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Distance Education Rises to the Occasion

Focused mixed race woman wearing headphones watching webinar write notes

Distance Learning, the Keeper of Higher Education during a World Wide Pandemic

The challenges facing institutions of Higher Learning in the present climate have left many with no option but to turn to online learning to avoid disruptions to learning and teaching programmes across the globe.  Fortunately the IMM Graduate School has not been caught off guard nor has been left scrambling to keep Learning and Teaching going.  For the most part it is business as usual.

Having spent the past several years, implementing cutting edge online learning principles, saw minimal disruption in our learning environment designed and built to encourage optimal student engagement for critical thinking and problem solving.  Embracing what technology has to offer education, has been used to prepare students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution work space and to provide opportunities for students who would otherwise not have the opportunity to study.

During the past number of years various aspects impacting learning and teaching in the online environment have been considered, monitored and reviewed.  Fine tuning the online learning and teaching environment is an ongoing process requiring time and  monitoring the responses of all role players to the digital learning and teaching environment and what works best for distance students to ensure that they achieve their aspirations.

Institutions of Higher Learning, Industry and the student population, need to reflect on their own attitudes to learning and teaching in the digital space.  An attitude of learning and teaching as a ‘watered down’ version of ‘real’ education couldn’t be further from the truth and such attitudes have the potential to compromise quality.

Digital learning and teaching comes with many added advantages as well as some challenges and provide a valuable alternative in the face of significant and unexpected new challenges in higher education.  These challenges are bound to recur albeit in various forms as society marches on.   Institutions, students and teaching staff will be forced to become familiar with the digital education space sooner rather than later.  Just as with every other industry in 2020, education can never go back to what it was just a few short weeks ago.

For students who are not used to the distance environment, social distance could be a challenge which hampers their progress during their studies.  Distance institutions are acutely aware of this obstacle to students and any distance institution worth their salt will build mechanisms into their courses to reduce the sense of distance and isolation and to create a sense of community among students who are geographically far removed from each other.  For those students at residential universities catapulted into the digital distance education space during extraordinary times, the sense of distance and isolation may be more acute.

It is not only a matter of designing a course, uploading the ‘paper version’ onto a learner management system and continuing with learning and teaching activities as would be the case in a contact environment.  The point to consider, is how technology can best facilitate and enhance quality learning and teaching, whether in a distance learning environment or a contact learning environment.

There are a number of important points of consideration in digital learning and teaching.

How is the rapport between lecturer or tutor and student initiated and maintained?  In a distance learning environment, there is not the luxury of sitting in a group, discussing challenges. Several mechanisms to create a sense of community need to be built into an online course, especially if students have little experience of online learning and teaching and are geographically far removed from each other.  Creating an online social presence of the lecturer goes a long way to making students feel more secure.

Many are turning to webinars as an alternative to the contact class.  But to be considered is, how does one adapt learning and teaching in webinars to ensure that students are meaningfully engaged with their study material and their teachers?  In the classroom, teaching staff tend to use lecturing as the method of teaching.  Transfer of those skills into an online environment reduces the effectiveness of learning significantly.

What digital teaching skills do teaching staff have to learn in a hurry in order to ensure that students are continually exposed to higher order thinking?  How does one handle synchronized and asynchronous digital teaching for higher order thinking among students?

How will study material need to be adapted to make sure students are fully engaged in the absence of a regular contact class?   Is learning material designed to encourage active learning?  Technology provides diverse opportunities to design learning resources which are almost 3D in nature.  It makes providing opportunities for authentic learning, so much easier.

The digital space has opened up a whole world of opportunity for authentic real world learning and teaching, with the potential to produce 4th Industrial Revolution work ready graduates whether the world is in crisis or not.  The IMM Graduate School has embraced these opportunities, which has stood the institution in good stead during these unexpected, unpredictable times in Education.

What’s Your Company’s Emergency Remote-Work Plan?

What’s Your Company’s Emergency Remote-Work Plan
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

This week, the coronavirus (or Covid-19) took a more serious turn in the U.S. with warnings that it could very well impact how, when, and where we work:

“Disruption to everyday life may be severe,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, cautioned at a news conference Tuesday. “Schools could be closed, mass public gatherings suspended, and businesses forced to have employees work remotely.”

