Monthly Archives: August 2018

Your research is too valuable to keep to yourself!

Da Vinci Master’s and Doctoral graduates are sitting on a goldmine of knowledge and insights that the world is eager to learn from and apply. Now is the time to spread that knowledge far and wide.


People out there care about our research. For proof, look no further than ResearchGate, an opensource platform where 15 million researchers around the world publish their articles for everyone to read – free of charge for researchers and readers alike.
At this stage, The Da Vinci Institute has a fairly small presence on ResearchGate: just over 73 staff, students and alumni have signed up as members. Slowly and surely, though, we are starting to make an impression. Where we started out not long ago with a ResearchGate score of only 7, we then climbed to 8.4, followed by 9 and now stand at 12.35%.
We still have a long way to go, as the ResearchGate scale goes all the way up to 100. However, as more of us join ResearchGate, our presence will grow and so, more importantly, will the reach of our research. “We have a lot of content and it is such valuable stuff, especially our Doctoral studies, that we should be sharing it,” says Dr Ronel Blom, Dean: Research at Da Vinci.
Expert writers on hand to help
Granted, most of The Institute’s postgraduate students and alumni are working people in senior positions or running their own companies, with little time left to publish articles on their research. But, as always, we have made a plan to overcome such challenges – by appointing expert writers to assist students and graduates alike to turn their dissertations and theses into publishable articles. Let us help you showcase your research.
When an article is ready to be published, it can be posted quickly and easily on an opensource platform like ResearchGate, which provides statistics on who has been reading and citing each author’s work.
If you’d like to share your research with the world, please contact Dr Ronel Blom or Tumi Pitsie in the Research Office. Call 011 608 1331.
Here’s to sharing and applying knowledge generated through and in the context of application!



Da Vinci @ Work: Meet our Alumnus – Dr Dana Gampel

Answers are easy, says Dana; the questions make up the ‘art’
Twelve years ago, Dana Gampel became the first Da Vinci Institute student to graduate with a PhD. Today, she is still closely affiliated to The Institute because, like its namesake Leonardo, it continues to be relevant.
“Da Vinci is one of my superheroes. He made art to better understand the world and to inspire the world to engage its elements more creatively. He participated in autopsies to understand how the body worked and designed the Vitruvian Man to teach artists and architects about perspective,” says Dana. “Applied knowledge was the crux of Leonardo’s thinking and applied knowledge is what sets The Da Vinci Institute apart.”
Dana, head of Eskom’s Strategic Intelligence and Analysis unit and CEO of her own company, Atum Strategy Consulting, says The Da Vinci Institute is one of only a few higher education institutions who are actively working with the application of knowledge.
“We don’t need new ways to do algebra and geometry. We need to apply algebra and geometry,” she says. “I want students of Da Vinci to come out and apply knowledge for innovation. That’s what they are taught here, that’s why we are relevant and that’s why I am very proud to be affiliated with The Institute.”
Conventions make for lazy thinking
Dana says anyone hoping to receive a template from Da Vinci on how to apply knowledge is likely to be disappointed. “Conventional practice in business today increasingly relies on templates and ’best practice’. I think these conventions make us lazy and lower the bar.  You’ve got to think creatively. That’s hard and it’s uncomfortable … and from that difficult space, innovation and insight usually emerge.”
When quizzed on how The Institute advocates the TIPS™ framework and whether this is not a template for thinking, Dana quickly retorts that this is “far from being a template. TIPS™ is a meta-framework for responding to challenges and it has to be applied in a creative way,” she says. “To do that, you have to understand the art of asking questions. Finding the answers is relatively easy – the problem is we shy away from, and often don’t know how to, ask the questions. Asking the questions is the start of applied thinking, and the essence of most creative thinking processes.”
Ahead of her time
Dana defended her PhD thesis in 2006, examining the interrelationship between leadership, power and radical transformation. She innovatively developed several tools for managing this interrelationship in order to sustain a competitive advantage.  These tools remain relevant today – and continue to be successfully applied for small and large organizations, government and NGO players and even for individuals, suggesting that she may have been ahead of her time, given how much has changed since then.
“Of course I’m ahead of my time. I’m South African,” she says. “Creative thinking is everywhere in South Africa. We have it in spades. You see it when you go into an impoverished rural area; the inner city … and even in suburbia. It’s remarkable how much innovation and creative application is underway right here. Sadly, as a nation, we have not yet succeeded in harnessing this creative thinking for everyone and making it available for others to improve on. But we will. We’re South African.”

