Our No 8 fencing-wire culture

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WELLINGTON, Today: New research undertaken by NZ business consultants Redvespa may help provide reasons behind New Zealand’s slide down the Global Innovation Index – from 9th in 2009 to 25th in 2019.

Redvespa’s Imagination in Business research looked into the place of innovation and imagination in NZ organisations and identifies the limitations of our “number 8 fencing wire culture” if we hope to regain ground on our innovation reputation.

The research took, as its starting point, the view that innovation doesn’t “just happen”. Instead, innovation is about systematised value creation. It has to be nurtured through a number of stages, of which innovation is the end point.

Other waypoints include curiosity, imagination, and creativity. Together with innovation, they comprise the Innovation Pathway: 

  • Curiosity: a strong desire or eager wish to know or learn something;
  • Imagination: forming new ideas, images or concepts of things, objects or processes that don’t exist;
  • Creativity: the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness;
  • Innovation: the introduction of a new idea, method or device.

The aim of the research was to unpack how NZ business understands, uses, and values imagination in relation to other facets of the Innovation Pathway. The hope is that this research will enable NZ businesses to explore what they can do to be more imaginative and innovative.

“Kiwi innovation in often closely linked with our number 8 wire culture,” says Keith Shering, head of evolution at Redvespa. “That creates a problem, as then innovation is aligned with finding ways to fix existing things.

“Yes, it’s often ingenious, but it’s also an iterative and incremental approach rather than a transformational one. If the world is taking big transformational steps, incrementalism can’t keep up. We need to make more imaginative leaps.”

500 people managers were asked about the ways their businesses incorporate, recognise, attract, recruit for, value, and reward imagination.

“Organisations operating solely in NZ are one-third more likely to be perceived as imaginative than those with any overseas presence.”

Key findings

  • Significant gaps exist in the pursuit of innovation and how it is supported through investment in the Innovation Pathway. Redvespa found disconcertingly large gaps between the way organisations value innovation and the way they support it by recognising, rewarding, recruiting for, and retaining the other Innovation Pathway elements; curiosity, imagination, and creativity.
  • Large organisations are predictable. Bigger organisations make smaller decisions when it comes to innovation.
  • Perception of imagination peaks in the young … and the old.
  • Imaginative people thrive in start-ups.
  • The locus of control matters. Organisations operating solely in New Zealand are one-third more likely to be perceived as imaginative than organisations with any sort of overseas presence.

“This research is timely, relevant, and useful,” Shering says. “Innovation is what separates successful organisations from the pack. It sits at the heart of the knowledge economy. It’s the goal of investment in Research and Development and a cornerstone of economic development.

“Yet, New Zealand is slipping down the global innovation index, and, in spite of additional investment in the 2019 budget, there is plenty of work to be done to reclaim lost ground. Imagination in Business provides a framework for examining the problem and understanding where it has come from. Further, it outlines a pathway for addressing the issue.”

Phoenix’s role
The Imagination in Business research was undertaken for Redvespa by oenix Research, who surveyed more than 500 people managers from throughout NZ, from 16th April to 20 May 2019 through an online survey. Respondents were asked about the way New Zealand businesses value, reward, recognise, recruit, and retain people to support imagination curiosity, creativity, and innovation.

About Redvespa
Founded in 2003, Redvespa are consultants in business analysis with offices in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch, and more than 80 staff.

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