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What NZ can learn from the Nordic example

Dr Sylvie Chetty weighs in on emulating Nordic countries and why we should celebrate our local successes.

Dr Sylvie Chetty weighs in on emulating Nordic countries and why we should celebrate our local successes.

dr sylvie chetty idelaog nordic countries

She’s a professor of marketing at Massey University, a research associate at Uppsala University in Sweden, and now, professor of entrepreneurship/director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Otago. With more than 20 years of research experience into business growth and internationalisation, what does Sylvie Chetty have to say about the state of New Zealand business?

Sweden is often cited as a country New Zealand should emulate. Is this realistic?

Absolutely, Sweden and Finland, these are like New Zealand – small open economies. I’ve been telling many people like Trade New Zealand that New Zealand has similarities with these countries that it can learn from. They have small markets, they can’t just rely on domestic markets. Business-wise people are very similar, the way they do business, the way they think. Culturally I think they are very similar and a lot of New Zealanders don’t realise that.

In terms of that can-do spirit?

Yes.

What’s the scope of your new role at the Centre for Entrepreneurship?

My main role will be to drive research and increase linkage between university and the business sector. At most New Zealand universities there’s a real weak link between university and business. When we do research we go and interview companies in great depth, talking to CEOs, international business managers. We take that, and develop our theories. Also we feed our research back into business so they benefit from it as well We should be able to present that [information] in a form they can understand.

Why isn’t this happening?

I think typically in New Zealand, if compared to Nordic countries, it’s a very much ‘us vs them’ dichotomy between universities and business. If you take a company like Nokia in Finland, it wasn’t just Nokia working on its own. To develop a huge multinational they needed software engineers. Where were they going to get them from? Universities. It was a concerted effort between university, the business sector and government.

What’s one thing we should do in order to become more competitive?

Celebrate our successes. There are some very successful New Zealand companies working quietly under the radar. I think we’re too busy knocking ourselves back. It’s time we encourage companies to succeed. There’s another thing I find comparing with the Finnish and Swedish companies. New Zealand companies don’t really want to grow, there’s not that patriotism. In Sweden it’s a sense of national pride if you grow your company, grow the economy, contribute to the wealth of people, create employment. Per capita, in the world, Sweden has the largest number of multinationals – Volvo, Ikea, Saab, Husqvana.