The global spread of the virus may be a moment that reveals whether employers are ready to respond rapidly to unexpected workplace changes. Business travel could decrease or come to a full stop. More employees may need to work outside of local “business hours” and use video conferencing to operate across time zones. And, if it gets bad enough, many could indeed be asked, or request, to work remotely.

Are organizations ready? Chances are probably not. But even for those open to rethinking how the work would get done, are they ready for the inevitable post-crisis question: “Why don’t we do this all the time?”

How do you prepare your organization to not only flexibly respond to this potential disruption, but also to use it as an opportunity to reimagine work broadly? Here are five steps to get started:

  1. Acknowledge the possibility that all or part of your workforce may need to work remotely.

Hoping and praying it doesn’t happen, or simply ignoring it, is not a strategy. Neither is handing everyone a laptop and saying “Go work someplace else” on the day they expand wide-scale quarantines. Plan as if the only way to remain operational will be for as many employees as possible to work remotely. Gather a cross-functional team together now that includes business-line leaders, IT, HR, communications, and facilities to start to plan for different scenarios and optimize execution, should circumstances require a rapid response.

  1. Map out jobs and tasks that could be affected.

Note which roles and duties: 1) Can be done, even partially, without a physical presence in the workplace, 2) Cannot be done, even somewhat, outside of the physical office, and 3) Not sure.

Challenge any potentially inaccurate default assumptions about specific jobs you may have thought couldn’t be done remotely. And for those in the “not sure” column, be willing to experiment. For example, for years, I’ve been told, “Administrative assistants can’t work flexibly.” And, for years, I’ve worked with teams of administrative assistants to prove that is not true. Yes, certain tasks they complete require physical presence, but those can be planned for. The majority of their tasks can happen effectively outside of the traditional model of work and benefit the business.

  1. Audit available IT hardware and software, and close any gaps in access and adoption. 

Assess the comfort level with specific applications, such as video conferencing and other collaboration/communication platforms. Where you find gaps, provide training and opportunities for practice before people need to use them. Real-time mastery is not optimal and is inefficient. Identify devices owned by the organization that people could use and clarify acceptable “bring your own” phone and laptop options. Determine if there are any data-security issues to consider and how best to address them beforehand.

  1. Set up a communications protocol in advance.

This communications plan needs to outline: how to reach everybody (e.g., all contact information in one place, primary communication channels clarified — email, IM, Slack, etc.); how employees are expected to respond to customers; and how and when teams will coordinate and meet.  

  1. Identify ways to measure performance that could inform broader change.

After the flexible response period is over, this data will allow you to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and why. The data will also prepare you in advance to answer the inevitable question once the crisis has passed, “Why don’t we do this all the time?” Depending upon the outcomes, you may decide to continue certain aspects of the flexible response permanently. For example, perhaps you cut business travel by 25% and substitute video conferencing. You determine afterward that about 80% of those meetings were equally as effective virtually. Therefore, a 20% decrease in business travel will continue, but this time as part of the organization’s sustainability strategy to cut carbon emissions.

Global health emergencies, like Covid-19, are scary, disruptive, and confusing for everyone. And if you plan and nothing happens? Then, at minimum, you have an organized, flexible work disaster response ready the next time there’s a challenge to operational continuity, which chances are, there will be.

Article as posted in Harvard Business Review

Yost.C (2020) What’s Your Company’s Emergency Remote-Work Plan <https://hbr.org/2020/02/whats-your-companys-emergency-remote-work-plan?ab=hero-main-text>.  [Accessed 03 March 2020].

The Gig Economy Is the Future – Here’s how You Can Become Part of It

The Gig Economy web

Estimated Reading time – 7 Minutes

If the term ‘Gig Economy’ makes you scratch your head in confusion, it really shouldn’t. The slang term “gig” has been used for over 100 years to refer to once-off entertainment performances, but its meaning has taken a different direction over time.

After reading this blog post, you’ll know exactly what the gig economy is, how it works, where to find gigs, and what you’ll need to thrive in the industry.

