Prof Kobus Visser presents paper at 16th European Conference on Research Methodology for Business &a

Crossing conceptual barriers: A methodological approach in a language-challenged SMME environment


Internationally there is general consensus about the acknowledgement of entrepreneurs as engines of growth and development, even more so in developing countries. Entrepreneurs inspire a culture of entrepreneurial development and innovation and they create businesses by contributing significantly to employment, gross domestic product (GDP) and developing the economy.

Globally the need for more support to develop entrepreneurs is accepted. The body of research demonstrates that “whether in emerging or developed markets, SMEs that have embraced advanced, data-driven mobile capabilities have fared better than their peers” and that progress is achieved only when the focus is on meaningful use for a specific purpose and in a specific community or business setting. However, for the majority of South African micro-entrepreneurs, such technology is available only on their mobile devices.

This paper describes an intervention process with micro-enterprise entrepreneurs who participated in a research programme aimed at 1) understanding the current usage of technology in support of productivity and business growth, 2) the challenges they experienced in this regard, and 3) the identification of potential interventions to support them in utilising the affordances of mobile technology. The project focussed on three areas in an integrated manner, namely business skills, digital skills (mobile technology) and personal skills (in a secondary context).

In terms of business and digital comprehension and terminology, a significant conceptual gap arose between the research team and participants; consequently, the Cognitive Engagement Board (CEB) in the form of a physical representation of the business value chain and applicable digital technologies was specifically developed to bridge the conceptual barriers amongst participants. The tool assesses entrepreneurs’ current business practices and skills to develop a systemic approach to enhance mobile technology usage and to improve their business operations.

The project focussed on three areas in an integrated manner, namely business skills, digital skills (mobile technology) and personal skills (in a secondary context). In facilitating the contextual understanding by micro- entrepreneurs the CEB application proved to be beneficial and practical, which is essential for the development of business and digital skills, and for the selection of relevant digital tools (applications) for business improvement and growth. It furthermore contributes towards peer learning and the opening up of new opportunities beyond the local market.


Paper presented at:

Craffert, L. Visser, K., Claassen, W. Van Audenhove, L. (2017). Crossing Conceptual Barriers: A Methodological Approach in a Language-Challenged SMME Environment. In: K. Lawlor., A.P. Buckley (Eds).Proceedings of the 16th European Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies, Dublin , 22-23 July. ISBN: 978-1-911218-41-8; ISSN: 2049-0976.

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