The Seven Assumptions

The seven assumptions set the scope and purpose for the project and were developed from our initial research completed in 2012. They were the starting point for the 2013 TalentNZ Journal, and have continued to guide our thinking as we receive feedback and develop more clarity over the work programme going forward.

1. A focus on talent is inclusive, and extends to all New Zealanders. Talent circle
Every Kiwi has a range of talents, however, not everyone is fully aware of what these talents might be, how they might be developed or how they might connect with other Kiwis interested in similar outcomes. In 2013 we undertook a great deal of research to determine what was meant by talent, and concluded that there was not a single definition. From the Institute’s perspective, talent is a mixture of personality, smart practice and character, but most importantly, we believe character is key. In the 2013 TalentNZ Journal we use the diagram below to explain that the most important area for parents and educationalists to focus on is character.

Although we tend to focus on technology in the 30 interviews in the 2013 TalentNZ Journal, we see talent as a very broad term. Character is about values. Smart practice is about working on natural skills/goals over time in areas such as sports, music, academia and the arts. Personality is what you wake up with, while character is what you need to work on all day, every day. Everyone has personality, character and smart practise which is why we see talent as inclusive and extends to all New Zealanders.

2. A focus on a talent-based economy will deliver better outcomes than a focus on jobs, innovation or specific areas such as agriculture. 
What we focus on (or decide not to focus on) will deliver different outcomes. A focus on jobs is likely to lead us down a path of the quantity not the quality of jobs. A focus on innovation is likely to lead us down a path of invention, not innovation in terms of new ways of doing old things. A focus on agriculture is likely to lead us down a path of more dependence on agriculture and therefore more economic vulnerability to overseas economies. Critically it is not that jobs, innovation or agriculture are not important (they are), but rather a focus on talent will deliver value to all three. It will also provide us a more secure future through the creation of a dynamic, flexible and empowered workforce that is connected, engaged and committed to our country’s long-term future. New Zealand came on to the world stage as an economy based on natural resources, which then evolved into an agricultural-based economy. This is how most developed countries started, but most then went on to develop based on services and intellectual property. New Zealand has arguably not yet made this leap and would benefit from a more diverse economic base.

3. To make progress towards a talent-based economy, four key work-streams have became apparent: we must (1) grow, (2) attract, (3) retain and (4) connect talent.
These four work-streams evolved from the 30 interviewees in the 2013 TalentNZ Journal. Each work stream requires a combination of stakeholders to enable progress towards the goal of a talent-based economy, but interestingly each work-stream has a key enabler: Grow(the Ministry of Education), Attract (organisations), Retain (organisations) and Connect (cities). Interestingly, the four work-streams align quite closely with the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2013. This index was published late 2013 by a collaboration of the INSEAD, the Human Capital Leadership Institute and Adecco Group.

4. Progress towards a talent-based economy can be measured and quantified. 
Traditional measures of economic progress based on jobs and skills need to be reconfigured so as to take account of the role of talent. Many different types of employment relationships are coming into existence (see the continuum on page 90 of the 2013 TalentNZ Journal), and the value produced by work needs to be better integrated into economic metrics that currently focus on the amount of time worked.

5. Strong correlations exist between talent, economic well-being and community well-being. 
Talented people may work and sleep 16 hours a day but they also play eight hours a day. The quality of those eight hours of play is critically important, both in terms of attracting and retaining talent but also in terms of growing and connecting talent – this is why cities are such an important component in building a talent-based economy.

6. Collaboration between cities (rather than competition) will create more connections and going forward produce more benefits for New Zealanders. 
Without collaboration, communities are more likely to use their limited resources trying to obtain the exact same outcome. For example, if five communities wanted to become the movie-mecca of New Zealand, only one is likely to achieve the ultimate aim while the other four will expend the same resources for no gain. However, if they were to collaborate and only one focused on movies, while the others focused on specific areas such as high-end tourism, marine research and aquaculture, agriculture, and tech/communication, they will not only create higher benefits for themselves individually, but the impact of those surrounding communities also being successful will in turn produce additional flow-on benefits.

7. The most important resource in the 21st century will be talent.
The mismatch between supply and demand of talent is increasing both nationally and globally (see Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2013). In very general terms human talent has only been recognised and studied in terms of organisations, leading to human resources departments in most large organisations. Early this century this mismatch of talent supply and talent demand has become apparent, creating a broader discussion over talent mismatches between countries. What is surprising is that there is little research on the role of cities as creators of talent-based economies. Countries, cities and regions will all need to work hard to grow, attract, retain and connect talent; those that do not will struggle. Talent is the new currency just as programming is the new language. Countries that understand this new currency will get a first mover advantage. New Zealand could and should be one of these countries.