What It Is and How It Works

Let’s start by discussing what the term means today.

You’ve heard someone refer to a music performance as a gig, right? Well, in this case, we’re not referring to an open mic night at a local establishment. In this instance, the gig economy is a job market dominated by independent workers.

It provides job seekers with short-term, on-demand work opportunities rather than adhering to the traditional nine-to-five employment model.

In a gig economy, businesses save money by not having to train workers and rent office space. Instead, they opt to approach experts who work remotely to complete specific tasks at more affordable rates.

From the worker’s perspective, a gig economy offers an improved work-life balance that would otherwise not be possible with a traditional 9-5 job. Gig workers also have the luxury of only choosing jobs that interest them personally, instead of receiving an assigned workload each month.

The concept of the gig economy ultimately consists of three components: independent workers who are paid per task or project, consumers who require a particular service, and the companies that act as a middle-man by creating a connection between workers and customers.

We know what you’re thinking – this sound exactly like freelancing. You’re right, but freelancing isn’t the only type of gig work available. Consultants, independent contractors, seasonal workers, on-call workers, and temp contract workers also fall within this category.

According to Business 2 Community, by the year 2021, gig workers will outnumber traditional employees.

Finding The Ideal Gig

In a gig economy, workers use specialised apps and websites to find job opportunities. Sure, Gumtree advertises freelance job opportunities but if you’re looking for industry-specific work, these are six of the best websites to use.


The Pros and Cons of The Gig Economy 

The Pros 

  • You can choose how many hours you would like to work, as well as the ideal environment. Flexible hours without the restriction of four office walls. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
  • Instead of following the same routine every day, you can decide which jobs you want to do.
  • You decide how much you’ll get paid. Gig workers are often able to decide their own hourly rates. Note that, rates are often determined by the worker’s level of education and experience.
  • You will also be open to multiple job opportunities. More work equals more money.
  • You will be able to claim a portion of your rent, electricity, and all work-related expenses from tax

The Cons 

  • Unfortunately, very few gig economy positions offer benefits such as medical aid and a retirement fund.
  • You’ll have to file your own taxes.
  • You will likely be alone most of the time, so having little to no social interactions throughout the day might become a problem.

Choosing the Best Gig

Before you update your CV, you’ll need to find the best opportunities. Here’s how you can find the perfect gig.

  1. Spend some time creating a list of all your skills, but also consider what kind of work you would like to do.
  1. Consider your schedule. If quitting your full-time job isn’t an option, or if you have important personal duties – you might not have a lot of time for some types of gig work. Choose gigs that allow you to choose how many hours you would like to work.
  1. Learn some new skills. As we’ve mentioned, the more skills you have, the more you can charge for your services.
  1. And lastly, keep an eye out for scammers. Unfortunately, job sites are a perfect breeding ground for scammers. Do some research to find out whether the company is real and reputable before you submit your CV.

The Bottom Line –

A growing amount of people are moving away from traditional employment in favour of “becoming their own boss”.

If you would like to become part of the gig economy, enrol in one of our exciting Online short courses and add marketable skills from the IMM Graduate School to your CV.

From pollution to personalisation: Marketing Trends 2020

Marketing Trends 2020

The start of a new calendar era, like the one we are entering now, presents any hack with a hunger for an audience with an irresistible temptation to predict what the future will bring. HERMAN POTGIETER, Senior Lecturer, IMM Graduate School, gives his perspective on what marketers should take note of in 2020.

Marketers everywhere live and breathe a fairly unique air; trends are their lifeblood as they try and shape these but, mostly, try and understand and predict them.

Apart from their more obvious roles, marketers are important translators and interpreters of the social and cultural evolution societies everywhere live through. The human race lives in an era of unparalleled information generation confronting the average person daily.

Here are a few of the trends marketers need to be aware of as we enter a new decade and deal with the rapidly changing needs and demands of the consumer.

