Conscious Capitalism Rises to the Challenge

Conscious Capitalism

I never really rated Conscious Capitalism as a movement. How could you ever hope to convince skeptical buyers that your intentions were honourable? Why would you even bother? Being good for the planet or good for society seemed so at odds with the profit-driven behaviour of corporations.

Environmental activists were ready to call anything a corporation did to promote its eco-credentials as ‘green-washing’, often with good reason. Witness how the supposedly ‘green’ BP brand catastrophically failed to protect the Gulf of Mexico in the 2010 oil spill 

I was similarly unimpressed by early attempts to set up the B Team movement. To me it looked like a lot of men in suits talking in generalities while patting themselves on the back and sucking up to Richard Branson.

The B movement imagery nowadays is much more diverse and according to the website of the B Corporation,  over 2,600 companies in 60 countries have been certified as reaching their standards. Their mission:
“Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.”

Patagonia Sets The Standards

Outdoor clothing maker Patagonia has long been the poster-child for conscious capitalism. Its founder Yvon Chouinard was ahead of his time in his views that climbers like him should leave no trace on the natural world. The more general message today is that consumer goods like theirs should leave no trace on the planet. It’s a certified B Corporation.

Patagonia breaks a key rule of consumer industrialism – it encourages less consumption. Yet it is highly profitable. Its clothes are expensive but built to last. They look good. The company uses some of the revenue to fund environmental action groups. They tend to make films about the environment rather than to advertise. They prosper because more and more people want to wear their label and own their well-made clothing and equipment.

Patagonia caught a cultural wave with its all-in commitment to sustainability.  The company now has a new CEO, Rose Marcario, who famously, sued Donald Trump in 2017 for reducing the size of some national parks [they call them monuments in the US – but it’s land – so . . .].

Nike Just Did It

In 2018 Nike has captured another kind of cultural wave by championing the actions of Colin Kaepernick – a black NFL [American football]  star whose protests against police shootings of unarmed black people have polarised the US. It was a wow moment – especially because Nike has NFL contracts to provide jerseys and sideline gear with its logo to all 32 teams through to 2028. Its online sales rose 31% the day it announced Kaepernick would front its 30th anniversary campaign.

In the US it provoked an emotional moment. Kaepernick’s protests – taking a knee during the national anthem –  had been hyped by Donald Trump as disrespect for the American flag – nothing to do with black lives mattering. So while at least some of the President’s supporters were protesting by cutting the Nike logos out of clothing they already owned or torching their running shoes, an equal or even higher number were buying themselves some new Nike gear  to show allegiance to the cause.

For Nike the move was big and brave, but it was congruent with the company’s values. The Kaepernick slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” is a natural extension of Nike’s glorification of the extreme dedication shown by elite athletes in a range of sports. Both establishment and social justice commentators are critical of the move, but the marketing logic is quite impeccable.

Operating in the World of Conscious Capitalism

In this world it’s vital to be bold, brave and genuine, which is much easier in founder-driven companies. Successful firms are built on unique cultural capital – such as eco-friendliness or human rights – and evolve their message over time to remain relevant. The key is to evoke a visceral emotional response.

In the world of conscious capitalism your job as a marketer is not to cater to everyone but to provide a strong sense of identity for the high value customers you want to serve. If that means that other people retaliate by discarding or destroying their own merchandise, so much the better. We define ourselves by who we aren’t as much as who we are.

So I’ve reversed my opinion. I can see a way that smart businesses can build potent and responsible brands based on principles that are good for people and good for the planet. It doesn’t necessarily protect you from competition and it can be messy, if you lose touch with key customers. The Whole Foods experience shows that. But it does have an infrastructure and it has a future.

You can read more about the place of Conscious Capitalism in our emerging business future by buying my latest report: Tribes of the 3 Worlds : How We Shape the Future. There’s also a special offer there for people who want to dig deeper into one of the two new worlds.

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The Pivotal World of Sustainable Wellbeing

world of sustainable wellbeing

If you had to move, which planet would you choose to live in:  a utopian but slightly uncomfortable world of sustainable wellbeing, a dynamic but disruptive technology-rich world, or the world as it actually was in 1986?

  • The world of sustainable wellbeing has lots of yoga classes, vege co-ops and great public transport.  Businesses put ethics and eco-friendliness ahead of profit. No supermarkets or fast food though.  And no email or social media, not even Instagram.
  • The global techno-culture world is bursting with new stuff. There’s still no supermarkets,  but everything you need can be delivered to you. It’s all very personalised.  Downside: very hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake.  Bladerunner levels of  surveillance.
  • And the world as it was in 1986 – We have no smartphones or laptops, but lots of television channels. There isn’t as much precision in the world and we don’t know where anyone is.  There’s no such thing as a healthy diet – it’s just food. There’s no recycling and no good explanation for all the crazy weather.

It’s OK – you don’t have to choose – they all exist here and now. But the old world is slowly dying – partly because it doesn’t work so well any more – and also because the new worlds are  lining up to take over.

Why 3 Worlds?

I came up with the 3 Worlds idea in 2014 – it came from a thought that looked like this.

an early version

When I fleshed it out some more, the three worlds emerged as they are today:

  • The World of Industrial Consumerism [Old World]
  • Global Techno-culture [New World]
  • The World of Sustainable Wellbeing [Slow World, – though that term has aged badly].

