Two links for your reading pleasure

Here are two articles for you to consider.

The first is an article by Thomas Fisher on Place-Based Knowledge in the Digital Age. Anyone working on local economic development, regional development and also technological innovation should take a look at this article. Thank you Liza for sharing it with me.


The second is an article by Edward Carr on the difference between innovation and technology in development. In my own words, his article highlights how the development fields focus on solutions might actually worsen the problems.

Let me know what you think.

Competitive advantage? Just how competitive are you.

I am working every day with businesses that are denying that the game has changed. Many believe it is just the government that is inventing new rules. This is true in some cases, but in most the government is also simply responding to global changes. The benefit of working outside of South Africa sometimes is that I get to see the domestic manufacturers from another angle. And the truth be told: South African firms are not as competitive as they would like to believe. Yes, there are exceptions, and we hail their achievements.

Tim Kastelle published an article today titled “here’s why you need to build your innovation capability“. When my eye caught the first sub heading I almost stopped reading. It shouts “Competitive advantage is dead. Or at least dying”. Blink. I believe in competitive advantage, and I believe that firms must figure out what it is that they have to do to remain competitive. I also know that once you found a gap in the market it takes hard work to remain competitive. Being a follower of his blog I plowed on.

Wait. Don’t let me spoil a good post. you have to read Tim’s argument for yourself. He argues that it is more important to become innovative than to have a competitive advantage. This is not a new argument in itself, but I like his angle on this. He then provides some simple steps that a manager can take to become more innovative even within a rigid organizational context where innovation may not necessarily be appreciated. His logic will also apply to not-for-profit organizations that don’t believe they compete even though they have to be able to compete for funding.

Reading this article also made me think of how we idolize some of the very famous firms now, but how we tend to forget how many great firms have dissolved here in South Africa and in other developing countries. It usually starts with a refocusing, then with selling off under-performing or non-core units. Then a merger of the remains with another firm with a “strategic fit”. Then, the end. They just slip from our conscious into the past.

Let me not close so depressing. Let me rather ask: how can you use the environment as an constraint that you have to consider in your business model and your innovation process?

If it constrains you it must constrain your competitors. Can getting around this give you an edge? In other words, can you put the constraint between you and your competitors?

Then ask: what are the constraints that are on the horizon, and how can I anticipate these constraints to get them between me and my competitors?

Thinking about this often might save you the anguish of trying to adapt while under pressure to also deliver.

I wonder how your answers will challenge your current view of how competitive you really are, and how innovative you are to respond to the changes in the environment.

Link: Why dont they want what we know they need by Charles Kenny

Take a look at this post by Charles Kenny at the Centre for Global Development about why people don’t absorb technologies that we know they need!

Lazy linking

Yes, I know its been a while since I have posted. Actually my previous posts have resulted in several invitations to make presentations at different events. Thank you to my readers for making those referrals.

While I get my head around my research work I can recommend the following three articles:

1. An article on the Daily Maverick by Marelise van der Merwe on entrepreneurship, crime, the relationship between the two and a possible solution. I have argued before that many of our criminals are misguided entrepreneurs – seems there is some evidence to support my argument.

2. Jerry Schuitema’s Heroes in the workplace article posted on is about how business leaders should involve labour more in their companies. He argues that the involvement is essential and possible – and I agree with him!

3. Take a look on the critique by Marcus Jenal on a article that appeared in the Economist. It is called “Simplify and repeat?” Rather Simplify and Evolve.



Linking to Complexity

If you are interested in the topic of complexity then surf over to Marcus Jenal’s page where he provides some insights on the topic. Marcus is a very good thinker and practitioner I always enjoy the questions he asks.

Also take a look at Aid at the Edge of Chaos and Owen Abroad blogsites for more insights on complex adaptive systems and development.

Promoting the case of business growth in developing countries

I knew something like this had to exist. An unapologetic argument of why we should focus on building business in developing countries, and why topics like corporate social responsibility and other issues are considered by business as “taxes” or “distractions”.

The case for business in Developing Economies”  by Ann Bernstein provides such a case. When you open the book you find endorsements from a wide range of credible people, including one of my favorite authors Martin Wolf (Chief Economics Commentator, the Financial Times).

In too many conversations companies are painted as bad guys, and profit is even sometimes described by people as “undesireable”. Somehow, business is now associated with environmental destruction, exploitation, and excessive profits. Ann questions some of these labels. She also question whether we should not put more pressure on business to focus on profits, growth, wealth creation.

For the official review of the book, click here

For a podcast where Ann Bernstein is interviewed about her views, click here


Happy reading!

UNCTAD releases Economic Development in Africa report 2010

UNCTAD release.

Two weeks ago the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released the “Economic Development in Africa Report 2010-South-South Cooperation: Africa and the New Forms of Development Partnership” report. The report examines the recent trends in the economic relationships in Africa with other developing countries, as well as new forms of partnership that have emerged in the past years.

The report argues that South-South cooperation has the potential to enhance Africa’s capacity to deal with the challenges of poverty and poor infrastructure, the development of productive capacity, and emerging threats associated with climate change, as well as the food, energy, financial and economic crises. In this regard, the report argues that there is a need for African countries to mainstream South–South cooperation into their development strategies to ensure that it further contributes to the achievement of national and regional development goals.

Highlights of the report can be found here