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Creating a South Africa Connection

As a B-school professor, I am always looking for new connections and insight to bring into my classroom, research and multimedia cases. Sometimes these connections arise unexpectedly. A recent example of this can be found in the creation of a collaborative relationship with colleagues at South Africa’s North West University.

From One Opportunity to Another

Our approach to building cases has always been opportunistic. With limited resources for case development, we have to grab opportunities for filming as they arise. From time to time, I would read about regional companies and executives winning awards for business achievements. I was aware that annually, Nova Scotia Business Inc. sponsored one such event. Not too long ago, I was intrigued by one such winner, Velsoft, a successful regional exporter that was a recipient of an Export Achievement Award as Exporter of the Year in 2013. What caught my attention was its rural, Pictou County location and its educational software products. By coincidence the following year, the owner’s daughter was a student in one of my classes and she graciously made the connection for me. So we quickly arranged for Jim Fitt to visit the campus, speak with F.C. Manning School of Business students and create a multimedia case with us. Not too long after, I received a call from Jim asking if we would host a visit by a delegation of academics from South Africa.

A Worthwhile Connection

A late Fall 2015 visit to Acadia University enabled Jim introduced me to Dr. Nicolene Barkhuizen and Dr. Nico Schutte, two management professors seeking to build the profile of their recently created talent management research unit, GIFT, which stands for Global Innovative Forefront Talent. GIFT seeks to help South African organizations to develop accurate staffing models, identifying key skills and competencies that exist in current employees as well as those that may be required to support future business objectives. North West University, was formed in 2004 with campuses in Mafikeng, Potchefstroom and Vaal Triangle.

Some Collaborative Goals

These two academics are trying to enhance the training of managers in South Africa. We are attractive as partners due to our willingness to work together and our ability to quickly build and host business oriented video teaching cases and stream them to users. Aside from working on research initiatives with new colleagues in Africa, a visit in the early Fall of 2016 to GIFT’s location in Mafikeng opened my eyes to different possibilities. Located near the border with Botswana, it is a rural setting with numerous small and medium sized enterprises that have succeeded in often challenging circumstances. We hope to create cases that will serve to share lessons learned from experienced business owners. This new relationship also opens the door to possibly being part of a much larger initiative to help improve the quality of education in that country. Currently, limited physical infrastructure means that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of South Africans cannot access the university and community level education that they so desire. A big part of any solution to this problem will be delivering education online and we hope to be a small part of that.

Relationships of this nature take time to development. Aside from face to face working sessions over the summer, the next short term steps are the joint authoring of a conference paper, the submission of two joint grant proposals, and the possible creation of one or two pilot teaching cases in South Africa.

Innovative Undergraduate Business School

Conor Vibert PhD. is an innovative user and researcher of new educational technologies, a practitioner of flipped classroom teaching methods, a developer of evidence based instructional techniques, and a creator of streaming video multimedia cases available through He trains individuals to use online information sources to understand company behavior and has published numerous books on the topic. Over 600 video interviews with entrepreneurs, managers and executives around the world positions him as a unique source of knowledge of business behavior.

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