As I say in my 3 Worlds White Paper [2015]:

Over time the boundaries have changed, and my 3 Worlds model is more sophisticated now, but this was where it all began. I realised that we no longer live in one world, we live in three worlds — each with its own rules, and its own ethos.

It’s like living at the intersection of three different neighbourhoods, each with unique ways of operating. Every day we flit between these worlds, not really aware how different and contradictory they are. We know things are changing but we don’t really see how or why.”

Tribes of the Three Worlds

Back in 2015, my first thought was to use the 3 Worlds concept as a way to talk about employees and how to structure businesses for growth. I did a promising pilot study, and I still use the concept in my analysis. But I couldn’t get a shared organisational study off the ground at the time – my network was much more marketing-oriented.

The Tribes of the 3 Worlds report is all about marketing.

One of the big breakthroughs in my understanding of the worlds came when a colleague, Duncan Stuart kindly ran a factor analysis for me, which looked at the kinds of brand qualities that matter to people when they are assessing brands.

There were four factors in the original analysis. Strikingly, three of the four reflected one of the three worlds. [I could only find three of them in the 2018 research, but luckily they were the right three.]

Understanding Tribes

The Tribes of the 3 Worlds are based on the brand values they selected as being important to them.

  • Industrial Consumerism [focus is on convenience and value for money]
  • Global Techno-culture [all about having the latest technology, being smart]
  • Sustainable Wellbeing [drawn to eco-friendliness, ethical, good for people]

A tribe is not a segment – it’s a much looser arrangement. You’re allowed to belong to more than one – they overlap each other. In any tribe there are people who display all of the key tribal characteristics, and others who display very few. But it is the people who display most or all the tribal qualities who determine the character of that tribe.

Here’s an example of that.  Think about your school days and the range of tribes in your classroom – sporty boys, popular girls, geeks, rebels etc. Every tribe would have two or three people who really defined its character and set the standards or the tone or the rules – you can probably still picture them. But some people crossed over – sporty and rebellious, popular and brainy.

The 3 Worlds Tribes are like that – and so are the brands they like.

I  Prefer the World of Sustainable Wellbeing

Someone asked me the other day which world I would prefer to live in.  Without hesitation I picked the world of Sustainable Wellbeing. Not because it solves every issue, but because it’s the enlightened humanist one. It’s the one that insists on treating people with respect and it doesn’t try to manipulate them. I feel that’s an essential component for the world as it is.

The world of sustainable wellbeing does what the other two don’t do – it addresses our relationship with the wider world and our tendency to defecate in our own nest. It has the essential humility to recognise that, just like a plague of locusts, we do have the capacity to destroy our habitat. Can you picture each one of us as locusts, mindlessly gobbling up all we can eat. Maybe we’re worried about missing out? Perhaps we don’t even realise we’re leaving nothing for those coming behind us.

Side Effects & Unintended Consequences

That’s one of the side-effects of consumer industrialism – many of us consume mindlessly.  This is a system that started out as a great improvement – leading to improvements as necessary today as toilets and public schools. In the 20th Century it  built  a seductive philosophy of earned abundance. But now in its later years it has ended up commoditising almost everything.

As this world  begins to lose value, its owners respond by buying up the real estate of other worlds.  I don’t mean actual Mars – I mean that a high proportion of the investment in Silicon Valley came from money earned in the ‘old’ world. Also Coke now owns the Innocent drinks brand and Nestle just took a share in Starbucks ethically-sourced  packaged coffee business and bought an  icon of Sustainable Wellbeing, Bluebottle Coffee.

As for Global Techno-culture, on the one hand they want to make the world a better place. On the other, their potential to amplify everything leads to all kinds of unintended consequences. Like spreading social contagion, like the burden that those mining crypto-currencies place electricity generation . . . Heaven forbid that they should try to come up with a solution to climate change! And remember, recently bought Whole Foods.

Don’t Let Perfect Be The Enemy of the Good

The world of sustainable wellbeing  is a deceptively hard world to join though, mainly because of insider attitudes. There’s a perfectionism there, and a teeny little bit of holier-than-thou-ness. Political correctness is a stupid label, but anyone who detests that will be put off by clannish greenness. I was struck by something I read the other day about how most British people wanted to be eco-friendly but didn’t want to be thought of as greenies. Because greenies .. ? Maybe because en masse they are scary.

I did some work for a famous greenie organisation back in the day, helping them to build a more mainstream movement. There’s absolutely nothing about the people as individuals that would lead you to fear or reject them. Really lovely people,  but I can see how they’d be daunting as an organisation. They were scarily well-informed , extremely dedicated,  and they ruthlessly ridiculed  companies that didn’t measure up. That’s not something that mainstream people really like.

So it really wasn’t surprising to hear some clients recently reject the notion that they should focus their social wellbeing efforts on promoting eco-friendly transportation. The rationale: we’re not perfectly sustainable, so we might be accused of green-washing. That’s a pretty cautious response, but it is also an unintended  consequence of in-group attitudes from a former outsider tribe.

The World of Sustainable Wellbeing is no longer just the home of outsider tribes. It’s crossing the fabled ‘chasm’ – becoming mainstream – with one of the most important jobs in the world to do. In the words of Marshall Goldsmith [who wrote a book about this topic] “what got you here won’t get you there”.

The Tribes of the 3 Worlds report comes out very soon.  Click here for details and our Earlybird discount offer. Or enter your name and email address in the box below. We’ll let you know when we release it.