  1. The environment

During the first few weeks of the new decade, Greta Thunberg received news of her selection by TIME Magazine as its TIME Person of 2019. She had a private meeting with Prince Charles at Davos after she had told the world leaders encamped at the Swiss town, “I want you to panic. And then I want you to act.”  She also met with the Pope but eschewed the opportunity to meet with President Donald Trump because she considered such a meeting “a waste of time”. Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize at the start of February 2020, Thunberg is not alone. She effectively demands an audience that spans continents and calls young people to action with no indication of a waning of her popularity or the attention she demands. Young people everywhere respond to her message, which is condensed into a very simple but devastating reality as she continues to turn the vague anxieties about the continued existence of the human race on planet earth into a worldwide movement for global change.

While there are many levels to her message, all of it can be linked back to the core concern about pollution, about the raw materials being used daily to provide you and me with transport, food and other comforts we have grown to accept as our right. As this message gains traction, as it inevitably will, consumers will demand to know the environmental track record of the company manufacturing the product they buy, the level of awareness about environmental issues espoused by the retailer they buy the product from, and the extent to which the packaging they buy it in is recyclable. It will be up to marketing to convey assurances about these issues in a message to the consumer which cannot be devoted solely to the product and its uses.

  1. The death of the mall

The US landscape is dotted with the abandoned skeletons of the temples of retail where thousands used to spend their weekends paying homage to the god of shopping. Britain finds that even remote villages in Northern Scotland are seeing the closure of the shops lining the high street as the owners who have been trading there for many years shut shop.

Online shopping continues to gain traction as security improves and the supply chain from the sellers to the customers becomes more sophisticated and faster. While there is a still a place in the commercial chain for the odd customer who wants to touch and see the physical product before buying it, innovative marketers are making progress in creating opportunities to satisfy even this customer need on online platforms.

Achieving personalisation in an online space is something we’ve already experienced when visiting the Amazon website to find products listed for us based on what we had bought in the past. While this may be an example of pretty basic attempts at personalisation, marketers will definitely continue to work on adding layers, and creating the same welcoming feel we have when being received by the owner of the vegetable shop down the street where we have been shopping for 15 or more years.

  1. Personalisation taken to the next level

Apart from being recognised by name when you land on the website, personalisation of the online shopping experience is now happening on a number of other levels too. The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) is ideally suited to delivering an enriched user experience using chatbots, for example. These developments make nonsense of websites that simply sit there doing nothing except to show a flat and one-dimensional marketing message.

Interactive content is transforming the website experience for shoppers with Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Home and Meena leading the way in creating the opportunity to feel the website is interacting with them on a more intimate level because it has a voice. And not just any kind of voice, but one which talks back and answers their questions and allays their fears or uncertainty about purchasing what they have not been able to inspect physically.

While voice is transforming the online shopping interaction with a more human-like interaction, it also creates significant opportunities for the collection of more information because telling the story of your specific shopping need is a richer version of the message you would have typed into the search bar. Voice releases the kind of information which, if it is harnessed effectively by the website owner, could make the shopper experience more satisfying. We love Siri because she picks up on nuances which a typed search may not.

  1. Video will continue to grow

Educators at schools and higher learning institutions lament the death of reading. Websites that offer nothing but words do not attract Generation Z shoppers who would rather be watching a video or chat. The exponential growth of Instagram as a marketing platform relies on its video content more than anything else.

Apart from video offering messages easier to digest than the written message, its ability to entertain and push all the right buttons for the Gen Z crowd. Even Millennials and Baby Boomers would rather book a hotel room when they had the opportunity to do an online video tour of the facility where they will be spending their travel budget.

  1. Customer loyalty will remain a challenge

Few lecturers are able to discuss the retail silver bullet of customer loyalty without referring to the Clicks Club card. Since it was introduced by the retailer in 1995, others have tried and failed to match the Clicks success story, which helped the retailer being mentioned as one of the most cash-rich retailers in South Africa in December 2019.

The online shopping experience relies for its success on the variety and range of options. Loyalty this does not engender. Yet it remains a nirvana for the retailer whose dream of having the same customer returning to spend their hard-earned cash means security and a reliable source of income.

The electronic version of the loyalty card does not exist yet in its best possible version, even though progress has been made with businesses offering bonus points for repeat online shoppers. It is likely that marketers will, however, come to the party with a new invention of this which will push the existing options back to zero.

