice of foresight thinking, an essential toolkit for optimising policy planning, business strategy and product development.
The methodology from the Center for Fore- sight and Innovation (CFI) at Stanford University provides the backbone of the programme. CFI director William Cockayne says that poverty and underdevelopment remain pervasive, even as South Africa is recognised for its leadership in selected fields of science and technology.
“According to a poll of business executives by the World Economic Forum, one of the most problematic factors undermining business acti- vities is an inadequately trained workforce and South Africa’s school system struggles to teach employable skills,” he notes.
The same survey ranks South Africa forty-fifth out of 133 countries in global economic and social development, putting it behind nearly all the world’s advanced economies. Among the country’s lowest scores were measures of human skills, with higher education or training and technology readiness both ranked 65.
“Our programme was developed at the behest of industry to support a year-long, industry-sponsored graduate course we’ve offered at Stanford for almost 50 years,” says Cockayne.
He adds that the programme has been tested in labs, offices and research centres of partners, such as software company Microsoft, electronics company Panasonic and motor manufacturer Tata.
USB-ED CEO Frik Landman describes the initiative with Stanford as an important coup for a South African business school. He says that the young leaders of South Africa have immense potential, but often lack access to the right training opportunities.
“Our competitive advantage in Africa is a population heading for a billion, of which almost 50% would be under the age of 15. President Jacob Zuma has repeatedly vowed to make education a priority. In that spirit, this partnership is an exciting step in leadership development,” he notes.