Black Female-Owned Enterprises on the Rise!

Opportunity knocks for black female-owned entrepreneurs
There are encouraging signs for entrepreneurship in South Africa. While the percentage of adults involved in entrepreneurial activities is still low compared to the rest of Africa, necessity is no longer the primary reason why South Africans go into business for themselves. The pursuit of opportunity – known as opportunity motivation – is the main motivating factor for male and female entrepreneurs alike, according to the most recent Global Entrepreneurial Monitor (GEM) report on South Africa.
The trend is particularly marked among women entrepreneurs in the country. In 2001, almost 45% of women in early-stage enterprises were motivated by necessity, says the GEM report. This decreased steadily over the next 15 years and by 2016, had dropped to just over 27%.
In other words, almost 72% of women entrepreneurs in early-stage companies in 2016 were motivated by opportunity and not a necessity. This is a positive trend as opportunity-driven entrepreneurs tends to choose entrepreneurship rather than be pushed into it for lack of alternatives.
The GEM report also notes a strong increase in opportunity-motivation rates among black Africans, rising from just under 30% in 2005 to an impressive 55.4% in 2016, the highest rate of all population groups. What’s more, black Africans now make up three-quarters of the entrepreneurial population in South Africa.
Gender gap narrows
The report does not say where black African females, specifically, stand in this scenario, nor for that matter, where white females stand. This is a pity given that small black women-owned enterprises are widely known to be the least represented segment of the entrepreneurial community in South Africa.
What we do know is that the historical gender gap between the percentage of women entrepreneurs compared to male entrepreneurs is no longer as wide as it used to be. More than seven women were engaged in early-stage entrepreneurship for every 10 male entrepreneurs in 2016, according to GEM, which describes this ratio as a “healthy level of gender parity in terms of entrepreneurial involvement”.
Bearing this out are the results of the Real State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa survey 2017, conducted by the Seed Academy among 1 200 entrepreneurs.
“Encouragingly, we are seeing the gap between the number of male and female entrepreneurs start to narrow as women represented 47% of entrepreneurs surveyed,” said Donna Rachelson, CEO of Seed Engine, which incorporates Seed Academy.  “This gives some indication that efforts focused on the development of women-owned businesses are beginning to pay off.”
This is a reference to South African government initiatives to prioritize the advancement of women-owned and youth-owned enterprises through policies, preferential funding schemes and targeted support.
Wanted: strong female role models
While access to funding and markets are perennial requirements for entrepreneurs of all backgrounds, a support mechanism that should not be underestimated is the motivating power of good role models. As Donna Rachelson of Seed Engine says: “I engage with many female entrepreneurs. It is clear that strong role models are especially powerful. I would, therefore, encourage successful women to mentor and support other women where they can. Successful women entrepreneurs are both an example of what is possible and a source of funding for others.
A powerful platform for showcasing the success of women entrepreneurs in general and black women entrepreneurs, in particular, is the tt100 Business Innovation Awards Programme, now in its 27th year and held annually to recognize excellence in the management of technology, innovation, people, and systems.
The tt100 programme is open to companies of all sizes, including emerging enterprises, and has the long-standing support of the Department of Science and Technology, as well as major private sector companies known for their innovativeness.


“For 2018, we have embarked on a major drive to encourage the participation of black female-owned entrepreneurs, who up to now have been underrepresented in tt100 – just as they have been in the broader economy,” says Sonya Landman, tt100 coordinator. “The time has come for this to change and for black women-owned enterprises to show what they are capable of achieving, and in the process to inspire other women entrepreneurs.”
Entries for the 2018 tt100 programme are already open and will close at the end of August 2018. l