  1. Data use

While customer data may have been collected for years, those collecting it have responded to its availability much like the Jack Russell that caught the bus. Using the data to extract the type of information which could take the marketing of the product to a stellar level does not yet happen in most businesses. Data miners and analysts are helping make data and the tendencies hidden in it more digestible to marketers. Infographics, sophisticated programmes to analyse and make sense of the data and improved understanding of the gold it is for decision-makers are all factors pushing data to the forefront in marketing campaigns.

If websites have been prominent in collecting data on visits, visitors and their choice of search options, the increase of voice as a search tool will be a significantly richer source of data. The role of AI in this process will aid the sense-making for use by marketers significantly and feed campaigns with much more up to date and more relevant information on customers and their preferences.

  1. Privacy

The recent experiences of data breaches on Facebook and on banking and commercial platforms headlines prominently in 2019. The overriding impressions in online user ranks is still that their information is not safe in the hands of these institutions and similar events are bound to occur in 2020.

It is an open question if the ‘unhackable’ option is possible. Uppermost in the mind of most digital marketers is the fervent hope that 2020 will see progress in this area.


Alter, C., Haynes, S. and Worland, J. (n.d.) ‘Greta Thunberg: Time’s Person of the Year 2019’ Available at https://time.com. [Accessed on 6 February 2020]

Bustin’ 10 myths about online learning

Learning is often about challenging assumptions. This can equally apply to online learning, which, despite its growing popularity across the globe, is subject to certain myths and misconceptions.
Dr. CECELIA ROSA gives the facts.

The requirements of the knowledge economy and the changing needs of business, as the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues its relentless rollout, means traditional learning can’t necessarily give those ‘students’ what they need in terms of time and flexibility.

As the Centre for Education and Innovation has written, “In the knowledge economy, memorisation of facts and procedures is not enough for success. Educated workers need a conceptual understanding of complex concepts, and the ability to work with them creatively to generate new ideas, new theories, new products and new knowledge…They need to learn integrated and usable knowledge, rather than the sets of compartmentalised and de-contextualised facts. They need to be able to take responsibility for their own continuing, life-long learning.”

We asked the IMM Graduate School’s head of teaching and learning, Dr Cecelia Rosa, to dispel the myths about learning via a ‘virtual’ classroom, and offer sage advice to the increasing number of students and professionals wanting to increase their knowledge and skill sets, or study towards a diploma or degree, while continuing to work.

MYTH 1: You have to teach yourself when you learn online

Technology is an opportunity to reduce the distance between the distance student and the lecturer/facilitator. Several strategies are available for this. A good learner management system provides discussion forums, chat rooms, virtual classrooms, the use of social media such as Twitter, WhatsApp and the conventional email make it possible for there to be a dynamic relationship between the distance student and the lecturer/facilitator. The lecturer is not the ‘sage on the stage’ but the ‘guide on the side’. Of course, if the student does not make use of these tools and makes a decision not to be a part of the community, the sense of isolation remains.

MYTH 2: There’s no interaction with classmates

A well-designed online course provides you with opportunities to interact with your peers in a variety of ways. One of the benefits of interacting with your peers is that you are exposed to classmates from around the world, which gives you a very broad perspective of the subject content in an international context.

MYTH 3: Your lecturers/professors are faceless

A well-known and useful model for online learning is the Community of Enquiry concept upon which many well-designed online courses are based. One of the three presences discussed is the ‘Social Presence’. Students, despite the distance, are drawn into a community of which the lecturer/facilitator is one member. Other strategies to reduce the distance between lecturer/facilitator are ongoing two-way communication in a variety of forms such as discussion forums, email, WhatsApp groups etc. Technology has without a doubt reduced the sense of anonymity and isolation for lecturers and their students studying at a distance.

MYTH 4: Employers don’t trust online degrees and don’t take online learning seriously and MOOCs are ‘diploma mills’

Perceptions and a change of mindset will happen over time. However, online degrees that have been accredited by regulatory authorities or endorsed by accredited universities will have complied with particular standards. Furthermore, a student who completes a degree online shows characteristics which should be sought after by employers as it entails the student showing evidence of discipline, a high work ethic, time management and initiative as they are not being spoon-fed in the classroom environment. The world of work is changing at a very fast pace and with it comes the need for more complex skills. Employees should constantly be upgrading and updating their skills-set to remain relevant. At the same time, the employer cannot afford to grant long periods of study leave. Enter online learning to meet the needs of both employer and employee!

