Nick Binedell

Subject: Advanced Strategy (Full-time MBA and Executive MBA)

Bio: Professor Nick Binedell is a Professor of Strategic Leadership at the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). He holds a PhD from the University of Washington in Seattle, where he was a Boeing Scholar, an MBA from the University of Cape Town and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Rhodes University. After an initial career in the mining and manufacturing sectors, including a period as a general manager, Nick has invested the last 30 years of his career in business education. His experience in the field of management education includes being the founding director of GIBS where he used to be a dean and the Sasol Chair of Strategic Management. Nick is a board member of the International Management Board of The Association of MBAs (AMBA), which is one of the three leading global accreditation bodies. He also serves on the Academic Advisory Board for the same body. He was the founding president of the African Association of Business Schools (AABS). He also served two terms as the chairman of the South African Association of Business schools (SABSA). His area of interest in business concerns strategic leadership. He has an appreciation of the challenges facing executives in complex organisations and has a high level of interest in the competitive dynamics of companies and the challenging search for excellence. He is particularly interested in the link between strategy, leadership and execution.

Can you describe your teaching experience at RSM so far?

I’ve been teaching at the Full-time MBA programme at RSM for four or five years now, and for more than 15 years at the Executive MBA programme. My experience teaching at RSM has changed significantly over the years. When I came here initially, the programme consisted mainly of Dutch students; now it’s very international, which I really enjoy, because the cultural diversity contributes to a rich discussion in class. The Executive MBA students tend to be a bit more European and a bit older, but I like that, because many of them work for big multinationals and they bring this experience to the classroom. Apart from that, I’ve always been well looked after by the staff here. It’s been a privilege to teach at RSM, because the MBA programmes are very global and I find this a very enriching experience.

Can you tell us more about the subject you teach, Advanced Strategy?

I build on the work that’s already been done in the core strategy course where they teach a lot of techniques and the very core of strategy. What I try to do with my course is built on that foundation and help people think strategically as a way of life; to think about strategy at a personal level, to think about the strategy of countries, to think about the strategy of companies. During the course I look at geopolitics, grand strategy, strategic leadership. Normally in a strategy course you teach about how to do a SWOT analysis, how to apply a theoretical framework, but I assume the students know all of that, so I give them unusual cases and they have to write their own cases. I’m very interactive, I’m not lecturing, I am engaging with the students, because you can learn so much from them. What I give my students to do is unusual. Most of the times they are required to write a charter for their future using the concepts from the course. I do this to give the students something to take away rather than just an exam on the subject.

Do you like travelling? What is your favourite travel destination?

I lived in six countries by the time I was ten. I was born in Zimbabwe, then liven in South Africa, Britain, Germany, Yemen and Kenia. I’ve always been an explorer, I’ve always travelled a lot. I love India, I go there often. There is no place I wouldn’t go. Anyplace is interesting, because everywhere is different. My moto is “Learn from everyone, copy no one”. This means you need to find your own way, but the only way to find it is to understand other options; travelling does that.

What is your favourite book?

I’m a passionate reader. I love Paul Kennedy’s book “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers “or Jared Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. I love the “big picture” books which look at the big issues over time. I think that we’re all expecting everything to change very quickly and certain things do change very quickly, like the Internet, but there are things that change very slowly and in different ways, so people need to understand what these ways are. What I often say is that the future is history waiting for action. In history there are many consistent things that tend to repeat themselves. I’m interested in history. And strategy and history are very linked, because we try to analyse the context, the landscape, the map, and then making choices, but you first need to understand that the reality is in the constrains, before you’ll know what to do, what the gap is, what the change could be. Often we think that we can change things much more than we actually can.