Six Customer Tribes – Using Tribes to Build Customer Wellbeing

Six Customer Tribes

There are six large, distinctive customer tribes in New Zealand. Though they buy many of the same things, each of them has a completely different focus. Their underlying values vary greatly. When you overlook that, your marketing efforts can flounder or even fail. So it’s very useful to understand what matters to each of them and how to integrate them into your marketing practice.

The 6 Customer Tribes Report [and Slide Deck] reveals just how simple it is to do that. We want to make it easy for marketers and communicators to use this uniquely New Zealand system to understand the values and perspectives of the people who live here. New Zealanders’ values deeply affect their life expectations and their buying decisions.

Think of these tribes as sub-cultures. They exist within any age group, ethnic group, or gender. Most of us belong to more than one of them. You find them in different places [online and offline], you need to speak to them in different ways, and they will focus on quite different aspects of your product or service.

How Different Are These Tribes?

How widely do they differ? Think of three technology brands: let’s take Wikipedia, Netflix, and Instagram. They’re used by many, but they’re the darlings of three quite different customer tribes. The Grey Lynn Tribe of Social Aesthetes loves Wikipedia, the North Shore Tribe of Ambitious Materialists favours Netflix and though we all love Instagram [don’t we?], the avant-garde Cuba Street Tribe loves it more.

Or take packaging. Though there are members of each tribe who are concerned about excess packaging, the tribes themselves have different views. [Of the three above, two will be concerned about broader environmental impacts, one will focus mostly on the mess it makes or the time it takes to open.

The other three customer tribes are the provincial conservative Balclutha Tribe, the working-class Papatoetoe Tribe and the tribe of misfits and dreamers, the Raglan Tribe.

These, along with two others [Otara and Remuera tribes[1]] made up the original 8 Tribes: the hidden classes of New Zealand[2], first presented in a book published in 2007 [you can buy the e-book of it here].

Now ten years on, we find the same tribes in a very different world [e.g. post global financial crisis, stronger social media, housing affordability issues.] The current report is based on data from our 2017 Lay of the Land study. It distils the essence of each of the six customer tribes. Each tribal profile describes the tribe’s shared values, the kind of customer expectations they hold, where to find them and how to identify them.

We also summarise the similarities and differences between tribes and the implications for marketing and communications. The core of this approach is the opportunity to build empathy – the most important part of customer wellbeing.

Using the 6 Customer Tribes In Your Business

How can you use the 6 CustomerTribes Report to improve customer focus and generate stronger relationships? Here’s what I would do:

  1. Start Simply. Use the report and slide deck to help your staff learn their own tribe affiliations and compare them to what you know of customers.
  2. Create Your Own Sources.  Appoint staff with the strongest tribal empathy as advocates and spokespeople for each important customer tribe.
  3. Integrate Empathy & Wellbeing into Practice. Get into the habit of considering tribal angles across the entire marketing arena. The aim is to make a tribe member feel ‘at home’ and understood.

These steps are outlined in more detail in the report. There is a free online questionnaire on the 8 Tribes website [] where staff can take a quick test and find their own tribes.




[1] Neither of these tribes have been in past ‘customer tribes’ analyses, because they blend into the larger tribes. However, they do have distinctive points of view in other spheres such as money and food culture.

[2] 8 Tribes: the hidden classes of New Zealand, by Jill Caldwell & Christopher Brown, 2007.

Living simply healthily and sustainably

simply healthily and sustainably

Wanting to live simply healthily and sustainably is an intuitive and natural philosophy of life. It prizes balance and ease. It is practiced by people who want to live a life that rewards their efforts but doesn’t burn them out.  In other words they are seeking wellbeing.

This isn’t the view of a privileged minority.  It’s a mainstream way of dealing with a world that offers everything except enough time, money or attention. It’s embedded in their expectations and behaviours as customers. But even though it is common now to be customer-focused, few marketers really tap into customer wellbeing.

Our New  Report

How mainstream is this form of wellbeing? In our new Simple Healthy Sustainable report, we reveal that more than two-thirds of people [68%] say that they are focused on living ‘simply healthily and sustainably’.

This doesn’t mean they’re all dieting and exercising. The concept of wellbeing has grown past its original boundaries of health and fitness. That was wellness. By contrast, wellbeing includes everyday topics like success and safety, mental toughness and conviviality. It covers issues like bullying, isolation and busyness.

So what difference does the pursuit of wellbeing make to a person’s life? Do these people have a more positive outlook?  Are they actually happier? Do they assess their situation more favourably?

In our report we compared respondents’ wellbeing profile with questions respondents they had answered [earlier in the survey]. These cover their personal mood, their view of New Zealand’s direction and their rating of their personal financial situation.

The People Who Have It All

We took all this evidence of wellbeing and identified the people who have it all. They combine a focus on living simply healthily and sustainably, with a high mood score, positive financial indicators, and a belief that NZ is heading in the right direction. This Have It All group accounts for 26% of all wellbeing seekers.

If there were any doubt, our research shows that financial stability does have a positive effect on wellbeing. When we explored further, we found people who were prospering or who had good future prospects often stood out from the crowd within the group of wellbeing seekers.

But more than money, the elements that define the Have It All  people reflect their social capital – the mix of personal resources and social relationships that equates to money in the bank. They often have degrees and they feel well-paid and socially adept. They typically believe their employer cares about their welfare. Finally, they are disproportionately middle class.

