How do you solve a problem like New Zealand? Mike Hutcheson examines the blessing/curse of Kiwi creativity

  • Creativity
  • September 17, 2015
  • Nikki Mandow
How do you solve a problem like New Zealand? Mike Hutcheson examines the blessing/curse of Kiwi creativity

In a just-released 30-minute video, former Saatchi & Saatchi boss and ICG executive director Mike Hutcheson examines how the Kiwi attitude both produces innovation and mitigates against its commercialisation.

When Hutcheson decided to do a master’s thesis on New Zealand creativity, he didn’t want to produce an unreadable 60,000-word treatise.

Instead he used interviews with four senior New Zealand business leaders – former Saatchi colleague Kevin Roberts, Les Mills International chief executive Phillip Mills, Hobbiton director and ex-Tourism NZ head George Hickton, and Innovation Council chief executive Louise Webster – to put together a 30-minute video examining the paradox that New Zealanders come up with great ideas and largely fail to commercialise them.

In the final product: Paradox: How New Zealand culture enables creativity yet mitigates against its spread, Hutcheson argues that our cultural myths around Kiwi ingenuity (everything from splitting the atom to inventing the egg-beater) can be dangerous, making us lazy and smug.

And our beach, bach, BMW mentality limits our ambition.

His conclusion: that our challenge is to solve the paradox around the fact we are generalists, and fearless and good at inventing things, but not good at implementing our ideas into scalable businesses that create jobs.

But that the very attitude that creates the problem may also be its solution. As Roberts says, the fact that advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi has new Zealanders in 27 of its offices worldwide is a sign of how well-regarded we are. And his tale of the young New Zealander's clever response to a challenge to take three pictures of something that would change the world is a good example of that. 

“We don’t have a mortgage on intelligence and creativity and we certainly don’t have the resources that other countries do," says Hutcheson. "What we do have is attitude and a certain cultural fearlessness. It seems because we live in a country with no natural predators we don’t know how to be afraid. We give it a go despite the odds. And it’s this attitude that will help us resolve the paradox. We need to put our creativity to the test in marketing as well as in research, and we need to leverage our partnerships and develop our networks, commercialise our ideas and take them to the world.”

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