Kiwis must focus on execution, advises former Flying Pig GM

In the future, the brain-drain is likely to go to China and India rather then Europe

New Zealand needs to stop watching exchange and interest rates and start building a society that can succeed in times of extreme change, says author and consultant Steven Carden.

New Zealand will have to respond to changes such as the growing economies of China and India; the continued evolution of technology; the phenomenal growth of social networking and virtual worlds; and a changing workforce, says Carden, the author of the book New Zealand Unleashed: The Country, Its Future, And The People Who Will Get It There.

Carden, who is also engagement manager at consultancy McKinsey & Company, told an audience at Microsoft’s Business Connect event in Auckland last week that in the future the brain-drain is likely to go to China and India rather than Europe, but there will also be people that are willing to work there for a lot less than New Zealanders would.

New Zealand needs to be able to respond to change and adapt, he says. But he is concerned about its ability to do so. New Zealand’s presence on the world stage is smaller than it has been. This country also has one of the smallest technology industries in the OECD, he says.

However, if the conversation about the future changes, there is still a chance New Zealand can come out on top, he says.

“We need to get away from our focus on interest rates movements and where the New Zealand dollar is at. The conversation we need to be having is around what a society looks like, that can cope with change in 20 years time,” he says.

Automation will mean that in 2024, companies will employ only half the IT staff they employ today, he says. The requirements on workers are going to change dramatically. High school students of today will have had 14 jobs by the time they are 38, he says.

Knowledge is not going to help us anymore, now that the world is changing so quickly. Workers are increasingly going to rely on their skills, he says. New Zealand will have to make changes to its education system and the way it does business in order to keep up, Carden says.

He lists three ingredients that a society needs to be able to handle and thrive on change. The society needs to be idea-generating, idea-absorbing and willing to change, he says.

Prior to joining McKinsey, Carden was the general manager of local internet retailer Flying Pig. It had a great idea, but was not successful because it was bad at execution, he says.

Local companies need to focus on great execution, he says. New Zealand is not brilliant at innovation, judging from the number of patents owned by local companies, and there is room for improvement in taking an idea to the market, he says. Companies that have excelled in great execution are, for example, children’s clothing company Pumpkin Patch and bathroomware designer Methven, he says.

Carden also recommends Kiwi companies re-think what “market” means and start thinking in global terms.

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