Ten* After Ten: Why we need to get more innovative around people and jobs

Idealog readers Jessica Venning-Bryan and Rachel Goodchild reflect (separately) on what’s changed in the last 10 years. And what still needs to.

Have you been surprised by what has (or has not) changed in the last 10 years?

Rachel Goodchild:  Yes - it's changed and changing. I work with IT companies based in what were once rural sectors. Innovation and creativity isn't locked in a city box. The sooner we drop the idea innovation happens best in expensive offices in cities the better for our country. And yes - It's boring, but nationwide ultra-fast broadband is a must for our growth as a country. I still work with clients who are struggling to run online ventures with antiquated internet.

Jessica Venning-Bryan: There’s no doubt that we’ve seen a wave of new, tech-based businesses emerge over the past 10 years. But there’s a long path ahead before we can rely on the new economy to deliver in the way agriculture and tourism do. There’s so much innovation here but we’re not converting enough great ideas into thriving businesses and industries that service a global market – we need to pull international dollars into New Zealand.

Where are we headed over the next 10 years?

Rachel Goodchild: A huge division is going to develop between those who are employees and those who are contractors. I believe employment law will need to become more flexible, and businesses will need to renounce control on their staff, enabling them to work for more than one business at a time. Workers will want to have more flexibility and ownership and will be prepared to lose security around their employment. But there will be an impact on many things, not least borrowing money, savings, and the whole economic system.

Jessica Venning-Bryan: Being geographically isolated means New Zealand is perfectly positioned for rapid technology development and market testing. You can test and refine a idea without it corrupting future markets. If we can harness the potential of local development for a global market, especially in the creation of highly scalable software and platform businesses, then we have great potential to lead the weightless economy. But I worry that there’s not enough capital available in New Zealand to help businesses take the global leap. As much as it is an advantage there is also a tyranny of distance. I’d love to see the government investing even more in technology businesses that want to service a global market from New Zealand – not just in product R&D but also with expansion strategy and the costs of building a customer base offshore.

What keeps you awake at night when you think about New Zealand’s place in the creative economy?

Rachel Goodchild: I think most businesses are trying to fit a entrepreneurial or creative brain into a model for people who want security – and you can't have both. I'm worried for my children who are creative and clever and geeky but female, because even though we raise them to not care, and they are growing up in a different world to us, it's also a less secure world. At least when I was young I had the assumption (false) that jobs and work was easy to get. I don't think its the same for them. I see them dropping off their childishness in preparation for planning for some sort of future that may not have space for them when they get there. Finally I'm an "evil outsourcer" my business uses a blend of New Zealand and overseas workers, and I think this will grow. We need to build strategists, not doers.

Jessica Venning-Bryan: Under-utilisation of human capital. We are innovative in so many ways, but there is not a lot of progressive thinking about how we engage people in work, and continue to build their skills to an international standard. There’s almost a total absence of high quality professional development and training in New Zealand, and the costs of accessing it offshore are prohibitive. I also feel frustrated about our lack of progress helping marginalised groups engage in meaningful work and build careers. I feel especially concerned about young women, particularly those who parent young, and about new migrants. Fifteen percent of 15-24 year olds are not in employment or education; 41% of them are already parenting alone; and 60% of people who enter the welfare system at this age will never leave it. I just don’t think that’s good enough if we want to build a prosperous country. There is so much skill and potential in our communities that we’re simply not harnessing.

Rachel Goodchild is managing director of digital and social media marketing company Identify. Jessica Venning-Bryan is general manager, brand for Electricity retailer Flick Electric Company

*Dodgy counting alert: Initially, we actually we asked 10 people to answer these questions as part of a magazine cover feature to celebrate our tenth birthday. But we liked those 10 answers so much, we kept asking more people. Stay tuned for others over the summer months.