Third International PhD cohort starts their learning journey

On Tuesday 5 May 2015, twelve students landed in Johannesburg, South Africa. The countries of origin of these students include United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Latvia, Jordan and South Africa. 

Accompanied by Da Vinci international faculty, Prof Ronnie Lessem and Prof Alexander Scheiffer from Trans4M, students enjoyed their first day sightseeing at Maropeng (the official visitor centre of the Cradle of Humankind) situated North West of Johannesburg.

The first day of workshop took place on Thursday 7 May 2015 and the students were welcomed by the Client Engagement team, consisting of Carin Stoltz-Urban (Client Engagement Manager and Registrar), Simon Gathua (Key Account Manager) and Boitumelo Serobatse (Administrator). The welcome also offered favourited eats in the form of a simple yet elegant breakfast/brunch of croissants, muffins, scones and yoghurt. 

After the welcome, students were shown upstairs to the facilitation room where they found their seat together with their learning material, personalised learning journal and their Da Vinci green bag to fit their books and stationery in. The workshop was facilitated by Prof Bennie Anderson and the modules of the workshop included Self, Other and Social Context, Problem solving, creative thinking and decision making as well as managerial leadership development.

Prof Anderson opened the workshop in testing the awareness of each student in comparison to their worldly view and reality, whilst positioning the Da Vinci collaborative framework. Reframing is a part of SOS and allows introspection and self-reflection. The journey of a PhD student is a commitment to oneself, community and society at large. The discussion led to how aware we are in consciously making decisions, or do we often get stuck in the sub-conscious mind of doing things out of habit or of which may come more naturally. The point illustrated was to think out of the box and to see what sometimes cannot be seen, in order to effectively make sound decisions in life and in business.

As part of the problem solving, creative thinking and decision making modules (PCD), the students were given a Da Vinci crossword to complete. The difference between the Da Vinci crossword and other generic crosswords is that the words to be searched are scattered in various forms both diagonally, backwards, from top to bottom and vice versa. The student who finds all the words, as well as the mystery word which is made up from the left-over letters, is the winner and receives a Da Vinci prize.

The prize being a puzzle of a concept thought by Leonardo da Vinci in 1472 refers to what we know today as the helicopter. The winner in this case was Jubil from Nigeria who figured out that the way to separate the two inner blocks is to use the energy to release the two wooden dials within. This is the energy known as centrifugal force.

Students include:

Sara Khan and Robert Dellner – UK
Andrew Nyambayo and Chipo Ndudza – Zimbabwe
Yosuf Adeojo and Jubril Adeojo – Nigeria
Jelena Lapidus – Latvia
Alabbaddi Sameer – Jordan
Loshnee Naidoo, Premie Naicker, Frans Van der Colff and Marinette Hendriks – South Africa

The second day of workshop was focused on managing the systems way and systems thinking. This module was facilitated by Dr Rica Viljoen. The discussion revolved around that of social systems and how within an organisation, it is imperative to keep in mind various cultures as dealing with the human element. Systems thinking relates to the observation of a whole of a system with the exploration of the parts or sub-systems within it. This allows focus on effective problem solving by looking at it from different angles and perspectives.

The third day revolved around the understanding of managing people effectively and differs from general human resource management as it focuses on specifically working with the human element. This module was also facilitated by Dr Rica Viljoen and probed the realities of students in understanding the psychological and behavioral habits that employees may project. As an organisations workforce depends on engaged employees, it is imperative for a managerial leader to be able to read between the lines and to motivate their staff by promoting accountability amongst employees.

Day four and five was spent on the module of Management of Innovation which was facilitated by Dr Colin Steyn. Students were encouraged to think out side of the box and as part of the module, the group relocated to the outside gardens of Da Vinci House. Without the limitations of four walls, discussions were had around the four worlds way thinking by considering the perspectives of North, South, East and West.
The module deals with the identification of archetypes within ones self and those of others and Dr Steyn focused on the male and female archetypes by looking at paintings of various mandalas. One painting which was only half complete, encouraged the idea for the group to create their own painting which would depict a collective energy of the group, taking into account their own worldly perspective from their respective countries and conditioning background. The painting allowed a certain openness and vulnerability to be shared and shown which further develops the creative thinking within.

The sixth day served to be the final day of the weekly workshop held at Da Vinci House and the final module of the TIPS model (Technology, Innovation, People and Sytems) was the Management of Technology. Facilitated by Greg Tosen, the module focuses on the effective managing of an organisations technology to ensure competitive advantage, strategic alignment and operational effectiveness. At the end of business day, students packed their bags, made their farewells and embarked on another journey back to their homes.

To all our International PhD students and faculty, it has been a pleasure hosting you at Da Vinci House and to see the first step as you have embarked on a journey of life-long learning, self-discovery and exploration into the world of new knowledge and thinking methodologies.