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Innovation Heroes: David Darling

A bunch of top Kiwi brains are taking to the road for the Innovation Heroes tour – think wine, canapés and inspiring stories straight from the horse’s mouth. Rod Snodgrass, Penelope Barr-Sellers, David Darling and Shona Grundy – will share their journeys of building businesses, leading businesses and advocating for young talent and innovation.

??Idealog, naturally, will be there with bells on. Today, we meet David Darling, chief executive of healthcare tech firm Pacific Edge.

What does innovation mean to you?

It’s all about commercialisation of inventions. Creating  a step change that makes a difference that is commercialisable, with an extra emphasis on commercialisable, because innovation is all about producing some benefit or being able to capture some benefit.?

What is your driving purpose?

It’s about making a difference, it’s the passion to get out there and produce an outcome particularly when that outcome is aligned to the wellbeing of others.

Do something novel, be creative with the passion, it’s about getting out there and doing it.

What is the most valuable piece of advice anyone has ever given you? 

It really comes down to keeping the energy levels up, your chin up. You roll with the punches and you get back up and you keep driving forward.

Who have been your most influential role models?

A large number of people … My father who was very entrepreneurial and he’s a driven individual, very much a professional.

I worked for a company called Fletcher Challenge – there were a lot of high performing individuals in that organisation who had a lot of vision, a lot of energy and they went the extra mile to make things happen. I look back at the incredible strength of conviction they had to do some of the things they did …

One in particular I always used to marvel over was the building of their pulp and paper facility at Kawerau and to feed off the government-funded and built resource in Kaingaroa Forest – how they justified it and put it in place. It was just a phenomenally large and challenging project to be accomplished by people who didn’t really have a track record in doing that kind of level of project.

What is one mistake you’ve made and what did you learn from it?

I guess there are a couple mistakes where you look back and say, I could perhaps have put more resources into an area, maybe I would have got an even better outcome if I put more resources into it…

The other one that hits you is if you sometimes don’t have the best people, you tend to persist in trying to get those people – essentially your human capital for your enterprise, they’re very important and probably your number one asset in taking innovation to market. If you don’t have the right people sometimes it’s hard to change it up. Sometimes you deliberate and try to make it work but in in your heart you know it isn’t going to work and you really do need to make a change…

What are the key ingredients do you think that got you where you are today?

A high energy level and lots of persistence. The ability to identify and frame a vision into a bunch of doable steps and then having the energy – I don’t know where I get it from sometimes – to keep coming back and pushing that and coercing others to push alongside you to get to that point.

It’s passion, the energy and persistence combined. Between the three of them, if you’ve got a good dollop of all of them, it’ll carry you a long way.

In these sorts of enterprises it’s always a team based thing. It’s about the people you work with, that’s the fundamental thing. You’ve got to have great people and as a team you can do a lot more than one individual.

Click here to find out when the tour hits your nearest city and to book tickets.

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