January, 2017 | Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
Selecting for Entrepreneurial Potential | By Carl Herman

Selecting for Entrepreneurial Potential | By Carl Herman


Could these applicants become our region’s next high-impact entrepreneurs? Do they have the potential for developing the Foundation’s Five Pillars: a Spirit of Significance, Courageous Commitment, Achievement Excellence, Intellectual Imagination and Personal Initiative? These are the questions that drive the Foundation’s Scholarship and Fellowship Selection processes. We’re not just trying to identify those applicants who perform excellently, but those with a high degree of developability. The princinple of potential is what undergirds our search.

Traditionally, organisations focus on competencies, experience and technical skills when selecting for specific roles. The more inconspicuous aspects: values, interests, personality and emotional maturity are not considered. In order to gain a holistic perspective on possible candidates – the best means of predicting future performance – the Foundation reengineered its selection process in 2012. The Success Profile Methodology, developed by Development Dimensions International, was customised for the Foundation by Deloitte’s management consulting team. It deliberately considers psychological factors, skills sets and understanding to asses both entrepreneurial potential and performance. The Foundation’s Success Profiles encompass five key areas: (1) Knowledge, (2) Experience, (3) Competencies, (4) Personal Attributes and (5) Potential.

These key areas are tested in a multidisciplinary way that includes written assessments, psychometric tests, simulation activities, targeted selection interviews and careful observations of the beneficiaries. Applying the Success Profiles during the selection process enables the Foundation to gauge beneficiaries’ potential. As of 2016 the measurement framework for the Success Profile has been expanded to allow for measuring performance. In other words, it is now possible to map beneficiaries’ performance at the end of their programme (be it the Scholarship or Fellowship Programme) against their initial scores for potential as an applicant. Graduating Candidate Fellows, for example, are now being tested against the Success Profiles before gaining entrance into the Association as well as every five years after joining the Association.

Figure 1: Foundation’s Potential to Performance Model

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 9.53.55 AM


Table 1: Assessment points at the Foundation

Point in time Scholars Candidate fellows Fellows
Selection Y1 Y1 n/a
Graduation Gr12 Y4 n/a
Ongoing n/a n/a Every 5 years

Selecting applicants with a high degree of developability

Formula for Foundation Selection: Degree of Developability = Inherent Potential + Performance

In order to determine an applicant’s degree of developability the balance between the following are considered:

  1. their ability to demonstrate mastery in the Foundation’s Five Pillars (see Table 2), with relative ease, at increasing levels of complexity as they transition through the various stages of the programme (Grade 8 to Grade 12 for Scholarship or first year at university to graduation for Fellowship); and
  2. their current level of performance in relation to the Foundation’s Five Pillars.

Table 2: The Foundation’s Five Pillars

Achievement Excellence The ongoing pursuit of excellence with tangible and specific focus on setting goals; a motivation to make a difference and leave a mark.
Intellectual Imagination Demonstrated by an established record of intellectual achievement; an ability to see the unseen, challenge the status quo and suggest that things could be done differently.
Courageous Commitment The courage and dedication to continue, realising that applying consistent commitment has a way of overcoming.
Spirit of Significance A weight of personality that comes from living a life personified by passion and integrity.
Personal Initiative A person who makes things happen, celebrates the satisfaction of bringing new things into being and is independent, proactive and self-starting.

Figure 2: Foundation’s Model for Selecting for a High Degree of Developability


As can be seen from Figure 2, performance  in relation to the Foundation’s Five Pillars is only one aspect of what is considered when determining the degree of developability (see objective 3 and 4 below). To get a fuller picture of the applicant’s performance, their academic and extra-curricular achievements are also taken into account (see objective 1 below). The other half, the applicant’s potential, is determined by looking at the applicant’s enablers and de-railers (also known as their personal attributes), their motivational fit, cognitive potential and potential for strategising (see objective 2 below).

Selection Objective 1: Predict the applicant’s ability to achieve and maintain academic performance

Depending on the programme, the applicant’s most recent academic results are studied as well as their Foundation Exam results (in the case of Scholarship applicants).

Measurement Construct Scholarship Fellowship
Academics Grade 6 and 7 Academic Results Grade 11 and 12 Academic Results
Extra Academic Assessments Foundation Exam (Standardised Maths and English Tests for Grade 6)

Selection Objective 2: Establish the applicant’s inherent potential

This objective is achieved during various phases of the selection process: on paper, when applying; in person, as part of an interview; and through observation, during the Selection Camp. The applicant’s cognitive potential (or short-term academic performance) is measured through one of two standardised tests (depending on the programme), while the potential for strategising is only measured in the case of Fellowship applicants. According to Stratified Systems Theory, the demands placed on Fellowship applicants fall within the theme of Strategic Weaving and are measured using the Learning Orientation Index.

