“At the UCT Graduate School of Business we recognise that as many of the old social and business structures and ways of thinking are breaking down, we stand at a unique point in human history with exciting possibilities for individuals and organisations.”
So says Professor Walter Baets, director of the school, who adds that the UCT GSB, which is consistently rated as the best business school in Africa, is a school on the move with a vibrant and pioneering spirit.
“We believe that in emerging markets, ‘business as usual’ is no longer the way to achieve sustainable success – managers need an expanded skillset that creates new models of business. We see our role as enablers of these new ways of thinking and behaving. We challenge taken-for-granted assumptions and practices, and cultivate in managers an ability to draw from a full spectrum of disciplines and cultures,” explains Professor Baets.
For him, this is the kernel of the school’s ‘full colour thinking’ philosophy, a positioning devised by advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi shortly after Professor Baets took the helm in 2009.
“What is missing in business schools is that we often have one view, one focus. But if you really want to understand difficult markets you need to have multiple views and perspectives. I thought it was a nice play on words where you have the whole black and white history of apartheid – the notion of full colour thinking, of going beyond what you know, going beyond the classical ways of understanding business was apposite.”
The philosophy has permeated much of the GSB’s culture over the past few years – both in the way it approaches its research and teaching and, more tangibly, in the GSB environment – a key part of what makes a successful business school. The GSB’s exceptional campus is a huge resource for both students and staff.
In recent years, the physical environment at the GSB has undergone a full colour facelift. Parts of the common areas have been painted and the GSB’s values, vision and mission have been articulated as artworks installed across the campus.
This reinforces the school’s commitment to living these statements of intent, appeals to people’s curiosity and stimulates their ability to think in full colour. One of the perks is that staff are now able to request that their offices be painted one of the colours from the full colour thinking palette. The uptake of this has been significant.
In recent years, a new tradition, whereby MBA classes collectively create a dramatic full colour mural, has also emerged, further adding to the celebration, creativity and playfulness inherent in these three small words.