Reading Tony's paper, as you should, one might take it as a whole bunch of negative nitpicking or feel inclined to find a suitably high window to throw yourself out of because clearly as business people and individuals we are screwed! There is far too much wrong with us, what can we do? And screw you Tony, who do you think you are? (see “Our Cultural Impediments” point 2 - “Our Tall Poppy Syndrome”).
Earlier this week I attended a session, at the top of a tall building (with firmly shut windows) where a collection of people much smarter than me were invited to talk about
"Are there cultural features of the way New Zealanders operate in business that hold us back as a nation. And if there are, what could we do about it? "
Tony's paper was referenced as what seemed an anti-handbook. Or 12 things not to do. Tony came along and we all discussed the question and spoke to the paper to dig in to what is wrong, and more importantly what can we do about it. Specifically we focused on the cultural deficiencies we Kiwis have that are such barriers to us succeeding internationally.
As we went through the list, point by point, fault by fault, I couldn't help feel that this was me we were talking about. Unsurprising as the list is representative of all our failings, and I am possibly the perfect example. Lucky me. But this was me 5 years ago, some things 10 years ago, others 20. I identified with almost every item on the list, and at the same time could identify one or more actions I took to change my behaviour and overcome them. A lot I am still working on. Someone in the session nailed it by explaining we are first incompetent, then become aware of our incompetence, then become competent. I felt Tony’s paper helped us become aware of our incompetence and hopefully we could find the next step to move from awareness to competence.
Lillian Grace suggested that we should have a handbook for this that we give every businessperson, every student, that outlined how not to be a dick, and to get over our kiwiness and succeed.
Looking at the section in Tony’s paper titled “Our Cultural Impediments” where each impediment is catalogued, I couldn’t help feel you could just take this list, and instead of focussing just on the failing, turn it around into an example of how to change this behaviour, and in fact I probably had a story or two to tell about each. How I stopped being a dick and unlearnt these behaviours and then what happened. Then I thought, hell there are hundreds or thousands of stories out there from other New Zealanders who have done the same. How can we all tell these stories, collect them into a handbook on how to overcome our cultural deficiencies and pass them on to others. I thought a wiki would be a great start.
And so here is the list from Tony’s paper, of all the things culturally preventing us from global domination:
"The following factors help explain why Kiwis have failed to take advantage of the hefty deregulation of the economy which largely halted almost two decades ago, and perhaps why there is not a large voter constituency for further reform."
Let’s go through them and each tell a story of how we overcame each of them. I’ll kick the ball rolling, but I need your help (point 4 - “Don’t like giving or receiving feedback ” ). Each impediment is a new topic and page. Add to each a story, a tip or an observation. Perhaps this is just a perfect example of point 11 , but let's write the handbook.- Vaughan Rowsell + the rest of the Moxie crew