Measurement Construct Scholarship Fellowship
Personal Attributes Emotional Intelligence – EQi – Youth Version GIOTTO – Integrity Test
Motivational Fit Assessed during Application form, Interviews and Selection Camp Assessed during Application form, Interviews and Selection Camp
Cognitive Potential for Academic Performance Differential Aptitude Test (DAT-S) National Benchmark Test (NBT)
Potential for Complexity at Strategic Weaving Learning Orientation Index (LOI)

Selection Objective 3: Establish the applicant’s current level of performance

In the case of Scholarship applicants, performance in relation to the Foundation’s Five Pillars is measured through gaming simulations, interviews and group simulation activities as part of a 3-day Selection Camp. For Fellowship applicants this is measured through competency based questions on an application form, a structured interview process and a series of simulation exercises as part of a 3-day Selection Camp. The Foundation’s Five Pillars, as mentioned previously, undergirds the entire selection processes because they are what ultimately leads to high-impact entrepreneurship.

Selection Objective 4: Establish the applicant’s overall degree of developability

In determining the applicant’s degree of developability, the balance between the individual’s inherent potential is considered in relation to their current demonstrated competence in each of the Foundation’s Five Pillars.

Figure 3: Candidate Decision Matrix

Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 10.02.15 AM

The final selection decision is thereafter considered as follows:

Talent pool A = High Potential + High Performance

Talent pool B = High Potential + Medium Performance

According to Figure 3, the Foundation selects from two groups within the Candidate Decision Matrix, namely Talent Pool A (High Potential + High Performance) and Talent Pool B (High Potential + Medium Performance). Both groups have high levels of potential but accommodation is made for Pool B individuals who perform moderately or at an average level. Their potential level suggests that with the proper support, development and structure, they too can perform at a high level in future.

The current Success Profile Methodology which incorporates the Foundation’s Five Pillars underpins our robust selection process. This approach gives practical expression to our goal of selecting for entrepreneurial potential. Not only is it evidence based and grounded in scientific rigour; it also has a track record of being an effective tool when selecting for future potential.

Putting Africa on The Map – Wandile Mabanga’s Map Blitz

Putting Africa on The Map – Wandile Mabanga’s Map Blitz

Wandile MabangaHow many countries are in Africa? If you have to consult Google for the answer, you’re who Wandile Mabanga had in mind when he created Map Blitz. His passion for promoting diversity and allowing people to access each other’s diversity formed the foundation for Map Blitz’s mission to gamify learning. The first game produced by Map Blitz is a jigsaw puzzle of Africa, consisting of 50 wooden laser-cut pieces. He believes such a physical interaction with knowledge is far more accessible and enjoyable than its associated Google search might be.

This belief perhaps stems from his own upbringing – a childhood spent in Kwa-Thema, playing with kites, tops and marbles in the streets and returning home with dusty and sometimes mud-smeared clothes. The spanking that ensued (because of the extra laundry burden) did little to deter him. In fact, despite doling out those spankings, Wandile’s mother and grandparents never discouraged him from venturing outside and satisfying his curiosity. Through the many games he played, Wandile learned to engage with people and with his environment. Did his family know that such a simple experience would lead to his pursuit of three degrees in the field of physics and an entrepreneurial venture based on games?

They didn’t and neither did Wandile. All he knew was that he enjoyed Science at school and wanted to continue studying it at university. Explaining, he adds: “I’ve always looked around and found inspiration from the environment … I could connect with nature through the equations.” The first two bursaries he received required Wandile to study something more practical like Chemical Engineering, but he couldn’t bring himself to commit to that course. That’s around the time when he learned about the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship. He could hardly believe that they supported his pursuit of Physics, echoing what his mother and grandparents encouraged him to do: to just be. “The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation allowed me to learn more about myself and do what I love … All they asked for at the time was that we excel in what we do. It is rare for one to learn and be encouraged to be, especially by a scholarship!”

After graduating from Wits with an M,Sc. in Physics, Wandile spent the next 18 months lecturing at Vaal University of Technology for six months and then teaching at the African Leadership Academy for a year. He then decided to take some time off in order to decide which direction his career should take: a specialised academic one or an entrepreneurial one. In the end he realised that it would be easier to make a contribution to society via entrepreneurship; physics is such a specialised field and the impact of his contribution might take years before being felt. It was also during this time of decision making that he stumbled upon or rather played his way to his business idea.

