As a world-class business school, the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) conducts innovative research to help African businesses navigate disruptions in the workplace and broader economy. This research is often a collaborative effort of academics from GIBS with students, as well as colleagues abroad. In this edition, Acumen features five published academic articles and the newly released

Academic Articles

Disruptive market shift: Conceptualization, antecedents, and response mechanisms

Oluwaseun E Olabode, Magnus Hultman, Constantinos N Leonidou, Nathaniel Boso

Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Vol 192, July 2023

Professor Nathaniel Boso, a research associate at GIBS, says, “This research addresses the question of how multiple environmental forces give rise to the manifestation of disruptive market shifts and how businesses respond to these shifts.” He notes that given the rising disruption to business operations, this research is timely, as it investigates issues that adversely affect survival and continuity of businesses. He adds, “This study draws insights from in-depth interviews with 23 business leaders to conceptualise the notion of disruptive market shift, explore how a variety of environment forces have triggered these shifts in major industries, and how businesses respond to changes in their markets.”

Key findings

  • Digitisation, technological advancements, political uncertainty and government regulations, competitive pressures, the media, and customer dynamism are major drivers of disruptive market shifts.
  • Evidence suggests that businesses tend to establish collaborative relationships, initiate internal transformational processes, and develop innovative metrics and patterns to respond to disruptive market shifts.
  • Results show that businesses need to be well informed about the various disruptive market shifts as they are likely to impact on internal business processes. 

Practical application

Boso notes that this research is crucial for business leaders as it offers a guide and draws attention to what businesses need to watch out for when operating in a dynamic business environment. He says, “A suggestion is that an early anticipation of disruptive threats is important to facilitate business success.”

For the full paper go to:

The impact of remuneration governance on chief executive officer overpayment 

Mark Bussin, Albert Wöcke, and Benno Deysel

South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences, Vol 26, No 1  

Dr Mark Bussin, associate professor at the University of Johannesburg, notes that the link between chief executive officer (CEO) payment and company performance is highly controversial and has been the focus of research for decades. He says, “This study was conducted in South Africa, where corporate governance regulators have introduced measures to improve the relationship between CEO pay and performance.” He explains that this research has provided conclusive empirical evidence – based on 67 company annual reports which were analysed over two decades with 871 datapoints, divided into three periods corresponding with the introduction of regulations – that there is a link between good corporate governance, company performance and CEO pay.

Key findings

Bussin explains that the key finding of this research is that it demonstrates how remuneration governance in the form of CEO minimum shareholding, performance-based vesting conditions, and voluntary additional remuneration disclosure moderates the relationship between CEO remuneration and company performance.

Practical application

Applied practically, he says organisations can improve remuneration governance and moderate CEO overpayment by:

  • Including remuneration governance, measured through minimum shareholding requirements (MSRs);
  • Using performance-based long-term-incentive vesting criteria (PVC) and remuneration disclosure in setting performance goals and moderating pay–performance sensitivity and, by extension, therefore moderating CEO overpayment;
  • Introducing PVC and MSR into CEO remuneration packages, so that risk preference alignment occurs, based on a closer pay–performance relationship.

For the full paper go to:

Promoting talent through managing employee mental health: The role of decent work and organisational citizenship behaviour within the South African public service

Willie Chinyamurindi, Motshedisi (Tshidi) Mathibe, and Chioneso Marange 

SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, Vol 49, 3 August 2023 

Dr Tshidi Mathibe, senior lecturer at GIBS, spoke to Acumen on behalf of all the authors about their research. She says, “This research sought to understand the determinants of employee mental health, accounting for the role of decent work and organisational citizenship behaviours (OCB) within the South African public service sector.”

Key findings

  • OCB refers to the voluntary actions of employees that are not part of their job requirements but contribute to the overall functioning of the organisation. The study found that OCBs do not have a significant influence on employee mental health.
  • Decent work, which includes opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace, better prospects for personal development, and social integration, among others, better predicted employee mental health. This means that when employees have access to decent work, it can contribute to their positive mental health.
  • Decent work has a significant impact on the relationship between OCB and mental health. OCB might contribute to creating an environment where decent work is possible, which in turn supports employee mental health.

Practical application

Mathibe says, “By prioritising decent work, managers can create a work environment that supports employee mental health.” She adds, “While the study found that OCB does not directly influence employee mental health, it can contribute to a positive organisational culture. Managers should encourage behaviours that create a positive work environment, because they can contribute to a more engaged and committed workforce.”

For the full paper go to:

Invoking team trust to facilitate performance management in the context of virtual teams

South African Journal of Business Management, Vol 54, No 1

Lutfiyya Moosa, Haley Pearson, and Morris Mthombeni

Dr Haley Pearson, GIBS executive director for academic education and director of the MBA programme, says, ”In a world where virtual teams have become normalised, flexibility has exacerbated work-life imbalance.” In addition, she says that despite the development of technology, along with enhanced productivity, people are still unable to mimic the positive social and relational aspects of work in person – which are required to drive team performance – when in a virtual environment.

Key findings

  • The study invites a re-assessment of performance management evaluation and accountability mechanisms, which are still prioritised at the expense of performance enablement and relational aspects of performance, such as trust.
  • The research suggests that both high trust and high accountability are required to enable high-performing virtual teams. This requires strong goal-setting mechanisms, agile performance management informed by frequent feedback, high levels of managerial support with an emphasis on middle management, effective and empowering use of a variety of technologies appropriate for different team tasks, all underpinned by team trust enabling improved work-life balance.  

Practical application

Pearson explains the practical application of the research: “The paper introduces a framework called the virtual team performance management framework, which combines the hard accountability mechanisms of goal-setting with benevolence elements of managerial support.” She adds: “Application of this framework provides very good suggestions on how to build flexible work arrangements with virtuality at its core.” 

