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Basics of a knowledge society

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MOST schools have mottos that praise or highlight the importance of knowledge. For instance the motto of one of the most important schools in Zimbabwe reads, “scientia timor vincit” which means “knowledge conquers fear”.

Knowledge is what differentiates a poor man from a rich man. Knowledge is the mark of distinction between those who will achieve something in this life and those who are going nowhere. Poor and rich countries are primarily differentiated by knowledge. Business enterprise is actually the art of concretising ideas, visions and dreams in real life goods and services. Visions, ideas and dreams are different aspects of knowledge.

There are basically five types of knowledge that exist in the modern world. These are physical or sense perception knowledge, spiritual or spirit perception knowledge (religions mainly thrive on this type of knowledge), knowledge of the past or history, knowledge of the future (visions, dreams, ideas or predictions), and philosophic knowledge (knowledge based on abstracting certain aspects of reality or ideas in order to understand the essence of things or reality.) Virtually all schools and learning institutions thrive on philosophic and physical or sense perception knowledge forms.

It is imperative that businesses understand the many types and sub-types of knowledge so that they cultivate competitive advantage in availing their products to society.

The question that is stimulated by the foregoing exposition is — what really is knowledge? Knowledge can be defined as facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education. Knowledge can also be defined as the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject or situation.

Most businesses that fail to grow or survive often have a common thread that runs through all of them.

The common denominator of all weak businesses is that they fail to understand fully the practical situation around them.

In company law incorporated businesses are described as legal persons which simply means they have persona which is separate from the human personalities that sponsor or foster the existence of a business enterprise as an economic entity.

This is the reason why incorporated businesses are capable of suing or being sued in their own right. The implication of this is that business organisations must be capable of comprehending the reality around them and adjusting their systems accordingly.

Businesses in their capacity as legal persons must be able to give birth to other enterprises. The name Samsung is synonymous with the struggles, the toil and the creative spirit of South Korean people. The name Mercedes-Benz is synonymous with the ingenuity and creative resilience of the Germans.

These two companies demonstrate that when knowledge is properly applied to current situations and circumstances timeless masterpieces are brought into existence.

The world we live in is governed by knowledge. Modern society largely influenced by computer and telephone technologies has redefined the haves and have-nots.

Basically people and businesses without relevant and up to date knowledge or information are the new have-nots.

The new haves are those who achieve critical mass in gathering and disseminating knowledge or information. It is not a coincidence that four of the richest people on earth are working in the knowledge economy, mainly in telecommunications and financial sectors where the primary commodities are knowledge and information.

If Zimbabwean firms are to achieve competitive advantage and grow in the future, it is imperative that they curve niches in knowledge acquisition, retention, packaging and dissemination.

Indigenous knowledge packaged in the arts and literature has great potential to revitalize the tourism and hospitality industries. This makes small-to-medium enterprises invaluable to economic revival because there can be no monopoly in the arts and tourism industries.

The collective effort of many players is what is needed for the sector to grow. Nevertheless, it is necessary that cross-cultural and cross-country studies be seriously undertaken so as to better understand all the dynamics and drivers that contribute to growth of tourism.

In the final analysis success or failure in knowledge society is determined by what you know, who you know and the depth of knowledge one has.

 Ian Ndlovu is an economics lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology. His research interests cover business, development, economic and e-commerce issues. He writes in his personal capacity.

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