During this year's NZIPIM conference we brought together a great selection of speakers covering a diverse range of topics from across the primary industry, which made the event a stand out for the Institute.
In reflecting upon conference, I have been constantly drawn to comments and insights shared by our keynote speaker Robert Easton of Accenture.
Robert's topic was on flourishing and driving change in organisations needing to evolve in new markets and business environments. What struck me during the presentation were his insights on the amount of time and focus we apply to problem solving in our daily and professional life. It would appear that we are hardwired to focus on deficits, negatives and weaknesses. It's an evolutionary response and it's part of our problem solving DNA.
But does focusing on problem solving necessarily yield the results we desire or lift the potential capability in individuals or organisations we are associated with? How often do we go into meetings or other forums with the sole purpose of solving a problem or fixing a weakness, only to be disappointed in the outcome or the inertia that follows soon after.
This is what makes the Appreciative Inquiry change management model so interesting. By definition Appreciative Inquiry is the systematic discovery of what gives 'life' to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. It involves the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system's capacity to heighten positive potential.
It also focuses on leveraging an individual or organisation's core strengths that enable them to be resilient, open to learning and able to take action in a positive direction rather than seeking to overcome or minimize weaknesses. So what might this look like for the Institute and New Zealand's primary industries?
On the evening before the conference Robert joined us for dinner. As we were finishing up he gave us some homework to do on 'what our dream is for the New Zealand primary industry in 2020'. After some iterations, the following statement was presented to conference delegates the next morning:
'By 2020 NZ's primary industry is regarded as a highly flourishing industry system of high quality precision producers, manufacturers and marketers of high valued branded natural food and fibre products, which is known for:
(1) having co-created a collective industry vision across the value chain (farmers - processors - manufacturers - marketers - consumers and the environment and communities) which has led to the creation of remarkable value and profitability for the all stakeholders;
(2) its trust based collaborative relationships operating across the industry;
(3) for the high levels of innovation and creativity arising from within and outside the industry, including adaptation and use of leading digital technology across the value chain (from farm to the marketplace); and
(4) products that are highly sought after and desired by consumers across the globe for the values and quality they represent. Quite simply we are an industry recognised as being aspirational and dynamic, one which people and organisations are proud of, and want to bring their whole selves to bear to make the industry better because it feels good, is functioning well, and is doing good in the world.
By 2020 we will stand out as the industry that transformed by caring enough to work together to elevate the strengths that always resided within the primary industries of New Zealand to a level we could only have imagined.'
The real power is in identifying the positive core of New Zealand primary industries, the strengths we can elevate and bringing our whole selves to take action in a positive direction across the value chain.
So what image of the New Zealand primary industries inspires you and how do you intend to construct a better future and implement positive change both personally and in your capacity as rural professionals?