Speaking in Auckland at the recent The Competitiveness Institute conference, Richards said economic resources are not all that matters in people’s lives, yet as convenient marker of national economic health, GDP tends to dominate discussions of how nations rank against one another.
“It seems to me GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.”
The time is ripe for change, he says. He adds that comparing nations and communities has its pitfalls.
“It’s what we want as community of interests that matters most in measuring success.”
Richards says New Zealand requires major shift in its national psyche if we are to be successful in producing and exporting higher-status products and services to the world.
“But, the severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the ability to reach it,” he says. “We clearly have to want this. If you want change: discomfort, panic or fear is useful start point. But even that’s not enough on its own.”
Richards says that for the first time in the country’s history we have to learn how to sell less for more.
“[We need] to take nation of farmers and turn them into foodies and fashion experts. [We must] bring design to our companies and transform their product values. [We need] to invigorate our communities with new sense of purpose, placing provincialism on world stage.”
According to Richards, today’s world is about regions within countries.
“We need to romance the regions and their individual specialness.”
At the organisational level, he says change is often stymied by an imbalance between ambitions and an ability to execute.
New Zealand is characterised by “loads of wonderful plans that don’t quite come off”.
This, he says, is usually due to lack of commitment to the underlying vision or to thinking errors.
“[There have been] endless studies in our primary sectors and we still lack total beast or crop strategies. It seems abundance is our undoing.”