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Howard's End: Imagination Beats Knowledge

Achieving success for New Zealand in the 21st Century is not just about economic thinking, investment incentives or tax breaks. It's about realising the full potential of every New Zealander and genuinely listening to their vision. In the words of Albert Einstein, "Imagination is more important that knowledge". Maree Howard writes.

As the "Catching the Knowledge Wave" conference and think tank gets underway in Auckland today, we should remember that this is the third time this country has attempted to define an economic future.

First there was the National Development Conference of the Holyoake period, then the Economic Summit Conference in 1984 and now this one entitled Catching the Knowledge Wave.

That tells me we haven't been very good in converting the ideas of those previous think tanks into success.

It's very clear that economic thinking, investment incentives and tax breaks will not be the panacea for New Zealand success that we have been led to believe.

I'll tell you what success is all about - it's about people, all people. But how many times have we heard someone at home, or at work or in society at large say, "Nobody listens to me."

Too many times, I suggest.

I have a philosophy - throw a thousand ideas into the air and hope one or two good ones come down. But someone or some vehicle has got to throw up all the ideas in the first place - that means a united effort.

So why is it in this country, that "experts" are always someone from a thousand miles away?

I'll tell you why. It's because as a nation we don't genuinely listen to our own people.

Sure, we do a lot of talking and we have a lot of committee's and meetings at central and local Government level which produce reports, which then too often lay gathering dust on shelves or become doorstops.

So let me ask Scoop readers a question.

Do you genuinely feel that your Nation needs you, do you feel included, do you feel your ideas are genuinely listened to, do you sincerely feel that your vision of how New Zealand could improve means anything - or that anyone cares anyway?

Or do you believe that New Zealand focuses too much on financial capital and not enough on human capital?

Scoop has regularly pushed for the establishment of a "VisionCorp" where the ideas and visions of people from Kaitaia to Bluff could be heard, collated and, hopefully, acted upon. It hasn't happened - yet!

So it was heartening for Scoop to learn that even an august body such as the World Bank in its assessment of 192 countries, has found produced assets (capital made by humans) represents only 16 to 20 percent of the wealth of most of the countries studied.

Astonishingly, with the exception of some raw material exporting countries, the value of human resources is equal to or exceeds both natural capital and produced assets combined - accounting for 64% of national wealth.

Now that's real wealth - people, people, people.

The World Bank measured the "true" wealth of nations and it sends a challenging message to policy-makers who, with a few exceptions, measure their wealth and focus their economic policies almost exclusively on measures of financial and produced assets.

"Human resource capital is at the core of national progress and prosperity," says Harvard University researcher Robert Putnam.

So it's people and their ideas and their visions that are our greatest asset!

So listen up, all you so-called leaders who put yourselves up as having a monopoly on judgement, knowledge and common sense - get out of your comfort zones and start genuinely listening to people.

Young or old, rich or poor, advantage or disadvantaged - provide a forum to listen to their ideas, to listen to their vision, to listen to their voices crying out to be heard, to listen to what their heart is telling you.

Why is it that you live in the shadow of ideas without grasping them?

Do you honestly believe that all Kiwi's don't want to see their country at the top of the heap?

So how do you intend to help them make that happen - could it firstly be by genuinely listening to everyone?

Each gathering of important public conferences of the past 30 years has produced reports charting New Zealand's ability to sustain a first-class living standard. Have we succeeded?

Perhaps now it's about providing a forum and listening to all the ideas of people, instead of telling them. Establishing a VisionCorp to help do that is both timely and appropriate

And remember the words of Albert Einstein - "Imagination is more important than knowledge."


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