AS I SEE IT : Blair McKolskey

How would you describe the New Zealand identity?
We are uniquely innovative, changing and resilient.
With repeated top global patent rankings in certain sectors, New Zealand has consistently shown an ability to “punch above our weight” in innovation. What makes us unique is that the innovative results endure despite lack of big research and development budgets such as those abroad.
Like the All Blacks, New Zealand business does not have the big dollars to throw around the global playing field, yet we continue to be world class in innovation. That unique and consistent success can only come from an internal, deeply rooted belief which is enhanced by our trademark determination, the same determination that is characteristic of New Zealand’s rugby heroes.

What will be the country’s next major challenge?
I believe our next hurdle will be embracing changes to support New Zealand businesses with the right ideas to compete on the world stage.
We are coming to realise that the industrialisation of New Zealand and being production-based economy is unlikely to be winning strategy. I believe the opportunities are around product and service innovations and the associated higher value-added jobs. We need to adapt our thinking and our way of life to embrace these opportunities. More importantly, we have to enable creative and entrepreneurial souls to bring their ideas to market.

What do we need to do to prepare for this?
I believe we need to take greater responsibility for our own actions (or inactions), and dramatically reduce paternalistic policies that inhibit strong and effective capital markets which could drive innovation and growth.
However it is to be accomplished, New Zealand needs to progressively release free-market choice through measured process of less-prescriptive and more light-handed descriptive regulation.
The next steps are going to be difficult. Sacrifices will be made, but to build on an earlier analogy, they need to be met with the same resolve you see in the eyes of those who have the privilege of performing the haka before big game.

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