Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kiwi capability gaps

Over the last few weeks I have been observing the people and behaviour around me and have been noticing some things - I call them Kiwi capability gaps. These are the things which in our traditional culture we might have considered to be positive aspects of our culture but they are, I believe, elements which are holding us back from performing to our potential. 

There are three of them that are top of the list 

1. At heart, we are not engaging people

This is something which I picked up on as part of  a presentation made by Thomas Scovell at the recent Interactive Marketing Conference in Auckland. Thomas' presentation was about using the analogy of a Farmer's Market and the experience of 'tasting the fruit' to build a relationship with your customer. It made me reflect on the different market experiences I have had. I love going to markets in Europe - there is engagement. There's chatter, tasting, arguments - in fact the sale is almost incidental. My observation of NZers is that - broadly generalising to the Anglo Saxon background - we are not comfortable engaging in the physical market conversation either as buyers or sellers. Thomas put it well - the typical Kiwi response is 'I'm just browsing'  - it's code for 'Leave me alone - I don't want to engage'.

This goes back to the archetype of the stoic Kiwi - they can do it all on their own. This attitude means we don't try stuff nearly as much as we like. Because we don't engage, the market seller is unlikely to hear directly how to improve their service - the lose the gift of feedback. And since they don't get feedback, when they receive it they don't know how to react - so they don't listen.

In the end - it means no-one improves as fast as they might normally.

It also means we don't engage in the broader community with more serious consequences.
This conversation on Rod's blog is instructive - there are 40+ comments on the recent acquittal of Chris Kahui. Only one comment asks the question that is the most important - what are you going to DO about it. We've settled - this is someone else's fault. Either the govenment or the police or the tight 12 or a racially defined part of our community (i.e. not us). The fact is, this is in our community and can only be resolved by community action. The action required is to engage with the broader community. More on that in another post.

2. We have low degrees of financial literacy in the part of the market we need it most

This one sits right with the above average income earners. If you ask anyone who has aper annum household income over $150k what their cashflow position is, their current target to pay off debt and their investment positions are my guess is that only 3/10 people know this information.

When I ask what the rationale behind this is, I hear that they don't need to know - they are doing well enough and you only need to worry about this if you are on a budget. I classify this group of people as those who have had it too good for too long. They (We!) have high lifestyle costs and don't worry much about tomorrow. Because of the age at which people are having kids is moving later and later this constitutes a huge spending bubble which just feeds on itself but does not produce anything. This is a fundamental issue - if you are not worried about where your next dollar is coming from, or where it is going, you end up with waste. Lots of it. Note that these people are probably deciding what to spend in private and public companies.

Dan, Ben and Rowan have picked up this issue too. My view is that this is NOT about the lack of tools - its about a lack of discipline.

3. We settle - it's good enough

This might be the underpinning factor behind Item number 2. As NZer's we settle for 'good enough'. This post from Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, is fascinating.

While he talks about the How of WOW its interesting to note the graphic 

The Experience Stoplight

As he points out Good is actually not Good enough -  as NZers we frequently sit in Yellow and Red. It means we stand still.

So those are the three observations. You combine them and you get a culture that is standing still and is ok with it. I am not ok with it.

I am not going to tell anyone what to do - here is what I am going to do. You tell me if you see a difference.

1. Take every opportunity I can to engage with your community in any way I can. Give and receive feedback. Learn.

2. Build my own personal cashflow - start running my personal finances like a company. 

3. Use the traffic light - know the expectations and always strive to exceed them Don't stop until you have - and then once I've learned that, keep on going...


ben said...

Great post Miki - and I like your three point plan - keep us up to date with how it goes (oh yeah you will - that's point 1!)

S.C. said...

Great ideas!! But is it not true that people move to NZ to get lifestyle and are willing to take the hit on finances etc. and does his mean that not going for everything 100% is what some people are after. - just a thought to help with expectation management, not everyone wants gold if silver will do.

David Awatere said...

This really resonates. Being a maori fulla, our culture is naturally engaging within the community. Personal examples of this are always making conversation in the market - butcher, paknsave, mobil, sushi, coffee shop - always say hello and make a little small talk. It is amazing where these conversations can lead. it allows you to connect with people which inevitably lubricates the wheels of life. engaging with people gives you a sense of belonging and personal value. it is something that i teach my kids every day - showing them how to front up at the coffee shop counter to ask for marshmallows or peppermints, getting them to pay for stuff (and give me the change), encouraging them to ask questions - simple things. It always surprises me how many smiles and eye to eye recognition this results in.

Whenever I walk into a shop the first thing I do is hunt down the staff and ask for their advice. Give them the respect they deserve and show interest - amazing what it can reveal.

The other reflection to share is providing feedback for bad experiences. I used to be fairly passive about this but as I grow older and grumpier I have found a complete inability to tolerate rudeness or lack of professional behaviour. Kind of reminds me of italians or french in how they respond to similar situations with passion and vigour. Just last weekend I bought a tool from supercrap where the staff to customer ratio is 1:50. I was asked to wait for 2 minutes whilst the manager was summoned - 8 minutes passed and after numerous questions - nothing, so I took matters into my own hands and went out back to sort this manager dude out. A few loud and colourful words later (everyone in the store came over to watch) and my stuff was sorted and I was out the door with a 40% discount. If I had sat back and accepted the red light, it would have been 20 minutes and one very pissed off customer - but worst of all they would not know how to improve their customer service (ask head office for better ratio) and provide customer feedback driven improvements. I can assure you that my performance will be discussed the next time "management" fly across from the safety of their aussie HQ. Consumer apathy has a lot to answer for. For gods sake - don't vote with your feet - go out back and sort the manager out personally (non violent of course!).

As for you financial comments - electronic banking has a lot to answer for. We have lost the emotional attachment to money as we no longer have a tactile relationship.

Mike Riversdale said...

Nice post - made me think which is always a sign that it's resonated somehow.

Simon Gianoutsos said...

Yet another great thought provoking post which I agree with

styler said...

Ok but, when i had some friends from overseas and was taking them round the zoo they were shocked at how often people naturally said hello to each other. And it made me realise that in certain situations we are a friendly lot, so why are we not like this all the time.

stephen said...

We are not like that all the time because we perceive friendliness in a commercial situation as being potentially false, hypocritical, or deceptive. Unusual friendliness from a stranger in certain contexts will always set off my radar that someone is about to try to get me to part with money.

Gripnostril said...

Big tick in the box and thumbs up... coming from the rural industry.. go to the sale yards or a A & P show, farmers discussion group... see engagement.

One issue on the feedback though, is willingness to accept. A whole new discussion...I've found the further up you go, the "better" the response...sometimes too good, is that just to shut one up ?

Not sure about running the cash flow in detail... tried that (and detail is bit of an oxymoron for me)... but wasn't working, well in context of the general management structure I was working in (eg. me and the wife)....additionally she brought a level of detail that I just didn't, "we won"..she does it all, and on a daily when asked "what/where" etc re the finance...I looking hopefully to her....It's interesting how historical norms play a role when some people see that...but again, I fear another post grows out of that.