And yet they focus on living simply healthily and sustainably. No frills [well except for  the overseas trip half of them took in the last 12 months]. It’s a comfortable kind of simplicity, as you’d expect among those who ‘have it all’.

The interesting question for businesses and organisations is: can you tap into that social energy and help the rest of your customers to do that too? According to our research many of them [68%] are already on the pathway. If it naturally leads to greater wellbeing, wouldn’t it be beneficial to help them along?

That’s what our report is about.


August is Wellbeing Month at Windshift. There will be more posts and more reports in the near future. If you enter your name and email address in the box below, we’ll let you know when they happen.





Wellbeing 2.0 – Employee Wellbeing Meets Liveable Cities

Wellbeing 2.0

It’s time to bring out the label Wellbeing 2.0. The concept of wellbeing is growing and changing so much that we need the cliché. I’d feel bad about that except that I’ve just googled the term and found an employee wellbeing specialist [more below] with a similar point of view, who used the same term two weeks ago in a LinkedIn article. [It’s almost like finding a lost sibling].

August is Wellbeing Month at Windshift. We will be producing a set of  reports and blog posts to explore the implications of this new phase. All will draw on our 2018 Lay of the Land Research Project.

The Emergence of Wellbeing 2.0

Baby Boomers are responsible for the modern concept of wellbeing. It began in the 1960’s with Weight Watchers [est. 1963]  and the jogging revolution [yes – surprisingly, jogging wasn’t always a thing]. By the 1980’s, psychologists were writing books and papers using the term ‘wellbeing’. Out in the real world, more and more people were going to the gym, trying to eat a healthy diet and worrying about work-life balance. Meanwhile,  wellbeing deficits were growing.  More people lived in cities, doing sedentary office jobs, fast food was spreading everywhere and work stresses were compounding.

Now we’re witnessing Wellbeing 2.0 – a significant expansion of the basic idea. It includes new topics, new opportunities, and new tools.  There are now so many more ways to deal with the negatives of life and improve the positives. Topics range from mindfulness to resilience, sleep quality to sexual harassment, workplace diversity to social isolation. With it come different philosophies, like the Scandinavian examples I wrote about recently.

Upgrading Employee Wellbeing

Employee wellbeing has been part of this growth spiral. Programmes to help staff increase their levels of wellbeing have grown in the last ten years. So has the idea that increasing staff wellbeing is good for the organisation.  These programmes often grow out of health and safety initiatives and they typically focus on fitness, diet and work-life balance.

But here’s what one of the more evolved organisations says about that:

“Specifically, employee wellbeing is about how your job – your duties, expectations, stress level, and environment – affects your overall health and happiness.

And while it certainly includes things like exercise and nutrition, well-being isn’t just about physical health. It’s about mood and cognition, and less tangible factors like a sense of purpose. Above all, it’s about understanding your employees from a holistic perspective, taking into account the totality of their lives, and considering their overall quality of life.” 

And here’s what Andrew Supple, [the employee wellbeing specialist I found on LinkedIn] said:

“These results from 2018 World Happiness Report are important as they highlight a theme that runs throughout employee wellbeing – the environment / culture you are in has a huge impact on your wellbeing. This is true of business. If you put your employees in an environment / culture that is not supportive of their wellbeing, then they will struggle to be happy and healthy.”

This is Wellbeing 2.0  thinking – a view of wellbeing that is probably closest to the idea of ‘flourishing’. It’s not just happiness and it’s not just wellness. It’s about how the job and the culture of an organisation fits the people who work there.   It suggest that wellbeing is the outcome of a complex system, not just an individual’s intentions.

Are Liveable Cities Systems for Wellbeing?

Wellbeing is a popular idea. In our 2018 Lay of the Land survey, more than two-thirds of New Zealanders[1] [68%] say they are “focused on living simply, healthily and sustainably[2]”. This sentiment is strongest in metro areas, especially Auckland, and among people with tertiary education qualifications [who cluster in the larger cities].

As it happens, both Auckland and Wellington are highly placed on various lists of the world’s most liveable cities.

This idea of a liveable city is a good example of Wellbeing 2.0.  Most of the current indexes [e.g. Monocle, Mercers’, the Economist] began in the early 21st Century.  The indexes usually rank around 150 to 200 world cities. They compare the quality of life in these cities, based on a wide set of wellbeing factors, such as:
“safety, education, hygiene, health care, culture, environment, recreation, political-economic stability, public transport and access to goods and services” 

Index factors like safety, recreation and education reveal an important contradiction to the usual idea of wellbeing as a personal responsibility.  Many aspects of our personal wellbeing are outside our personal control. The Liveable City indexes don’t run surveys asking us if we’re eating healthily or getting enough exercise. Instead, they assume that if we have a positive living environment, most of us will flourish.

In reality, our wellbeing is dependent on our social and economic systems. These in turn depend on decisions that governments and businesses make. If we don’t have great health or education or recreation options available, we’re less likely to have high wellbeing. [This seems like a useful way to think about the social and economic differences between city suburbs as well.]

Making the Investment and Reaping the Benefits

Cities recognise the benefits that come from being high on the list of liveable cities. Being highly ranked helps a city to attract the kind of people that boost prosperity: tourists, new businesses and well-paid workers. Such cities become a magnet for growth and prosperity simply by emphasising wellbeing in their development plans.

