Breakthrough Masters programme to graduate leaders who give a damn – business people must think like designers

By on October 11, 2013

The world today sits on many crossroads. Almost everything is being questioned for relevance to the human condition. People are calling for us to reboot how we do business; asking that all our organisations take longer term views and to broaden the positive impact they have on society. There is a call for more collaboration and less selfish competitive behaviour. Research shows staff are increasingly asking whether the work place could not add more value to their lives – considering how much time we spend in them. There are debates as to whether corporate citizenship should not be a core component of the brand and business model and there is a questioning of CSI ‘doing good’ through the back door and only because it is a regulatory requirement.

It is no longer a surprising insight to suggest that the value and influence of brand building is increasingly being recognised by society, from individuals to companies, from institutions to governments. Brand building that benefits an enterprise and the society is being acknowledged as a profoundly positive force – perhaps brands are the world’s greatest asset for meaningful change.

As a contribution to a more systems oriented approach to running organisations, Vega and The Independent Institute of Education have developed a new Master’s programme for South Africa, a Master of Arts in Creative Brand Leadership that will launch in 2013. 21st Century brand leaders need to be given the vital strategic and creative skills to expand their businesses, to innovate their products and services, and to create and add lasting value beyond shareholders. Vega cofounder Gordon Cook believes that this Masters will enable debate and research to develop innovative metrics to better assess the health of brands and businesses. He believes that the current dashboard is too simplistic. 

A new approach 
This Masters provides a new and specialised approach in comparison to the offerings of many global and local educational institutions, which to date have mostly responded to the call for brand building by widening existing programme curricula to include brand strategy electives or modules.

The post graduate degree to be offered by Vega School of Brand Leadership is focused on developing economies and will graduate a type of leader who can significantly leverage the unique value of the brands they design and manage.

The two-year part-time programme will introduce students to new models for creative brand leadership. Specialist seminars, review sessions and one-on-one supervision will support the research studies of participants. The design and development of the dissertations will explore and expand the body of knowledge of how brands are competitively and responsibly built and creatively led in the best interest of our communities and economies. With its focus not only on South Africa, but rather all of Africa, it is envisaged that the Masters will deliver astute leaders who can unlock value way beyond the balance sheet.

The Masters degree will offer non-traditionalist approaches way and beyond the easy categorisation of brand building as a function of marketing and communication. Our view is that the brand engages the entire value chain, from service or product ideation to design, to the construction of organisational cultures, behaviours and business systems.

Design thinking will be an essential element of this Masters degree. As Warren Berger said: “…design is really a way of looking at the world with an eye toward changing it.” This programme will relate process design to leadership and management. This process, to again cite Berger, blends art and science but it is fueled by human empathy. One of the assumptions on which this Degree is based was verified by Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management who proved that designed-lead companies have been shown to financially out perform others, in some cases, by as much as
ten to one.

Brands as vessels of value Companies are coming to realise that meaningful and sustainable stakeholder relationships depend on brands that genuinely serve their particular purpose in every dimension of the business, at each and every contact point. Organisations are also beginning to understand that the brand, as a vessel of value, is not measured by financial shareholder value alone. An article
heading such as “Unilever CEO plans to double his company’s revenue while halving its environmental impact” in the Harvard Business Review of June 2012, serves as a case in point.

A more comprehensive approach to and responsibility for sustainability is adopted in this programme. This approach to sustainability demands that the brand serves its purpose in the value it adds to its people, its shareholders, the economy, the society, to cultural diversity and the environment.

Today, the performance of a country, city, movement, person or company brand depends on a new breed of leaders and managers.

Individuals who are:


• Visionary designers who build brands that matter – brands unique and genuine in adding value to peoples’ lives;

• Holistic and systemic who understand that delivery of the brand’s promise depends on the performance of every link in the value chain; 

• Creators of innovative and collaborative internal cultures, who respect that the quality of ideas and performance depend on how inspired and driven staff can be in their delivery behaviours.

Creative Brand Leadership is an imperative for 21st century business and organisations. The challenge is to build authentically healthy brands with social significance and driven by innovative business models and organisational cultures. Bruce Mau and the Massive Change network urges us collectively to “… build brands and run businesses like we actually give a damn.” This will be an outcome of the new Masters programme.

visit for further information

Vega is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education (Pty) Ltd which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training as a private further and higher education and training institution under the Further Education and Training Colleges Act, 2006

(reg. no. 2009/FE07/003, prov. to 31/12/2014) and the Higher Education Act, 1997 (reg. no. 2007/HE07/002).

Company registration number: 1987/004754/07.

“Industry revolutionaries don’t tinker at the margins; they blow up old business models and create new ones.” – Gary Hamel

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