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Not really undercover on the R9 Accelerator

On day one of the R9 Accelerator bootcamp, Shawn – the Accelerator Manager – introduced me as Hannah the government spy.

I’m the Better for Business Programme representative down at Creative HQ during the course of the R9 Accelerator.

It’s important the Accelerator is successful and achieves real benefits to New Zealand businesses. I work across the teams, bringing a Programme perspective to spot and resolve emerging issues. I provide feedback to the Programme on what works and what doesn’t to inform planning future Accelerators and other innovation initiatives. I ask people probing questions, gather gossip, and speculate.

I suppose that “Government spy” sums this up.

I did give Shawn a bit of flack for being so blunt in his introduction, but I decided to embrace the title. I’m a pretty irreverent, upfront person, and it appealed to my sense of humour.

Besides, “Hannah-the-spy” does sound way cooler than “Hannah-the-Better-for-Business-Programme-Representative”.

So what’s Accelerator life like for a government spy?

It’s my job to hang out with some of the most awesome people I’ve ever met – people that are passionate, hardworking, and have fun coming out their eye balls.

My immediate team, the Hit Squad – Shawn, Rosie, Rob, Kelsey, Lingy and Kelly – are simply the greatest. They make every day a joy to come to work. 

Creative HQ is noisy and chaotic. There’s music playing, people talking, meetings taking place in any empty spot. I’m constantly interrupted. A walk to the kitchen to make a cup of tea can take over an hour as I get pulled in to help with this thing or that thing.

When I need to dedicate time to something, I escape to a nearby coffee place (thanks to Dixon St. Deli for hosting this blog post session).

Even the hard days are inspirational. The nature of the Accelerator is intense. It pushes people to their limits. It requires a type of teamwork that most people can avoid their entire careers. This can be confrontational, stressful, emotional. Seeing how people grow and meet challenges is amazing.

Being here is making me to think differently about how workplaces can work.

It’s not about having some beanbags and funky paintings on the walls – it’s about having the kind of culture where people feel empowered to work in the way that suits them best.

It’s not about the one track dance parties – it’s about having the kind of culture where people feel encouraged to express themselves.

It’s not about being the intensity or the pressure – or about being discovered crying in the bathroom – it’s about having the kind of culture where people can be honest about hard times as well as the good.

It’s not about great individuals – it’s about having the kind of culture that inspires great individuals to become kick-ass teams.

I fully admit that I’m here as a spy. But I’m not really here spying on the people. I’m spying on the culture.

I’m trying to work out the magic formula, discover the secrets. How do we get this kind of culture operating in government?

And for me personally, how do I play a part in creating this kind of culture? Culture isn’t something that leadership makes, it’s something everyone has a responsibility for.

Accelerator is a transformational journey for everyone, including me. From Hannah-the-spy to Hannah-the-culture-hacker.

That would also look really cool on a business card.

The R9 Accelerator, a Better for Business initiative delivered by Creative HQ, brings together a mix of public and private sector people to work on opportunities to make it easier for businesses to interact with government.

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