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The Stanford Diaries: Why NZ Needs Some Swagger

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Justin Ferrell is a career journalist specialising in organisational behaviour and design. He worked for seven years at the Washington Post, most recently as the director of digital, mobile and product design. He is now Fellowships Founder at Stanford University’s Institute of Design.

He lives in Silicon Valley and gets invited to speak on creative culture around the world, but Justin Ferrell has a soft spot for the charm of New Zealand and Kiwi businesses at the bottom of the world.

We’re a small player in the world market that is perhaps not living up to our potential, he says.

Maybe it’s the New Zealand tall-poppy syndrome, but New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of “swagger” on the world stage, Ferrell says. In comparison, US businesses are great at boasting about the things they accomplish, and are some of the best marketers in the world.

“Whether it’s right or not, the external view of New Zealand from people around the world is really strong. It’s pure, green, positive, pristine. Everything has a pure quality,” Ferrell says.

New Zealand needs to get better at telling its great story and “walk tall”.

Designing a better future for New Zealand

Ferrell helped design this year’s Te Hono Bootcamp at Stanford University where a group of New Zealand’s primary industry leaders gathered to focus on transforming New Zealand’s primary sector to be a world-leader in innovation.

“The way you come together [at Te Hono] for the greater good of the country is incredibly endearing,” Ferrell says.

His coaching was around ‘design thinking’, which is really about engaging with the people we are trying to serve. Those are important lessons for New Zealand’s primary industries as they look to move into premium markets.

 “That’s the opportunity for New Zealand.”

Creative confidence for business

“Creative leadership isn’t about leaders simply becoming more creative. It’s about individuals leading for creativity.” Tim Brown, Ideo,

People often mistake innovation for products and services. But innovation is a way of working, Ferrell says. Bringing design into a company starts with its leaders promoting an environment that enables creativity.

It’s not all about you as a leader stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s about enabling that behaviour in those around you, Ferrell says.

He believes innovation comes from diversity – we’ll be less afraid of the things that make us distinct if we learn more from each other. “If we only work with people who are similar to us, we only come up with incremental change,” Ferrell says.

Most of us learn to only play to our strengths.  We enter the workforce and to continue to do the things we are good at. But if innovation is doing something that has not been done before, you have to step out of your comfort zone and take a creative risk, Ferrell says.

Design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success. - Tim Brown, IDEO

“Human-centred design. Meeting people where they are and really taking their needs and feedback into account. When you let people participate in the design process, you find they often have ingenious ideas about what would really help them. And it’s not a one-time thing; it’s an iterative process.” - Melinda Gates

ASB and Te Hono

At ASB we’re committed to helping Kiwi businesses achieve their ambitions, whatever they are.

Whether that's growing a global business, becoming the best in your field or building a sustainable legacy for future generations,

We’re here to collaborate and support your primary sector growth aspirations.

ASB is proud to partner with Te Hono, an organisation closely aligned to our own values and vision for the New Zealand primary sector.

Find out more about Te Hono.

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