Encouraging SA entrepreneurs

Assists in instilling entrepreneurial spirit and thinking in the minds of Southern Africa’s talented youth

September 29, 2010

Assists in instilling entrepreneurial spirit and thinking in the minds of Southern Africa’s talented youth.

South African technology start-up, Cognician has announced a collaboration with the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation that will result in the creation – over the next 18 months – of 120 cognitive guides or ‘cogs’ designed to support the Foundation’s goal of encouraging entrepreneurship amongst South African school and university students.

“Entrepreneurship will over the coming years be a vital catalyst in Southern Africa’s social and economic transformation,” explains Margie Worthington-Smith, Organisational Development manager of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.

“And because of the serious shortage of entrepreneurs in Southern Africa by comparison to the rest of the world, addressing this imbalance is one of our Foundation’s primary objectives,” Worthington-Smith adds.

“Over the years, we’ve learnt that even though a sound education can equip young, bright minds with the tools required to solve the problems faced by our region, the entrepreneurial thinking that’s required to get them to the point of finding a workable solution and pursuing it unrelentingly is in short supply,” she says.

Complicating issues, Worthington-Smith says entrepreneurial thinking and the development of an entrepreneurial mindset is one of the most challenging skills or values to teach.

“It’s a value we’ve up until now been successful in instilling on a face-to-face basis during our events and mentoring sessions,” she says, “but as we gear up to go to scale, face-to-face opportunities will become less and less possible.”

As the Foundation aims to reach a larger group of high-school and university students over the coming years, an alternative that is as effective, if not more effective than face-to-face interactions needed to be found.

“Cognician takes knowledge in the form of books and intellectual capital and represents it in such a manner that our Fellows are able to interact with it in an entirely new way,” Worthington-Smith says.

“It’s like having a conversation with an author about the topic matter at hand, instead of simply reading the topic matter in book form and then trying – often inefficiently – to apply that knowledge to a situation,” she adds.

“By interacting with the content stored within a ‘cog’ our Fellows will have the ability to apply that knowledge to a situation at hand, using it as a guide to the thought process that must be applied to solving the problem.

“And in doing so, the content takes on a more pragmatic purpose and becomes a skill and value set that a Fellow can easily adopt into the way they approach everyday situations,” she adds.

“This unique trait makes Cognician the only tool we’ve come across that’s capable of developing an entrepreneurial mindset and instilling entrepreneurial thinking as well, if not better than, a physical expert in that the learners acquire knowledge at the time when they are most receptive to learning,” Worthington-Smith says.

Barry Kayton, Imagineer and CEO of Cognician says that the aim is for his company to build 40 ‘cogs’ on top of the content, intellectual capital and knowledge resident within the Foundation before the end of 2010.

“If the Foundation is satisfied with our efforts at that point, we will be given the go-ahead to complete the remaining 80 ‘cogs’ before the end of 2011,” he adds.

“We’re excited about this process since it will allow a significant increase in the level of access Fellows can enjoy to some of the leading thinkers on entrepreneurship in the world,” he says.

“This is an important contract for us, since it creates a great opportunity for Cognician to show-off its real-world impact by adding these pioneering entrepreneurial mindset cogs,” he adds.

“We can’t wait to get started,” he concludes.