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NZTech Inform – cognitive diversity and innovation

During the past few weeks, I may not have been travelling or having in person meetings, but there is still plenty going on as the NZTech team drive collaboration and advocacy for the importance of tech in New Zealand’s economic recovery.

Today is a great example. This afternoon, I am meeting with Callaghan Innovation on the R&D tax incentive to ensure as many tech firms as possible are aware of how to maximise this opportunity during and after COVID-19. Callaghan have published a ton of great information on the tax credit.

Right after today’s Government alert level announcement, I am joining IT Professionals and NZRise in a tech sector catch up with the Department of Internal Affair’s (DIA) Government Chief Digital Officer (GCDO) team. Paul James, the GCDO is championing the benefits of investment in technology for the Government. He has signalled to Treasury and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) that rebuilding and maintaining investment in digital should be a priority.

During lockdown, what has become more apparent to me, is how critical diversity and innovation are for New Zealand’s future success. To drive new thinking and innovation, diversity is more important than ever before. I am seeing this in the questions being asked by the Digital Council for Aotearoa, including this recent post on “diversity as strength.” 

I used to hold a relatively simple perspective on diversity – find people that are different to me, but balance this with needing the smartest possible people. However, after some excellent weekend reading, Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed, I further appreciate the true value of diversity is thinking differently. The research demonstrates that for simple problems, find the best people, but for complex problems it is more important to find cognitive diversity. Traditional measures of ‘smart’ can actually be detrimental. For example, a mixed group of men, women, Maori and Pasifika may seem diverse, but if they all studied management at the same university (and have the best grades) they may think quite similarly. 

To thrive after COVID-19, organisations and Government agencies would be wise to take the opportunity to apply as much cognitive diversity as possible to working through the complex problems they are faced with. And, if diverse thinking is needed to work through complex problems, it will be innovation that designs the new solutions needed to thrive. For example, the local courier company that has launched an Uber style platform to deal with a massive back-log of deliveries. Not only have they creatively solved their business problem, they have also created new jobs too.

Diverse thinking, innovation and the smart application of technology are what is needed to create a prosperous New Zealand in the post-COVID-19 era.

Have a safe and productive week.

Ngā mihi

Graeme Muller

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