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Moving New Zealand Business Out Of The Garage

Moving New Zealand Business Out Of The Garage And Onto The Freeway

23 November 2009: How can New Zealanders be so innovative, yet enjoy only mediocre economic performance? That is the question addressed in a report commissioned by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to look at the cultural traits that hold us back in international business, and to suggest strategies that businesses can employ to mitigate these traits.

Released following Global Entrepreneurship Week, the report, Playing to our Strengths: Creating value for New Zealand companies notes that New Zealand consistently rates highly in rankings for innovation, but low in markers of international business success and suggests that the determined Kiwi do-it-yourself attitude that drives New Zealand innovation can be the very trait that holds us back economically.

Cultural traits that the report notes as inhibiting our international business include:

• Satisficing – we rate leisure pursuits over wealth accumulation
• Thinking for our customers – we believe ‘she’ll be right’, which can be seen internationally as inflexible
• Self reliance – we believe that we can and should do it all ourselves
• Tall Poppy Syndrome – we are reluctant to acknowledge success, and give and receive feedback, holding us back from learning from success
• Under valuing intellectual assets – we don’t appreciate the true value of our inventiveness.

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This is consistent with the initial findings of further research that NZTE is conducting to build a broader picture of gaps in New Zealand’s international business capability.

For example, exporters feel their New Zealand-based staff or board members, as well as other domestic businesses, often do not understand the rigour, high demands or customisation required to meet international demands.

The good news is that if businesses are aware of what’s holding them back, they can put measures in place to mitigate these traits.

The report discusses five broad strategies that may assist businesses including:

• capturing and exploiting soft capital through an intellectual assets strategy
• building more productive relationships with customers through professional development and management tools
• capturing more of the value chain to grow our business closer to the end customer
• growing the firm’s talent to develop an organizational culture where tall poppies flourish and where success (and failure) is a learning opportunity
• accelerating market entry and growth through the use of specialists and the consideration of the full range of development options.

NZTE’s Chief Economist Gareth Chaplin said: “If we are to grow our economy, we need to generate greater wealth from innovation – and that means commercialising our ideas on a greater scale.

“Some of our greatest export successes started in the garden shed. But this very same mindset can also often be our failing on the world stage. In our determination to do things our way, and on our own, we often ignore the specialist expertise and opportunities that the rest of the world can offer.

“Those that succeed are those that recognise the need to get the car out of the garage and onto the international business freeway. They recognise that to get to their destination successfully they need petrol to feed the engine, air in the tyres and a navigator. They may need to pick up passengers along the way, but they are still driving the car.

“Our culture is just one of the aspects that prevent us from earning more through our exports. We hope that individually and collectively the strategies and tactics in this research report will contribute to management practices that help New Zealand businesses capitalise on their strengths and New Zealand to generate more export income.

“We pride ourselves on our lifestyle, but unless we start to earn more through exports, our currently-enviable standard of living will disappear within a generation.”

Read the full research report at


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