MYTH 5: Online learning courses are easier than campus

A well-designed and structured online course is by no means easier than conventional courses. As mentioned before, courses developed within accredited institutions need to comply with standards set out by the regulatory authorities. Furthermore, technology provides opportunities for the creation of more authentic, real world learning in a meaningful context through the use of media rich resources, thus creating a more 3D perspective of learning content.

Technology further provides the facilitator with opportunities to create learning content, which requires students to use critical and creative thinking to solve real world problems. Like conventional classroom activities, technology also provides opportunities for lecturers/facilitators to design activities that assist students to work meaningfully, and encourage active engagement through learning content. Lifelong learning is encouraged through assisting students to source information at a broader and deeper level.  

MYTH 6: You have to understand technology to learn online

You do have to have a basic understanding of how a computer works. Most courses provide one with a user tour to assist you to orientate yourself around the learning material. Many courses are also accessible on the cellphone/tablet/iPad, with which most people are familiar. Most students find their way around their online courses quite quickly.

MYTH 7: You don’t get hands-on (practical) experience

As mentioned above, technology provides the opportunity for students to solve real world problems. Simulations and Problem Based Learning are popular methods in many conventional classrooms and online to provide students with the ability to solve real world problems. The focus should never be only on the subject content, but how to use the subject content to solve real problems.

MYTH 8: It’s too time-consuming

It is no more time consuming than conventional studies. Courses are developed with particular notional hours in mind. That means it is understood that it will take the student that many hours to master the outcomes of the learning content, whether online or contact studies. Of course, distance learning, including online learning, requires the students to be disciplined and independent learners, manage their time and remain motivated.

On the other hand, conventional classes require of the student to be the same, especially at tertiary level. A benefit of online learning is that students can pace themselves and move quicker or slower through the learning material while assessing themselves through continuous assessment activities and revisiting and affirming their newfound knowledge and skills. This means students do have a measure of control over their learning process.

MYTH 9: They’re too expensive

The cost depends on the course and varies from institution to institution and country to country. The prospective student can source a preferred course from anywhere in the world. The choices are numerous enough to suite any pocket.

MYTH 10: Courses aren’t accredited

There may be some that are not. It is up to the student to identify institutions that are accredited and regulated by the regulatory authorities of the country from which they are sourcing the course.

The IMM Graduate School is a distance-learning provider of choice and aims to be the centre of excellence for marketing, supply chain and business disciplines in Africa. For more on our online courses, click here.

Creative leadership and the leadership of creativity

Creative Leadership

Besides being an economic development opportunity, creative thinking can solve human challenges and problems at significant scale. This is what the world needs. This is what our country needs, writes LAUREN WOOLF

It’s hard to believe that a mere two to three decades ago, creativity was barely explored or taught explicitly in main-stream or business education, let alone in design-related fields. Instead, tasks, such as ‘explorations of colours’ or coming up with ‘different ways of communicating a brand message’, were used to help students build a creative mindset.

Times have certainly changed.

Today, creativity has transcended the boundaries of art and design of all kinds, and is ranked by the World Economic Forum as one of the top three skills of the future1, essential to innovation and success. Increasingly, it is now being taught in both design and non-design related environments to the extent that in some universities, creativity classes have become a central part of the curriculum.

This shows significant progress in how we are beginning to understand and appreciate the attributes and outcomes of creative thinking and how the process can influence, and importantly, improve all aspects of life.

While creativity as a skill has slowly but surely ascended the WEF ranking, so too has the term and concept of ‘creative leadership’ begun to take on a more prominent role in organisational thinking, research and practice. In fact, some researchers and practitioners in the leadership space have suggested this style of leadership is more important in the current social, political and economic climate than ever before2.

Why is this?

