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Faculty Focus: Dr Morne Mostert

USB-ED is fortunate to have access to more than 300 part-time faculty, consultants, business leaders and industry experts who facilitate on our programmes.

Today we would like to introduce you to Dr Morne Mostert.

What is the toughest leadership challenge businesses face today?

The reinvention of itself for a new planet and alternate civilisation. Leaders can no longer avoid grappling with strategic foresight in a hyper-complex landscape. Observing the complexity can sometimes feel overwhelming for senior decision-makers. The ripple effect of executive decision-making is vast and spans many intersecting stakeholders and value chains. The ability to anticipate multiple futures and their relative probability as the foundation for executive decision-making is therefore critical. Business behaviour automatically, even unintentionally, contributes greatly to the shaping of a new civilisation. The difficulty lies in building the ship while sailing. This means that business can no longer afford to hide behind such platitudes as ideological agnosticism in the exclusive pursuit of shareholder value. Society is expecting business activism – an active participation in the societal reinvention process. Most executives are not trained for such a role.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from a student to date?

When I just started out, I used to encourage senior people (as many inexperienced consultants do) to ‘get out of their comfort zone”. One day, a senior, middle-aged executive had had just about enough of my meaningless ramblings. He got up to interrupt the group, and explained very angrily, “I have spent 25 years trying to get INTO my comfort zone. Why would I now try to get out of it?” This taught me the importance of a considered, conscious approach to consulting and executive education. Clients have complex worlds, and consulting platitudes do not help them. Careful, appreciative understanding of their challenges, coupled with deep respect and a willingness to advance them and their businesses, is much more useful than trying to sound clever.

Who inspires you and why?

I am inspired by the courageously innovative executives I have had the honour to meet in my work all around the world. I am also inspired by the bold creativity of artists. The artist, whether though music, dance, literature, stand-up comedy or any other form, has the ability to transcend the stresses of the day and to ask the higher-order questions. Artists risk constant ridicule in their humble creative contributions to the world. They are the producers of the subject of constant critique, but without creative output, even creative decision-making, there would be nothing to critique in the first place. When I grow up, I want to be an artist.

What attracted you to work with USB-ED?

I am drawn to the way that people shape the world through business, and executives are perfectly placed to do just that. Executives are out there every day, navigating risk, sensing opportunity and inventing the future, all while making sure they survive today in order for tomorrow to be even possible. How these execs could and should learn in the near-chaotic world of the future was the subject of my PhD and remains a source of great fascination. To support them on their journey remains a great honour.

Do you have a mantra or slogan that you live by?

If it’s not new, it’s old.

What career advice would you give yourself looking back to when you started out?

Stop talking. Be viciously curious as if your life depends on it, because it does.

Tell us about a book you have recently read?

I am re-reading the Tao Te Ching, a foundational text of Chinse philosophy (c. 4th century BC) and, to my mind, the very origin of Systems Thinking and the search for elegant flow in turbulence.

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