Beyond Buzzwords: Supporting Innovation in the Caribbean

Beyond Buzzwords: Supporting Innovation in the Caribbean

Business / by Russel John

Information + Action = Results

Throughout history it’s been proven that changes in information often predate changes in actions. We learn more then we do more and it follows then that the more we know, the more we’re able to do. As cliche as it may sound, “Knowledge is Power” and though knowledge alone is not enough, we cannot understate its importance in bringing about change. As we look ahead to the future of education, business and life, we must consider the role access to information can play in actionably supporting Caribbean innovation. Here are three lived experiences that demonstrate the power of access to information in action.

Unique knowledge as a fundamental driver of innovation

In the United States

Consider the story of a young man, born in the Soviet Union who with his family moves to the United States of America and settles in California. At 16, he works as a cleaner at a grocery store to help make ends meet and uses his free time to teach himself how to code. Eventually he lands a job as an infrastructure engineer at and spends 9 years in the company. While there, he notices that Apple’s app store is gaining popularity and conceives a software application that would serve as an alternative to SMS messaging. The young man, Jan Koum names it Whatsapp, a brand that goes on to become a household name across the world.

In Jamaica

Similarly in the Caribbean, there’s the story of a young woman from Clarendon who grows up with her grandfather, a farmer, in Jamaica. She follows the Caribbean expectation; - "go to school, study your work, get a job" and eventually lands a job at one of the region’s leading manufacturers. She spends several years at Grace Kennedy, working in export and international trade with the sole goal of taking the company's brand global. While on this mission she notices a recurring problem in the supply chain. There is a constant demand for agricultural produce but there's unavailable and inconsistent supply. Having grown up with her grandfather, a farmer, she leaves the security of her corporate job to set up an agricultural packing and processing facility operating at international standard—the first of its kind in Jamaica. The company? Benlar Foods. The woman? Craslyn Benjamin, a living reminder of the viability of agriculture as more than just a farming industry.

In Grenada

Unique knowledge is not only external however, the experience that we gather while wearing different hats at work is worth processing, learning from and even sharing , for in them may lay seeds of new opportunities to explore. This was the case for a young Grenadian woman, who, like many persons in Grenada, joined the public service in the capacity of teacher. During her tenure at her Alma mater, her supervisors discovered her innate knack for event planning and rewarded her stellar work, with more work. She was placed on every planning committee possible and soon acquired formal skills to match her experience. She later parlayed her training and experience into side jobs with private events and companies. In 2010 she left the security of government service to work full time in event coordination and decor. After 7 years in her new role she recognized a growing demand for her unique set of skills and in 2018, Eventful by Mekalia was launched. Mekalia Croney now lives by the mantra “Life is an event” and spends her time between Trinidad & Grenada helping individuals, couples and corporate clients alike celebrate life in ways that are authentic and unique representations of who they are.

The big idea

“Successful entrepreneurship is related to predictors such as the entrepreneur's experience, managerial skills and unique knowledge” Marcin Staniewski

Unique knowledge however can be particularly difficult to source in the Caribbean. Whether as tools for academic research, market and industry insight or historical documentation it can be incredibly difficult and often frustrating to attempt deep research in and on our region. Conversely, as seen above, where people have access to unique information, action and innovation can happen much more organically. If we are going to continue to tout entrepreneurship and innovation as a viable means to transform lives and livelihood then we must make information readily available. The hallmark of every great entrepreneur is the ability to identify new problems, spot niche opportunities and create effective solutions to address them. This cannot be done in the absence of information so here’s where we begin

Collect, share and analyze company information

A culture of knowledge sharing across the company will ultimately allow employees to develop a better idea of the big picture that they’re working towards, not to mention build a sense of trust, value and room for intrapreneurship. This means being more deliberate about the information that we collect as companies and investing in information management systems that make the analysis of information easier. Above all else though, with obvious discretion and confidentiality, we must share these insights with key employees. Task employees with finding exploitable trends and new opportunities to diversify your product/service offering, generate revenues or even update the business model. Identify potential and recurring problems and give them the latitude to create solutions. Innovation does not happen without information.

Encourage publication of information for public consumption

In similar fashion, the public sector must be impressed upon, encouraged and cajoled into sharing the wealth of information and insights currently sitting in cabinets and internal reports. The details of the food import bill holds a bevy of opportunities for agri-preneurs. The day to day sector related challenges with information and efficiency are literally new software companies, in the right hands. The trends in consumption and production of goods and services, is in itself actionable information for anyone. The very task of transforming what is usually highly technical data into actionable information is action worth pursuing especially in an emerging market. For any government intent on moving beyond merely tossing out buzzwords like entrepreneurship and innovation into creating an enabling business environment, this type of information must be shared.

Create and support more Caribbean content

The region is in desperate need of content that is native to and culturally appropriate for the realities in which we live. This applies to education just as much as entertainment and even more so in business. Integral to our personal, professional and economic growth is the representation of the authentic Caribbean voice, flavour, taste and talent within global contexts. We must make it a point to develop and share our unique voice and perspective, lest we continue to attempt to fit into popular narratives that contextually don’t work for us. We must document and tell our stories and foster the development of creativity, production and publication of Caribbean content in our students. Moreover, we must engage, share and support our content creators with action. Our collective responsibility begins with knowing without a shadow of doubt, that our lived experiences are valuable, valued and worth sharing. Therein lies our unique knowledge, boldly, proudly, distinctly Caribbean.

We need to know more blogs like Islepreneur, books like A-Z Odyssey, newsletters like so share your favourite local and regional sources of content and information below or email

Any and all content creators, information hubs and media channels welcome. That’s it for now #Inanutmegshell