125 years on, does NZ still have the capability to be world leaders?

Posted by

Steve Graham

September 19 2018

September 19th serves as a day to remember. It was on this day one hundred and twenty-five years ago New Zealand had the courage to take an unprecedented first step toward equality, a step most of the world would eventually follow, by granting women the right to vote. Fast forward 125 years, and I am honoured to be living in a country that has had the fortitude to hand over the leadership reins of government to a 38 year-old female millennial. So where to from here?

HunchBuzz director Steve Graham and NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

We need to continue to be bold and courageous and tap into our innovation heritage and leverage our creative capabilities to reimagine the future. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow.

And this is where my anxiety comes in. I am concerned that as a nation, we are not fully leveraging our capacity to innovate and do things differently when it comes to how we run our country and businesses, systemically leveraging the engrained Kiwi “number 8 wire” ethos (e.g. using our ingenuity to create or repair things using whatever materials are to hand).

The platform for success has been long established. The United Nations recognises New Zealand as one of the 10 best countries in the world to live and we have remarkable values (e.g. New Zealand #1 globally on level of no-corruption).

Then why is our innovative approach to re-inventing ourselves declining? Oh yes it is.

IMD, an independent not for profit organisation, recently released their findings of country competitiveness and global innovation rankings. According to IMD’s World Competitiveness Ranking of 63 economies, New Zealand’s ranking plummeted by 7 places to 23rd in 2018, from 16th in 2017 - the second most significant drop of all countries researched.

Similar findings were also substantiated by the New Zealand Productivity commission who released a view of New Zealand State Services sector last month.

The Government has a vital role in how it chooses to promote the innovative use of technology in the state sector. Yet, the adoption of new technology or innovative ways of working can only happen in an environment open to change. And the report effectively states that we don’t have an environment that is open to change:

  • Our budget and performance management processes don’t reward productivity improvement
  • Innovation is the key to improving productivity but state sector organisations often lack the characteristics that encourage innovation.

Look around you and you will see a world in the throes of transformation. New Zealand has the people, processes, capability, leadership and the track record to create and adapt...so what’s stopping us?