Cranefield leads in 4IR education

Disruptive key enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence, cobots, robotics, and augmented reality are the cause of major organisational transformation and change in the Industry 4.0 economy


This inexorable change demands comprehensive reshaping of leadership, management, governance, and business models. Moreover, it requires collaboratist leaders and cross-functional virtual network partnerships to enable organisations to perform optimally. A collaboratist approach is vital for sustainable productivity and growth in 4IR.

‘Collaboratism’, which is seminally discussed in an award-winning article by Professors Pieter Steyn and Brane Semolic in March, 2017 (PM World Journal), essentially involves multi-organisational collaboration platforms that espouse a philosophy of open innovation and operate as virtual networks of local, regional, interregional and international supply and value chain business partners. Importantly, the creation of virtual networks focusses firstly on engaging local and regional partner organisations to satisfy key competency needs, and then extends the network of partners internationally when competencies cannot be found locally or regionally.

Although technology presents an important challenge in 4IR, leadership and management are even more challenging, since most executives are trapped in outdated 3IR and even 2IR mindsets.

Whereas 3IR was the era of participative servant-leaders, 4IR requires super-transformational collaboratist leaders who make decisions for the common good of all stakeholders. Such leaders intuitively know ‘why’ things are happening, ‘how’ to proceed dealing with it, ‘what’ needs to be done, ‘who’ should do it, and “when”, to achieve organisational performance. Organisations that are blessed with such leaders can ensure that they maintain a sound value system and exceptional ethical behaviour to meet the challenges of 4IR.

Collaboratist leaders are thus the guardians of the organisation’s value system, acting as role models who motivate employees and encourage positive mindsets for collaboration, coordination and team-based success. Moreover, they ensure innovative governance and create productive organisational structures that combine with virtual networks of partners to deliver collaboration and synergy.

Aspects most affected by 4IR are customer expectations, product and service enhancement, collaborative innovation, and organisational forms. Project and programme management acumen, which is a pivotal catalyst for 4IR organisational success, delivers the methodology to lead, manage and govern the cross-functional processes of new organisational forms and associated virtual networks of partners. In the 4IR economy, organisations must focus on their core competencies while partners should perform non-core activities.

In the light of the above, it should be highlighted that collaboratism effectively constitutes a collaborative form of capitalism, where collaboration with partners occurs for everything that is done outside an organisation’s core competencies. It leads to improved organisational performance and competitiveness for the initiating organisation as well as its partners. As mentioned in the introductory paragraphs above, in partnering, organisations first seek local partners closest to them before moving regional, national or, if necessary, global. A significant advantage of this is that it stimulates growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as job creation. This is profoundly more desirable than the situation that has prevailed in terms of traditional capitalism where large entities have tended to predominate and hamper the development of smaller enterprises. Promoting small and medium-sized businesses is vital for job creation, economic growth and global prosperity.

Cranefield College’s academic courses prepare students for a collaboratist leadership, management and governance paradigm. Cranefield’s academics have been at the forefront of development in this regard, having advocated many key 4IR principles well in advance of the advent of 4IR. Since before the turn of the millennium, Cranefield’s programmes have centrally addressed the need for organisations to replace rigid, bureaucratic ‘silo’ structures with cross-functional, flexible value chains that are programme-managed.

Cranefield College is ISO-9001-certified, and all its academic programmes are accredited by the Council on Higher Education. All programmes, ranging from the Advanced Certificate in Project Management to the PhD in Commerce and Administration, are offered through technology-enhanced distance learning. Classes are streamed live from Cranefield’s auditorium in Midrand, Gauteng, allowing local and international students to interact with lecturers in real time, regardless of their geographic locations. All students can subsequently also view online recordings of the classes.

Cranefield’s academic qualifications enjoy top recognition in Germany and many other countries. In addition, Cranefield offers a wide range of short courses for senior professionals that can also be customised for corporate in-house purposes.

Cranefield College teaches its students how to develop the mindset and behaviour to be collaboratist leaders, with the knowledge and skills to manage successful strategic organisational transformation and change. Also central to their learning is how to achieve organisational performance excellence through programme-managing cross-functionally structured supply chain and projects portfolios of the organisational value chain. Feedback from students is that what they learn from Cranefield today, they can apply in their work tomorrow. 

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