Highly regarded liveable cities become strategic assets for the country itself. In New Zealand, recent business growth statistics show that Auckland accounts for 38% of the jobs, but 50% of the growth in jobs. Under such conditions it makes sense to invest in housing, transportation and other infrastructure to maintain quality of life for its residents.

Auckland’s plan to become the most liveable city wasn’t released until 2011. But dating back before the 2000 America’s Cup defence, there has been a profound change  in the city. Successive Councils and interest groups have focused much more on its potential to become a desirable living environment.

In New Zealand, the iconic ‘Absolutely Positively Wellington’ campaign of the 1990’s worked wonders at changing perceptions of our capital from grey public service city to vibrant cosmopolitan city. But if the campaign hadn’t been supported by Council initiatives, it would just have been a campaign. Instead Wellington got café tables on the street and repurposed port facilities as a focus for leisure. Suddenly it felt cool.

This is Wellbeing 2.0

Let’s bring the analogy back to typical employee wellbeing programmes that teach you to manage your own wellbeing better. It’s unlikely that optional programmes for citizens to improve their own situation would improve your liveable city rankings. No one would ever suggest such a thing – the effects would be so random. It’s the same in the workplace. The results may be positive but they need to be embedded in the culture.

Wellbeing 2.0 can go even further than just employee wellbeing.  It is achieved when the things an organisation does to ensure its prosperity, also benefit the people within it and those who are served by it.  A city  builds  assets and provides services that make it a better place to live, visit or do business in . For businesses, the same equation connects staff, customers, suppliers and owners. In future posts we’ll explore the small  matter of getting them all working in the same direction.

August is Wellbeing Month at WindshiftTo receive notifications of our mini reports and blogs please enter your name and email in the box below.


[1] Data from a nationally representative online survey of  New Zealanders aged 18 to 70

[2] They had two other choices in this question – one non-wellbeing option and one uncommitted

Marketing Wellbeing to the World

marketing wellbeing

It began at the end of last year when I was putting together a list of wellbeing trends for 2018. Suddenly it seemed that every Scandinavian country had its own philosophy.

Do The  Scandinavians Own Wellbeing Now?

Hygge – the Danish word for homeliness and cosiness was there. And it had brought along its cuzzies – the Swedish word ‘lagom’- which means moderation – not too much and not too little, and the Norwegian concept of ‘friluftsliv’ – open air living – or as we Antipodeans call it – living.

I’m being facetious – it is an actual deeply felt Norwegian philosophy by all accounts. But I was beginning to feel a little threatened by these foreign words for things we do too. Is this what cultural appropriation feels like? It sucks!

The final straw came when I read an article on Finland in The Guardian and realised that, not to be outdone by their peers, they also had a philosophy of life – called sisu: “a kind of dogged, courageous persistence regardless of consequence” according to the article. What – like Ed Hillary or Burke and Wills?

Well actually, “It is what, in 1939-40, allowed an army of 350,000 men to twice fight off Soviet forces three times their number, and inflict losses five times heavier than those they sustained”. So, more like the Anzac Spirit, except that at Gallipoli our courageous persistence didn’t end up too well. We saw it as more of a national hint to stop listening to far away generals than as proof of our fortitude.

Missed Opportunities

You see – we potentially have cool national philosophies too, we just need the right stories and an acknowledgement of the shared belief. We can elevate our way of life from purely practical to internationally desirable. All we need to do is  talk the talk, write the books and reap the benefits!

We’ve already thrown away some opportunities. New Zealand has squandered its clean green image and Australia is hardly the lucky country any more. Sun-baking didn’t turn out to be a helluva good idea, nor did walk shorts. In terms of lifestyle, open plan living and indoor-outdoor flow both came from us – as southern as the flat white.

But we didn’t market them properly, and we didn’t protect them. Perhaps we didn’t think about them properly. Take ‘lagom’ for instance. It’s about not standing out, having just the right amount – the Goldilocks principle. According to Wikipedia:

In a single word, lagom is said to describe the basis of the Swedish national psyche, one of consensus and equality. In recent times Sweden has developed greater tolerance for risk and failure as a result of severe recession in the early 1990s. Nonetheless, it is still widely considered ideal to be modest and avoid extremes. “It’s the idea that for everything there is the perfect amount: The perfect, and best, amount of food, space, laughter and sadness.”

Positive Beats Negative

This core sentiment also exists in New Zealand, but here it is called the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ and it’s not a good thing at all. It is seen as negative because at some point in our past, standing out by aspiring to more became a socially dangerous exercise.  Even an All Black scoring a try to win a critical test match had to project humility. Even Sir Ed was seen as a skite in some circles. Was this to stop the rest of us feeling bad because we hadn’t scored a test try or climbed Everest? Couldn’t we just bathe in reflected glory for a while? Or was this all to allow the perpetrator of glory to keep on fitting in down at his local RSA?

Personally I don’t believe the TPS is as widespread now as it may have been back in the day, nor is it as unique to NZ culture as its critics would have us believe. But it is an object lesson – if only our forebears had thought it through a bit and developed amore positive philosophy around the idea of not standing out . . .  It could be us [somewhat ironically] standing head and shoulders above the lagom crowd – ready to save the world from climate change and other symptoms of excess.

Do We Have a Shared Wellbeing Philosophy?