Well, if we understand creativity to be “the catalyst to innovation”3 , and we are aware of being in a time that is innovation-overwhelmed, to say the least, then it stands to reason that those leading us in these times need to be able to initiate and manage change like never, ever before.

What is creative leadership?

Creative leadership is a powerful way, or style, of thinking and leading based on the concept of working co-operatively to develop innovative and valuable ideas. Those leaders that employ a creative style tend to lead by creating and fostering an environment that promotes creativity. These conditions could be psychological, material, and/or social or any other supports that trigger, enable, and sustain creative thinking in others4.

I appreciate how Sir Ken Robinson, the revered champion of creativity and education, captured this definition: “The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel they’re valued.”

Leaders with this as a core attribute of a creative mindset are in huge demand. Since 2010, the annual IBM Global CEO Study indicated that creativity is the number one most important quality for leaders to build successful businesses, outranking integrity and global thinking.

“CEO’s now realise that creativity trumps other leadership characteristics…To connect with and inspire a new generation, they lead and interact in entirely new ways.5

Attributes of creative leadership

So what are the attributes associated with being a creative leader, versus some of the other styles and models we have been more accustomed to in the past, but also still see today?

In summary John Maeda, talks about how creative leaders focus on inspiration over authority, ambiguity over clarity, being real over being right, improvisation over following the manual, learning from mistakes over avoiding them, and hoping they’re right rather than being certain that they will be.

Leading the business of creativity

So, if creative leadership is a style of leadership that is highly relevant for any organisation in the age of hyper-change, how does it show up in the leadership of creative companies themselves?

The attributes of creative leaders as articulated earlier, is naturally derived from the way in which artists, makers and creative people have always and by nature approached their craft. Individuals and companies with creativity at their heart, or at the core of their business output, understand, more than most, the importance of magic in the face of logic. The importance of having some chaos alongside order and the power of diversity of thought and experience to come up with the best ideas and solutions.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that having this insight automatically makes leading easy.

I work with a lot of leaders leading creative businesses – from artist studios to agencies, architects to advertisers – and without a doubt, the leadership of these organisations, be they micro to macro, bring with them a set of specific and unique challenges.

Creative organisations are by nature beautifully messy and complex, and require a full and extended skill-set of effective decision-making, intellectual and emotional intelligence and market-facing grit. Not only do leaders of creative concerns need to embody the attributes of creative leadership (as they too are in the business of liberating innovation and then selling it) but at the same time, they also have to ensure they don’t ignore the full complexity of leading an organisation A-Z. Not just an innovation centre or department.

I would argue that these heads of business are some of the most ingenious, accomplished and agile leaders you’ll find, irrespective of business category.

If we are all in agreement with Richard Florida, the famed urban studies theorist, that, “human creativity is the ultimate economic resource” then who leads creatives and how they are led is of paramount importance and should never be underestimated or undervalued.

Besides being an economic development opportunity, creative thinking has the opportunity to solve human challenges and problems at significant scale.

This is what the world needs. This is what our country needs.

The impetus around my work in creative industries and in the study of creative leadership has been a heartfelt desire to work with creative businesses to help them not only survive but thrive in the complexity of today and beyond.

They have to.

Because creative leaders, creative people, and creative organisations are those that will continue to create the brilliant ideas that define a positive and sustainable future for all.


[1] The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs paper released in 2019 listed the top 10 skills demanded in 2020. Creativity was number 3

[2] Sternberg, R. J. (2007). A systems model of leadership: WICS. American Psychologist, 62, 34–42.

[3] Puccio GJ, Mance M, Zacho-Smith “Creative Leadership: its meaning and value for science, technology and innovation”

[4] Mumford, M. D., Scott, G. M., Gaddis, B., & Strange, J. M. (2002). Leading creative people: Orchestrating expertise and relationships. Leadership Quarterly, 13, 705–750. Via Wikipedia

[5] Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights from the IBM Global Chief Executive Officer Study 2019

Sunday Ted Talk – The human skills we need in an unpredictable world

Writer and entrepreneur, Margaret Heffernan says that the more reliant on technology we become, the less prepared we’ll be when faced with unexpected problems that may cross our paths. Heffernan says that we determine our own future and explains why mankind needs to become less dependent on technology to solve our problems and focus on improving our ‘human skills’ instead. Watch this thought-provoking TED Talk here:

2020 – It’s the Year Of The Remote Worker

The Remote worker web

Estimated Reading Time – 4 Minutes

We’ve always believed that robots will take over our jobs one day. That might still become a reality, but something else is happening in the meantime. Increased amounts of employees are distancing themselves from their typical 9 to 5 jobs in favour of working remotely.