For the full paper go to:

Drivers and consequences of strategic leader indecision: an exploratory study in a complex case

Mokete Motloung and Charlene Lew

Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol 44, No 3

Professor Charlene Lew, an associate professor at GIBS, says, “Strategic decision-making is one of the important drivers of organisational performance. Surprisingly, though, indecision can hamper decision-making even in top management teams.” She explains that indecision refers not only to a lifelong trait of avoiding decisions but incorporates indecisive behaviours, such as avoiding or delaying decision-making. “We wondered how personal factors, elements of the relationships within the top management team, and characteristics of the organisation could lead to strategic indecision. Understanding these drivers may enable organisations to shape activities and interventions to overcome indecision in top management teams,” she says.

Key findings

  • At an organisational level, when top managers operate in a complex environment – such as when teams span different geographical contexts and work in complex reporting structures – this negatively affects how they perceive the competitiveness of the firm.
  • At a team level, negative social interactions such as power dynamics, conflict avoidance, and lack of trust emerge. This then morphs into a climate of blame-shifting and subsequent inaction. Why make decisions if you will be blamed?
  • The top team members then avoid taking accountability as they fear failure.
  • At an individual level, this then leads to decision-making fatigue.

Practical application

When it comes to applying this research practically, Lew says, “To overcome strategic leader indecision, African business leaders should enable decision-making through flexible business structures and team diversity.” She adds, “With that, they should implement programmes to build cohesiveness in the top team, which will establish a climate of interpersonal support, and a sense of collective efficacy to achieve their goals.”

For the full paper go to:


Technological Leapfrogging and Innovation in Africa: Digital Transformation and Opportunity for the Next Growth Continent

Edited by Ethné Swartz, Caren Brenda Scheepers, Adam Lindgreen, Shumaila Yousafzai, and Marianne Matthee

Technological Leapfrogging and Innovation In Africa: Digital Transformation and Opportunity for The Next Growth Continent is an essential volume for anyone who is interested in Africa’s digital transformation and what it means for businesses, education, and society as a whole. Importantly, the book is accessible and easy to read.

Looking at Africa holistically

Professor Ethné Swartz, a Fulbright scholar and professor of management at the Feliciano School of Business at the Montclair State University, says, “When we were planning the book, there wasn’t a volume that contained a highly academic perspective with good data which was easy to read.” It was important to the book’s editors that the book had to appeal to a mixed audience that would value a pragmatic, data-driven look at Africa’s technological leapfrogging. Swartz noted while there are a lot of exciting things happening in Africa, the continent also has its challenges. She says, “We can’t speak about one without understanding the other.”

GIBS Dean Morris Mthombeni in his foreword, says, “Many books have been written about leapfrogging in a technological sense. However, what makes this book distinctive is that it takes the reader beyond first-order leapfrogging topics and adopts a systems-level approach… While technology leapfrogging is frequently advanced as a solution for underdeveloped nations… the core message in this book is that a technology-driven solution will only be effective if there is strategic alignment at the national, industry and organisational levels.”

The importance of research like this, says Swartz, is that Africa is having a massive impact on the global economy. It has a growing youth population with nothing to lose, and technology is helping this segment of Africa’s demographic achieve its goals. The release of the book is the result of a collaboration of academics from Africa, the United States, Europe and Asia. Professor Caren Scheepers, GIBS professor in contextual leadership, notes that this is an important intercontinental work, and she says, “There are scholars who have been supported by the Fulbright* and other funds around the world, who realise that there should be [information and data] moving from one continent to the other, in the sharing and co-creation of knowledge.”

Superlative data-driven content

This book challenges a very narrow definition of what Africa is, and how technology is impacting life on the continent. The book features 13 chapters with a broad coverage of topics, including management and business, money and finance, technology’s impact on households, education, Africa’s relationship with China, legal systems including intellectual property, and economic recovery.

Swartz says, “David Teece and his colleagues Kieren Brown and Phil Alves wrote the first chapter. To me this sets the stage for the book. They are looking at what management capabilities we require as this transformation takes place in Africa. This contribution is based on work that Teece and Brown are doing across the continent, and gives an overall perspective looking at the upskilling that is required as economies reform.” 

The remaining chapters are works from academics who are held in high esteem in their fields of research, including Njunguna Ndung’u, the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, and Professor Lyal White, founder of Contextual Intelligence and a research associate at the Brenthurst Foundation. The book is full of data-driven graphics and looks at continental Africa, not just South Africa. “If you look at the data, several of the chapters speak about the larger economies of Africa, with Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, among others, well represented,” says Professor Caren Scheepers.

The book also highlights African companies that are changing the way Africa does business, and that are attracting major investment from global funders. Swartz mentions Sweep South and Jumia as two businesses that are highlighting the opportunities for digital businesses in Africa. Scheepers adds to this by saying, “The point in the book is the huge potential that digital is giving entrepreneurs, and the book highlights many of these examples and how the high-energy youth are grabbing opportunities and making opportunities through access to the internet.” 

The book ends with a chapter on Africa’s post-pandemic recovery and is based on a larger project that the academics have been working on. Scheepers says, “The information is well presented with great visuals. This is a strength of the book – that the data allows for evidence-based decision-making.”

* The authors wish to acknowledge the role the Fulbright programme, the flagship international educational exchange programme sponsored by the United States government, plays in academic research around the world and its contribution to the realisation of this book.

To buy the book, go to the Google store, where it is available as an e-book with full-colour graphics for R490.73. Swartz and Scheepers hope a print version will be available in South Africa soon.


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