Compared to the Scandinavians, Kiwis and Ozzies do have some disadvantages in marketing new social ideas to the world. If it’s an English word, other anglo cultures can just borrow it or make it seem commonplace. Also, unlike the Scandinavians, New Zealand and Australia are diverse migrant nations where not everyone shares the same background. Auckland is the fourth most diverse city in the world according to a 2015 report and Sydney and Melbourne aren’t far behind. So it’s less likely that we will have a modern wellbeing philosophy that is both common and unique. Not  that the two countries have to have the same concept. The Scandinavians each own a different aspect of wellbeing or pragmatism.

Three Contenders

So here are some contenders:-

  1. The big OE. It needs a new name that translates to something like – life-broadening-youth-journey. Pilgrimage is too religious – even if some of the young antipodeans’ bonding rituals did happen to take place in church.
  2. Self-dependence. Kiwis and Aussies call it independence, but some young Indian migrants, we’ve interviewed, call it self-dependence. This contrasts with the family dependence they were expected to be part of back home. Beginning with the practice of letting 3 year olds choose their own clothes [tutus and gumboots?] we bake self-dependence into our socialisation. Driving licenses, going flatting, big OE – all part of the same cluster.
  3. Irreverence. Antipodeans – especially New Zealanders have low levels of tolerance of authority – low power distance levels.This is according to a concept developed by social scientist Geert Hofstede.

“Individuals in cultures demonstrating a high power distance are very deferential to figures of authority and generally accept an unequal distribution of power, while individuals in cultures demonstrating a low power distance readily question authority and expect to participate in decisions that affect them.

New Zealand scores much lower than other Anglo countries but Austria [not Australia] is lowest of all – have a play with this interactive graph if you like.

Making the World a Better Place

So yeah, don’t listen to me – make up your own mind!  But I look forward to being able to wipe those smug Scandinavian concepts off the list of trends for 2019 by showcasing some genuine Kiwi/Ocker/Anzac philosophies that will help to make the world a better place. Let’s show some moderately dogged persistence and get the job done!

Windshift is focusing on reports with a wellbeing theme in August 2018. To receive previews and notifications of our mini reports, please enter your first name and email address below.

Does Your Firm Have Good Future Prospects?

Lay of the Land Mini Report

Business advantage comes in many forms – great products or services, great connections with customers, excellent profits, or just paying attention to all the important details. The end result is that your staff and others rate you as prospering and expanding or having good future prospects.

Every time we run a shared online survey we ask people who work in the private sector to rate the business prospects of the company they work for. Over the years it has proved to be a  potent indicator of the overall economic climate.

Go to  The Lay of the Land Report page 

Or check out the  Lay of the Land Sample Report

In our 2018 survey, as usual, we asked people who work for private enterprise firms whether their company was prospering, stable, or declining. The graphic below shows the pattern of response over the past 15 years.

good future prospects

Imagine how it felt in the business world in 2003, when 52% of employees could say their firm was prospering and expanding. It’s hard to remember now.

According to this graphic,  three-fifths of businesses in 2018 are stable with good future prospects, while two-fifths are moving up or down in earnings. If you’re familiar with statistics – this is like a normal curve on its side. It was violently skewed towards growth in 2003, but now it’s sort of OK but not spectacular. We call this the new normal. 

Let’s think for a moment what it means to say a brand is prospering. It means its audience is growing or has increased the intensity of their purchasing.  That might signal some kind of competitive advantage, or a successful launch — like that of Lewis Road Creamery. Or it might reflect greater customer-connectedness — like Air New Zealand.

It can also reflect a generational change — older generations adopting new technologies, for instance, or younger generations reaching important milestones that suddenly change their preferences.

Time for Some Statistics!

But what does it mean to be stable with good future prospects? If you follow the timeline of the last 10 years or so, it’s clear that it doesn’t lead to year on year growth. The prosperity and expansion levels haven’t really budged, even though  the ‘pie’ does get bigger. Statisticians talk about births and deaths of businesses – most years there are more births than deaths. There were more deaths than births  between 2009 and 2013, but since then there’s been growth year after year. 

 Statistics NZ reports that New Zealand now has ~580K businesses and~2.2 million private sector employees.  Auckland private sector employment alone  grew 3.5% a year over that past 5 years. In 2017 it  accounted  for a third of the jobs, but half the increase in jobs.

So overall, it’s good but not great here. Or more positively it’s calm, not crazy. But imagine what could happen if we got just a little better at prospering and expanding – especially outside Auckland.  Or better at staving off decay and decline.  What would THAT look like?

Lay of the Land Mini Report


Go to  The Lay of the Land 2018 page

Or check out the  Lay of the Land Sample

My Quest to be Fresh and Relevant

fresh and relevant

Fresh and Relevant:  words that have been buzzing around in my head for days now. They sum up everything I’ve learned in the past 6 weeks as I’ve been putting together my new Mini Reports.

Missing the Mark

From 2008 to 2016, face-to-face presentations of big shared research studies have been a significant part of my work. But in 2018 they suddenly seem disjointed and flabby. They’re not specific enough, they tell too many stories, and cover too much ground.

And yet – if we’re to act decisively, we do need joined-up stories and perspectives, much more than we need isolated snippets of information.

If my most recent research results had shown that the majority of New Zealand businesses were prospering, expanding and truly exciting our customers, I might have decided I had nothing more to contribute.

But we aren’t. Even if a few of us are doing very well, collectively New Zealand businesses still have big issues. We’re missing the mark with our customers. Our content marketing is stale and stilted. Or worse – just plain dull.  As a result, those who are ahead of the game can feel quite isolated from the rest. They don’t see many other firms doing what they’re doing.