Sunday family gatherings at Wandile’s house have always been accentuated by board games and laughter. Seeing how much fun his family got from engaging with each other by means of games got him thinking. His cousins were the guinea pigs for the first game he came up with. They definitely had fun playing it, but he soon realised that it would not be as accessible to strangers. Towards the end of 2015 he fine-tuned his game to something that would bring people together, no matter their background. Wandile was able to secure funding and a spot in an accelerator. As a result Map Blitz has been operational for six months. His next step is to secure retail contracts so that the game is more readily available to the public.

Wandile hopes that Map Blitz will eventually morph into what he calls “Cultural Diversity Tours”, kind of like the world cup of culture and diversity, where people would be able to experience the richness of a continent under one roof – think Kenyan art, Moroccan food, Gambian literature and Sudanese dance for example. Before this step though, he hopes to expand his range of products to include the other six continents and offer an additional augmented reality function – accessing information and experiences by scanning a puzzle piece.

He hopes that his contribution to society would be somewhat like the invention of the chair – simple but ubiquitous. One could say that his life’s mission is “for people to access each other, understand and appreciate each other.” His journey thus far and his future ambitions are a true reflection of the Foundation’s Pillar Spirit of Significance: A weight of personality that comes from living a life personified by passion and integrity. Recognition that ultimate personal satisfaction comes from empowering oneself in order that one might be able to serve others.

2017 – The Year for South African Entrepreneurship

2017 – The Year for South African Entrepreneurship

Not all opportunities are created equal and some are able to have a disproportionate impact on a country’s future trajectory. In our own nation who would have believed that sporting events such as winning the world cup rugby combined with Madiba’s wearing of the No. 6 jersey could give such impetus to nation building, followed years later by the national pride that emerged from the successful hosting of the Soccer World Cup. Or in the entrepreneurial world, where Colombia’s transformation from a lost country filled with drug lord’s, murder and violence into a thriving, peaceful country, bursting with innovation and enterprise, was confirmed with the hosting of the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Medellin.

2017 is such a moment for South Africa, as we host the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Johannesburg from 13th to 16th March. It has become the Olympics of Global Entrepreneurship and it will be coming to Africa in less than two months’ time.   The eyes of the global entrepreneurship community will be on South Africa and we can use this as a powerful opportunity to change the perception of our national and continental entrepreneurial potential. If we doubt the impact of these type of events, we can interestingly draw encouragement from the Olympics itself. So what then is the link between the Olympics and entrepreneurship?

The answer is the island of Jamaica and the lesson for the emergence of South Africa’s entrepreneurial potential contained in the sprinting dominance of this small island. This nation’s athletic performance is staggering, as an article in the New York times identifies, “Among the most enigmatic features of Jamaica, an island of only 2.8 million people, is its astonishing supremacy in running. Currently, the world’s fastest man and woman are both Jamaicans. Nineteen of the 26 fastest times ever recorded in 100 meter races were by Jamaicans.” How is this possible.  It can’t be a matter of genetics as many Jamaicans ancestors are from West Africa which has few exceptional sprinters. How can a nation smaller than the city of Cape Town so consistently and comprehensively dominate a global sport?

champs-aerial-jamaicaA major reason is that in Jamaica sprinters are identified early and then very intentionally developed in a supportive culture.  Only in Jamaica is a high school track and field meeting attended by 30,000 people including the superstars such as Usain Bolt and considered by some margin the premier sporting event in the country. Champs, or the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association Boys and Gils Athletics Championships is evidence of how passionate and intentional this nation is about running talent – and the final results speak for themselves.

This insight into Jamaica’s success encourages the Foundation, because just as with running, if we are consistently able to identify entrepreneurial talent early and intentionally develop it, supported by a culture that drives such aspiration, we will reap great entrepreneurship results. So let’s make sure that GEC 2017 is an entrepreneurial Champs for this country and the catalyst for an enduring dedication and passion for fostering entrepreneurial spirit.

The Foundation will continue its own effort to consistently support such an entrepreneurial culture with our commitment every year to find the most entrepreneurial young individuals we can find across every last corner of the country and to bring them into an intentional system of now some 800 individuals to develop that ability for as long as it takes to bring home those entrepreneurial gold medals.  The Foundation’s Allan Gray Fellowship campaign opens on Monday 23rd January.

So let’s take hold of the opportunity provided by GEC 2017 and make 2017 a significant year in our entrepreneurial history. That people would record in due course that it was the year that brought us closer to realising the potential for enterprise to be a force for the common good, to be an engine of responsible growth, driving down the levels of unemployment and inequality in this nation.

What would you like to hear about in 2017 on the Foundation blog – let us know in the comments below or you can respond directly to stratcomservices@allangrayorbis.org

× How can we help you?