The Case for Exceptionalism

Coinciding with an abundance of new life in spring throughout New Zealand’s countryside is a refreshed University of Auckland Business Review. I was invited to contribute to the new edition in my capacity as the Auckland Business School’s Honorary Professor of Innovation and Creativity. This particular issue looks at ‘Life at the Edge’, and how this geographical attribute has influenced the mindset and determination of a relatively young nation to create and deliver exceptional stories.

New Zealand is a critical part of my intellectual and operational infrastructure. I believe in Edge theory and I live it to the max – it’s the idea that change happens at the margins, free from the stifling orthodoxy of the centre. As a country of five million on the edge, New Zealand has built a reputation as a hot house for world changing ideas, led by exceptional people – highly capable of making things happen.

Language starts revolution, and the Edge metaphor is an antidote to the “gunna do” attitude that has also seeped through New Zealand culture. Isolation breeds complacency. The conditions in New Zealand are very nice which can promote a “lifestyle island” mentality rather than a “storm the bridge” attitude. My dream is “winning with world from the edge” – not pulling up a deck chair in the sun. We need to get hot under the collar about excellence, about the business of communicating this to the world. In short, we need a culture of exceptionalism. The platform is well-established, what is missing is the mechanisms and drive to build international scale. Support for succeeding overseas still largely consists of waving them off at the airport.

There are many stimulating and provocative stories in this ABR, including the need to leverage the lessons from the 100% Pure brand by creating a national export brand identity; the power of our overseas population as a global force for the national good; leadership NKiwi-style; and how, if and why the country should harvest its mineral resources. The writing cast is a sharp ensemble of Auckland University academics; total reading time a tight 59 minutes; potential value if implemented with abandon: immense.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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