Career success in the future will rely on very different factors to what worked in the past. Emeritus Professor John Simpson, former founding Director of the prestigious UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Management, shares 5 insights of what organisations can do to remain competitive in the 21st century.

01. Build up your talent pipeline

The short-term impact of the rapidly declining state of education – especially state-controlled in SA – is that the next-gen workforce will need more development and upskilling. Companies will need to bridge this gap in a proactive way to remain competitive, across the spectrum of juniors to senior management.

Add to this the attraction of tertiary education overseas and the increasing appeal of working internationally, means that the pool of well-qualified potential management is already starting to dry up.

02. Make decisions with long-term goals in mind

Some of the current drivers of corporate decision-making are starting to change. Where many strategic decisions are currently made by the finance department, evidence suggests that this tends to be narrow, often strategically-inappropriate and short-term focused. Future successful managers need to think long-term and be equally familiar with all aspects of their business; as well as political, cultural, and technological advances.

03. Have two-way dialogues, not one-way missives

No longer is the organisation the only source of brand information. The spread and ease of use of social media has meant that in many cases, the consumer has taken ownership of the brand, often to the marketer’s detriment. The fact is, consumers trust fellow consumers far more than they trust promotional messaging. Leadership needs to participate in these conversations, and manage communication very differently to what they did in the past.

04. Be contextual in your marketing

There is evidence that multinational brands are losing ground to local brands. Local marketers are better at understanding local consumers, market structures and opportunities/limitations. The massive changes in technology have meant that much of manufacturing , distribution and data management is available not only to the big multi-nationals but to local companies as well. Furthermore, in multicultural countries like South Africa, globally-based marketing strategies aren’t always appropriate. What this means is that successful South African management will be those who employ people from many diverse segments, listen to them and give them responsibility for developing and applying strategies.

05. Be fanatical about ethical business practices

Actions taken by both government and the private sector are increasingly being driven by greed, leading to behaviour which a few years ago would have been rejected out of hand, not only as illegal, but morally unacceptable. Eskom, Steinhoff, KPMG among others spring to mind.

Over and above civic activism and a press that is still relatively free, it is now up to organisations to re-instill an ethos of integrity. And up to the people that work there to tirelessly champion the ethics of good, respectful practices in both their personal and professional lives.


Who is Prof Simpson?

We’re delighted to have lured this incredibly experienced human to join Red & Yellow as Head of Management Studies. John Simpson has a B.Sc. in Psychology, a MBA and PhD in Consumer Behaviour. He is an Emeritus Professor and has been the Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Director of the Graduate School of Business, Head of the School of Management Studies at UCT and was the founding Director of the prestigious UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Management.