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Writing the story of Kiwi success

22 March 2005

Writing the story of Kiwi success

Working in a bicultural business environment at home gives New Zealanders a head start when it comes to breaking into overseas markets, says exhibition creator Steve La Hood.

The Wellington-based director of Story! Inc is speaking at this week’s Regional Development Conference in Napier. The conference is focused on moving regional development in New Zealand up a level to meet the demands of a changing international environment.

Creators of leading edge exhibitions, Story! Inc’s latest work includes New Zealand’s pavilion at the World Trade Fair in Aichi, Japan, which opens later this month. The company’s other projects include the globally successful Lord of the Rings exhibition, the upcoming Waka Moana exhibit at the Auckland Museum, and the “Stories of the Sea” attraction at Singapore’s Sentosa Island theme park.

Steve La Hood says Story! Inc has been working in Singapore for five years and has found the need to be culturally responsive just as important when working in Asia as in New Zealand.

“In New Zealand we have to work in a two-nation continuum, Maori and Pakeha. If you want to do exhibition work you better know about tikanga and you better have respect for stories that don’t belong to you.”

Similarly, cultural appropriateness is just as important in developing business in the Singapore region, where Story! Inc has now established a sister company.

“When you get to a place like Singapore and you’re dealing with Chinese or Malay or any culture, the same rules apply.

“We found breaking into Asia quite straight-forward – it’s a matter of engaging with our clients and telling them a story. They go, ‘wow, these guys are talking about our culture and they’ve done their homework, they’ve told our story back to us and it sounds good.’”

[more] [La Hood/2]

Steve La Hood says for organisations wanting to grow their businesses overseas, or for those that are aiming to work with other cultures in New Zealand, the need for empathy is paramount.

“You have to put effort into understanding other cultures, otherwise you will not get any support – all you will do is reinforce stereotypes and make things bland.

“Audiences around the world are very smart; they have seen a lot. By the time they get to New Zealand they have seen the best the world can offer so New Zealand has to be surprising, honest and open.”

The pavilion Story Inc! has created for the World Trade Fair in Aichi, Japan, is not about selling a single brand or product, but instead aimed at giving visitors a sense of New Zealand as a whole, from its environment through to the cultural diversity of its population.

However, Steve La Hood says the reality of doing business anywhere in the world is the need to build relationships. The trade fair pavilion supports that work by helping to install a sense of confidence about New Zealand as a trading partner.

He also sees New Zealand’s geographical isolation as an advantage in that it allows greater creativity.

“We’re not afraid of new technology and we find applications for it that no-one else has thought of. We do that surprisingly regularly for a tiny wee country this far removed from the main stream of the world.

“But I think that’s a real strength of ours. I think New Zealanders come up with original solutions to problems that other people can’t because they’re too involved in a world culture that’s too busy and noisy and competitive,” Steve La Hood says. This year’s Regional Development Conference is the third to be held and runs from March 21-23. It is jointly hosted by the Minister for Industry and Regional Development, Jim Anderton, the Ministry of Economic Development, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, EDANZ and the Hawke’s Bay region.


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