How to be Fresh and Relevant

That’s good in a way because if you’re trying to be fresh and relevant you can’t really copy others. You need to find your own version of growth and success. The problem is, most of us don’t, because we don’t know what to do differently or how to stop doing what we’ve always done.

My own quest begins with a new reporting structure – tight and tidy Mini Reports that tell one story at a time – and a new sales platform: Shopify. Together they have forced me to operate quite differently in my business.

As a result,  even this small step is leading me towards new content and a new focus. Yes I’m also writing about familiar topics like tribes and big picture changes, but in quite new ways. For one thing, I’m putting so much more focus on the things that will really help companies to find their own way.

My Guiding Questions

The questions I want to answer are things like:

  • How can you identify and attract the right kind of customers for your business – the people who will help you to grow and develop?
  • Where can you find a fresh voice for your brand, to make it more relevant to your customers lives and right for the times?
  • How do you first identify and then communicate with diverse customer groups in engaging ways without losing your way?

These are the kinds of questions ambitious companies ask – the ones who realise ambition alone is not enough.

If you’ve got this far in the post, you really owe it to yourself to check out the Mini Reports and see what’s relevant to you.  There are samples available.

You can also join the Mini Reports mailing list below so we can let you know when new reports come out. 

Migrants’ Views of New Zealand

migrant views of New Zealand

Who sees New Zealand culture and values most starkly? Migrants do. From the way we make eye contact or thank bus drivers to the things we expect of our leaders and citizens, our culture hits them in the face. They either adopt these values wholeheartedly, select only the ones they like or reject them and [hopefully, for their sake] leave.

It’s all relative of course. Migrants come from places around the world with quite different values and expectations – so they’re looking at us through a different filter. Add to that, the fact that today’s migrants have to score lots of points to stay in New Zealand, which means they are likely to be better educated, more highly skilled than most of us. And they’ve moved half way round the world to be here, so, like our ancestors, and those of us who do extended big OE’s they clearly have a double dose of gumption.

What Attracts Them To New Zealand?

So why do they come here and what do they see?

Some see business opportunities – often in property development, hospitality or import-export, but most of the people we have interviewed have been employees rather than business owners.

Moving to New Zealand from the faster-moving parts of the world is a bit like an Aucklander moving to Hawkes Bay. It’s lovely, but you’re getting off the ladder. As one migrant said:

“If you want to work with world leading technology or make your first million by the age of 30 you stay in China. You don’t come to New Zealand.”

But there are advantages to being here: less time at work or commuting, more time with family. They’re here because they don’t like the rat race. Not anymore anyway. They want better for their children and they see New Zealand as safe, close to nature and a great place to bring up kids.

In other words – many migrants value the same things about this place that we New Zealand born value. In fact they often value what we value so much, they really don’t want too many migrants to come and dilute our core NZ values. [Ironic, much?].

Both the land and the people attract them. The land is clean, the air is fresh, the scenery is beautiful. But it’s the people that make it easy to live here. The people are so friendly.

How Friendly Are We?

Do you know why we’re seen as friendly? Because we think we’re friendly. Or rather, we think that we should be friendly. When you ask New Zealanders to describe themselves, friendliness is one of the most commonly mentioned characteristics. In my most recent Lay of the Land study over three-quarters of us said they took pride in getting along well with others.

Friendliness is strongly encouraged and supported across many cultures in this country. Māori manaakitanga, Pacific hospitality, Pakeha sociability: each provide their own social underpinning. I remember in a project years ago, being astonished to find how very widespread the belief was among parents of all cultures, that a key role of primary school was to teach children to get along with others.

Of course it doesn’t always work like that for migrants – casual racism is also prevalent. Almost every non-British migrant experiences that – and quite a few of the Brits as well. But there seem to be enough smiles and hellos from strangers, enough random acts of kindness and neighbourly neighbours to tip the scales strongly in favour of a perception of hospitality.

What Don’t They Like About Us?

Well prepare yourself – there’s quite a common belief amongst migrants that NZ born people are a bit slack. Still “too much ‘laid back’, not enough ‘can do’” as someone I interviewed said once. Near enough is good enough. Or as Peter Jackson once quipped [on a Lord of the Rings DVD actually] : “typical Kiwi – a day late and a dollar short!” He’s from a migrant family.

They may not be actively seeking enrichment and glory, but the migrants we’ve interviewed are very focused on doing a good job. It’s a strong part of their identity. Ours? Not so much.

We might describe ourselves as hard-working, though we often don’t. But we rarely, if ever describe ourselves as being results-focused or very good at what we do. Being funny, down-to-earth or honest are more likely to be top of mind with us – that’s what our culture values.

What Difference Will Migrants Make?

The thing about these migrants and this more cosmopolitan New Zealand they offer is that they will almost inevitably help us to expand our horizons . Taking the Peter Jackson experience as an example, you would predict that these motivated people will rise in organisations and take on leadership positions where they can instil these values more and more. We will tend to like the results so a virtuous circle will result.

But they’re not here to turn us into a Singapore or San Francisco – even if that were possible. The most common view expressed by the migrants we interviewed was that they want to do a good job and then go home at a reasonable hour to spend quality family time or meet up with friends. They value effectiveness and efficiency more than office politics or social climbing. And they don’t like skites any more than we do.

So – especially if you’re a person who likes change and sees themselves as a bit of a global citizen – it’s beneficial for you to  welcome migrants and help them get established here, because they’re going to be a big asset to our society and our economy. They will add to the demand for better services and they do have an international frame of reference.

