Selecting for Entrepreneurial Potential | By Carl Herman | 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

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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

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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.

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