There appears to be this idea that working from home is all sunshine and roses – a luxury reserved for company executives and freelancers. You wake up whenever you like, finish the household tasks, then sit down with a cup of coffee for a few hours to do some work. It’s a dream come true, right?

As convenient as it may seem, it’s not for everyone. If you’re interested in working remotely, keep reading to find out what you’ll need in terms of skills, which industries are suitable, and the benefits and pitfalls of working from home.


Getting a Foot in The Door

As we’ve mentioned, working remotely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you can do these five things, remote work might be something to consider.

Manage your time – remember that you won’t have anyone looking over your shoulder at home to make sure you complete all your tasks, so it’s easy to lose track of time. There are plenty of tools and tactics available online to help you do just that and more. Although, if you find it difficult work without supervision, remote work probably isn’t for you. 

Communicate effectively – remote workers don’t have the luxury of walking over to a colleague’s desk to ask for help. Communication is mostly (if not entirely) digital, so having strong communication skills is a must.

Be tech savvy – again, it’s all digital, so you’ll need to be up to date on all the helpful tools available as well as how to use them. Technical proficiency is mandatory.

Teamwork makes the dream work – even though communication won’t be face-to-face, it’s important to communicate with fellow team members on a regular basis, especially while working on projects together. You won’t be able to walk to their desk to discuss a problem so, to avoid confusion, a steady stream of communication is needed.

Be balanced – it’s easy to get carried away and either work too much or too little. Set a limit to how many hours you want to work per day and stick to it. No more and no less.

What’s Good and What’s Bad About It?

Depending on who you ask, the advantages of working from home (or anywhere else except the office) surpasses the disadvantages, but we’ll let you decide for yourself.

What’s good about it –

  • When you work remotely, you can schedule work responsibilities around personal duties and vice versa. This ensures a better home/work balance.
  • Assuming you’ll work from home, you can save time by not having to commute to the office.
  • You’ll save money. Aside from not having to pay for transport, working remotely means you won’t need to buy lunch at the local cafe every day. Instead, you have lunch at home.
  • You can take breaks whenever you want. This ties in with the previous point. Instead of waiting for lunch time as you would in an office setting, you have the option to take breaks whenever you want – within reason.
  • Working from home doesn’t only benefit employees though. According to The Conversation, by increasing a company’s number of remote workers, traffic congestion during peak hours may soon be a thing of the past.
  • Expenses will be lowered by not having to rent an office and having to pay for water and electricity at the end of each month.

What’s bad about it –

  • Despite its numerous benefits, remote work doesn’t come without its challenges.
  • First of all, it’s all about self-discipline. In order for remote workers to be successful, it’s important to stay focused and productive despite distractions at home.
  • Time management can become an issue, especially if there are too many distractions at home.
  • Loneliness might become an issue, especially if you work from home. If this is the case, it’s best to visit the local coffee shop or internet café to get some work done.

Use these five tools to save time and boost productivity.

Twist: a communications app aimed at creating a more organised and productive workspace. This helps teams to stay on topic.

Dropbox: a storage app that allows remote workers from any location to upload and share files.

Zoom: video chatting software that allows for global face-to-face communication.

TransferWise: An easy way to transfer money abroad.

Todoist: Keeps track of any progress made with tasks and projects.

The Bottom Line

Remote working is becoming increasingly popular because its convenient, affordable, and if done right, can be very effective.

The discipline and skills required to complete a distance learning qualification will set a great foundation for someone aspiring to work from home.  Also, the greater your skillset the more likely you are to be in a position to work remotely. Two good reasons to sign up for one of the IMM Graduate School’s fully accredited and internationally recognised programmes. Applications for 2020 are still open!  https://imm.ac.za/online-application/