“I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is you fund research and you learn the basic facts.”Bill Gates
Access to information is an essential element for efficient and sustainable management of sustainable enterprises. With the majority of African startups opting to explore green business ideas and the social impact space, it is correct to view the sustainable enterprise sector in Africa as rising. However, from my experience, that is not the whole story.
The development of sustainable enterprises is viewed as one of the most effective ways to tackle climate change in Africa. However, good information affects business operations in enormous way. For medium sized or smaller enterprises in the sustainable enterprise sector, access to information yields both direct and indirect benefits that are essential in generating revenues and producing sustainable results demanded from such entities.
Following my work with sustainable entrepreneurs in Kenya, I have come to the conclusion that for an enterprise to survive and thrive, it must have a clear understanding of its business competitive edge. The entrepreneur must also understand the workings of his processes more than his competitors. Such level of understanding requires a deliberate and focused intention to expand the organization’s knowledge base.
Winning in the age of Information
In this era of rapid technological change and numerous consumer choices, the need for information literate business managers has never been more important. Again, success is not only about accessing the information but also entails the ability to critically assess and ethically employ that information to solve a customer or operation-related problem in the business. To achieve this consistently, an entrepreneur must embrace a spirit of inquiry, and the perseverance required to improve her business operations and processes.
In as much as we live in the “age of information” with research revealing that more than 70% of Kenyans having access to internet, this ease of access to information does not necessarily mean that all of it is worthwhile or even practical. With billions of information out there, digging out high-quality information is becoming harder than ever. Therefore, the sustainable entrepreneurs that are seeking to improve and keep up with the pace of evolution in renewable energy technologies and businesses must be willing to invest the resources and time required to access and use the information.
Establish a unit dedicated to research
Practically speaking, it is advisable for sustainable enterprises to have a unit responsible for creating new scientific knowledge based on their research. The unit should also provide technical assistance and advice for production and quality control. In the long run, their combined effort should contribute to new product development in the organization. Unfortunately, majority of sustainable enterprises in Africa do not have any form of R&D units. The sustainable entrepreneurs must, therefore, make an effort to seek and hire individuals who can understand and easily adapt in this era of sustainable transformation. Such individuals with strong analytical, critical thinking and problem-solving skills can function as a reliable resource for enhancing an organization’s access to and use of critical sector information.
Naturally, sustainable enterprises with a keen desire to improve their business process are most likely to seek these kinds of information: the rates of output in the production process, variation in the cost of production, machine efficiency, staff reorganization, training needs, changing regulatory landscape, Production process, alternative supply lines, shifts in policy, investor characteristics, technology transfer, innovation, etc.
As revealed by the examples above, information sought by an enterprise can take many forms- it may be internal to the firm or relate to the external environment in which the enterprise operates. Enhanced access to information and associated utilization of the same is critical in fostering truly sustainable enterprises that can compete effectively. Sustainable entrepreneurs in Africa should make a concerted effort to invest in research and embrace adaptability to keep up with the challenges in the modern business environment