Number 8 wire. The tall poppy is the first to get cut. Punching above our weight. Kiwi ingenuity. Boat, bach and BMW. She'll be right. Will she?
What is the relationship between our folk image of ourselves and our place in the world economy? Are these qualities a source of competitive advantage or a liability- and do they actually even represent what we really are?
We believe we're a nation of small businesses, yet the top 30 businesses in New Zealand control about as large a percentage of our economy as the Fortune 500 control in the US. We believe we're a rural people, despite being one of the most urbanised countries in the world.
If this were just a matter of what we say to each other on the bus and in the pub it wouldn't matter, but there is more at stake. Our folk image of ourselves is tied to deeply held values about work/life balance and work habits. These, in turn, are tied to our ability to succeed as we become more exposed to the world economy. If we try to compete internationally on nothing more than myths about punching above our weight we should not be optimistic about the outcome. Even the bravest possum does poorly against the logging truck.
Two questions are intertwined here. One concerns the relationship between our work skills and values, and our ability to compete internationally. The other concerns the contradictions between our ways of working and internationally successful practices. It would be a sad victory if success came at the price of becoming just like America, Japan or Singapore. The tightrope we must walk is to match our skills and values with areas in which we can excel.
The key question is what niche Kiwi business can create in the world economy? The notion of …