We shouldn’t feel threatened when they complain about the cost of everything and the lack of public transport and great shopping – because it is true and we have just put up with it. Nor do we need  to reflexively point out that  H&M and Zara are here now – so that’s something. . . because until we get IKEA we’re not really part of the top tier of nations are we? [They’re probably waiting for us to build more houses that ordinary people can afford.]

Learn More About the Lay of the Land Study

This analysis was drawn from The Lay of the Land 2018 Study.

Lay of the Land Mini Report

Go to  The Lay of the Land 2018 Report page

Or check out the  Lay of the Land Mini Report Sample



[This blog post was originally a newsletter to the Windshift Network. To join the network and get my monthly newsletters, well in advance of publication on this website, please subscribe below.]

The Deeper Effects of Home Ownership

This home ownership dream is out of reach

One of the questions I asked everyone I interviewed in my Lay of the Land study was: “if there’s an us and a them in New Zealand now, who is us and who is them?”  The answers often reflected concerns about inequality, especially in terms of home ownership.

The people I interviewed  ranged in housing status from adult children still living in their parents’ home to those involved in mega million dollar property deals.

Right Place, Right Time

As a generalisation, under the age of 30, the key aspect that mattered about their home was who they were living with. But rent costs also preoccupied the city dwellers, and safety was a primary issue in some poorer P-riddled neighbourhoods.

The happiest were people who found themselves living in places they liked with people they loved. They were often close to nature – whether that meant you could cycle, ride, walk or roar through it in a 4 wheel drive.

The right property at the right time leads to immense social satisfaction. Most satisfied were those who had the right home for their stage of life – a lifestyle block with ponies for a noisy family of happy sporty kids, a first home buyer with a husband and two little kids and now no spare cash, but happy on a shoestring and finally not having to worry about a kid kicking a wall.

Contrast those upbeat stories with the experience of a Porirua man I interviewed who once got his back door kicked in by people seeking money for drugs, because they didn’t realise he’d been burgled so many times he no longer locked his front door. Sounds funny. Isn’t.

Some had moved further to gain satisfaction: refugees from Auckland finding like-minded people in country towns, or commuters doing a design and build more than an hour from the city. Transportation is a critical element in their decision. That, and workplace flexibility.

Clever or Lucky: How to Achieve Home Ownership

There were people who had been lucky – buying and/or selling at the right time – sometimes repeatedly, house-sitting the same home for four years in a desirable central location, taking over the family home and modernising it, or buying a home and income property.

Then there were the clever ones – good with money – like the couple who had met at school, bought early, done up homes, kept the best to rent out and moved on to the next. They bristled at any suggestion that they were LUCKY to have their property portfolio – and yet – their timing had been pretty fortunate. They’d hit the wave at the right moment.

Unforeseen changes worked against the the couple who’d sold up to go overseas and spent years trying to get back what they hadn’t realised they’d had, or the multiple groups of people who had drifted around living life, only to find themselves in their 40’s with a little kid, a broken relationship and no assets – but at least a family to support them as they started over.

There were many examples of inter-generational support in all of this – surprise inheritances from childless uncles, parental [or grandparental] lending to property sharing and childcare. One mum and dad had moved across country to provide a home for their daughter and beloved grand-daughter.

Alternative Scenarios

Have you heard of Sarah Beeny – the British property guru with the posh husky voice and surprisingly real appearance? She recently hosted a programme called How to Live Mortgage-free on Channel 4. It  looked at different ways people could get around the conventional 20 or 30 year mortgage route to home ownership.

The examples included council schemes to rejuvenate brown field sites or derelict housing. But most were individuals building or renovating house boats, tiny houses on trailers, container houses, and garage or shed conversions. A few accelerated their mortgage repayments – basically eating beans and rice for 10 years. On the plus side they did cut their total interest payouts in half.

In my 2018 Lay of the Land study, housing affordability is the most important issue for New Zealand. There has been a lot of economic-led response to the massive rise in home values in Auckland but not very much of a social focus.

Who Benefits?

A lot of past governments’ actions  to cool the housing market helped lenders — improving their debt portfolios and risk profiles. But did it help the residents of this country?  With housing costs rising faster than incomes  there’s  increasing personal financial stress amongst borrowers. Others are shut out from home ownership completely.

So far, we have done little for the growing pool of renters that inevitably results.  Isn’t it better to have a healthy productive workforce than stark divisions between the haves and have nots? Whatever side of it they’re on, New Zealanders I’ve interviewed certainly don’t like the gap.

We need to think about what it takes to create housing wellbeing, regardless of a person’s asset situation. Implicitly we encourage ownership of fabulous four bed two bath with butler’s pantry homes like you see on The Block. But it’s infinitely more useful to set our sights on helping people to live happily and safely. It’s better if they’re close to people and places they love, with enough autonomy and security of tenure that their kids can go to the same [good] school throughout their childhood. It’s better for all of us if they can live in a community of like-minded people, without fear.

Why is that too much to ask?

Learn More About the Lay of the Land Study

This analysis was drawn from The Lay of the Land 2018 Study.

Lay of the Land Mini Report

Go to  The Lay of the Land 2018 Mini Report page

Or check out the  Lay of the Land Mini Report Sample



[This blog post was originally a newsletter to the Windshift Network. To join the network and get my monthly newsletters, please subscribe below.]