Belief and Vision: Michael Stedman, Managing Director of Natural History New Zealand, Spoke Recently at an NZIM Presentation. His Edited Views on Management and Society Are Reproduced Here. (Nzim)

Article excerpt

We all have the ability to fall in love with words, slogans and catchphrases--"the knowledge wave"; "the information highway"; "innovation".

Often people view these phrases and words as new and revolutionary and, as such, they hold the key to some magical formula and remarkable future.

I've chosen three words of my own; words that cut to the heart of how I see our future. They have been, and continue to be, the building blocks on which I've based our company's growth.

The words are vision, belief and team.

Vision You need a clear idea of where you want to go. At Natural History New Zealand we existed in a contracting market full of uncertainties, so the choices were pretty simple--contract with it and finally disappear, or look internationally and grow.

I used to talk about a room and in the room there was a table and at the table sat the people that control Natural History film making internationally. My task was to find the room, get in the door and elbow a place at the table.

We did that. Our vision to become a world leader was bold, but we have achieved it. We are the second largest producer of our type in the world. The largest is the BBC, which has an income from government of 1.8 billion [pounds sterling]--take that away and it may be a different story!

Belief Despite the naysayers and the endless models that say it's not possible ... if you believe, you will succeed.

You may not be sure how, but if you think of it as if you're climbing a mountain and take one step at a time you'll get to the top. Like a climber you have to work out the route as you go. And like a climber if you ever doubt whether you're going to make the summit ... you'll fail.

It is about belief in people, their talent, their creativity and their potential.

Team Individually we're okay; collectively we're unstoppable.

That means an open and inclusive group where everyone has to know how good and how bad things are--only then can you harness the collective abilities.

NHNZ's success has and continues to be built on a team, as opposed to a committee where everything is done by consensus ... that leads to camels!

In my view as you grow--and we have--multiple teams emerge, each of which will have its own leader/leaders. This devolution continues the process of strengthening the company and ensures it doesn't become reliant on any one or two individuals--it enlarges the genetic pool.

Bring in new ideas, new approaches ... rattle the cage and avoid the comfort zone. It's a journey without a destination.

So where has that got NHNZ?

* Today we are the second largest producer of our type in the world.

* We have doubled our output every year for the past five years and increased our staff from 35 to 150.

* Our films are seen in over 200 countries

* Eight years ago I inherited a $3.5 million deficit; today we're a $30 million company and growing.

* This year we opened a production office in Beijing.

* We also opened an office in Washington DC.

* And for our trouble we've picked up a couple of hundred awards.

At NHNZ we had to learn to do two things that in my view have, and continue to be fundamental to our growth and success. We had to learn to celebrate excellence and to deal with failure.

I believe New Zealand has to change if we're to realise our full potential as a country.

Kiwis are known for being innovative, capable, easy-going, friendly and honest. All that is true, but what if I add mean spirited, cautious, self limiting?

The very qualities that once made New Zealand a world leader are now stop-ping us being truly great. This country was born based on egalitarianism; the early European settlers were escaping a class system. They wanted equality for all and so equality has been woven into the very fabric of this society. …

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