T here has been a bit of chatter recently around whether our culture is holding us back in business. A recent Guardian article, ‘'New Zealand wants you': the problem with tech at the edge of the world’ identified an issue in our technology sector: our modest nature means we often don’t back our abilities enough. An American entrepreneur said Kiwis were ‘humble to a fault’, while Mixt CEO Jessica Manins said she has created an American persona to come across as more confident. In New Heights, New Depths, Peter Beck talks about the difficulties of building a billion-dollar-company in this atmosphere and says a cultural shift needs to happen if we want more of them. He often faced skepticism from other New Zealanders when he told them his vision, but look at Rocket Lab's valuation now: over $1 billion and counting.
Meanwhile, reflecting on a successful global career in tech in 25 Things, NZTE’s Claudia Batten said something she wished she knew before she started was to be more outrageous and aggressive about what’s possible.
New Zealanders are well accustomed to growing up in this contradictory melting pot of pride and self-doubt. So when I met and interviewed Google Empathy Lab founder Danielle Krettek (pictured right, beside yours truly) and ex- Wired editor and producer of Abstract: The Art Of Design Scott Dadich in Sydney recently, I didn't think they'd have the same qualms.
After all, they don’t hail from a nation that loves promoting homegrown success stories, yet has no time for arrogance, setting off a chain reaction of anxieties for anyone who’s become relatively successful: ‘Will confidence in my idea come across as boasting? Come to think of it, am I really that great at what I do, anyway?’
As it turns out, this is actually a worldwide phenomenon called impostor syndrome – and even those on the top rungs of the career ladder globally experience it. THE TECHNOLOGY I SSUE
When I asked Dadich if he’de’d ticked off all his goals in an illustriouss career, he told me, “Oh no. I have impostorostor syndrome.” The same went forr Danielle. She said she often feels like shee doesn’t belong in the room alongside the technologists at Google, seeingg as she “fell backwards” into her dreamm job.
At first, I found this slightlyy alarming. Once you get to that level, surelyy you should be allowed the comfort of not second guessing yourself. But, reassuringly,eassuringly, experts say those who feel like they’rehey’re impostors actually tend to be more intelligent and competent than those who are unruffled by self-doubt,t, as they’re constantly striving to increasecrease their abilities (in contrast to this,s, the Dunning-Kruger effect is “a cognitivenitive bias in which people of low ability haveave illusory superiority and mistakenly assessess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.”)
So maybe these niggly insecuritiesecurities aren’t as much of a hindrance as we think they are. Perhaps they canan actually be an advantage when harnessedsed correctly, and it’s just our levelsls of aspiration that need tweaking.g. Or, as David Downs put it in
Dear David: ‘If all Kiwis had thehe same expectation of winning that ourur national rugby team does, I am certain we’d achieve the same results they do. It’s time to use our ‘unfair advantages’ages’ and dream bigger.’
So, on the cover, we presentnt to you one of Idealog’s big, lofty dreams.ms. An optimistic, thriving future whereere the tech sector dominates downtownown and has surpassed our two currentt industry table toppers, tourism and dairy,iry, to become our biggest national export.xport. Ecosystems take a long time too develop, but companies like Weta, Tradede Me, Xero and Vend have paved the way for a host of exciting new companies suchch as Soul Machines and Rocket Lab. Whoho knows what kind of companies they will inspire.
There’s been a lot of dark predictions about the role technology will play in shaping our future, but we’re not feeling so cynical. We reckon our tech sector will help our cities, our economy and our industries reach new heights – perhaps quite literally, if Vickers Aircraft or Zephyr Airworks, a subsidiary of Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk that is testing a self-piloted air taxi in Christchurch, achieve their goals. And as you’ll read on the following pages, this movement is already well underway.