The strongest speaker line up ever, did not disappoint with incredible presentations on how they have pushed the boundaries in business. A Swedish study circle format enabled open sharing of ideas and a Scandinavian lunch was enjoyed at the end of an inspiring, thought provoking morning.
The first speaker was Brian Richards from BRR, one of New Zealand's leading branding agencies. Brian opened with a fun analogy with Lego 'clicking two nations together' to describe how NZ and Scandinavia can come together to learn from each other.
It was interesting to hear that Brian had for years compared notes with a similar Scandinavian company which he attributed to his success as there was no threat of competition. Both companies had an open book policy sharing financial and operational insights. He showed visually rich, emotive slides as he outlined the similarities between Scandinavia and New Zealand in terms of kinship with nature, design respect, elegance, craft, tactics, but when it comes to sustainability he feels New Zealand has a long way to go.
Brian outlined the ingredients which make a successful Brand including Vision, Story, Design and culture and continued to present visuals of some high profile and award winning brands he had been a part of developing.
In conclusion to his thought provoking presentation Brian spoke of mass production and volume versus value and asked us to think about the challenge of how we can produce less for more. Add value to what we do by learning from our distant cousins.
David Hood gave a fascinating insight into the impressive growth of Ikea and their very unique way of doing business. He explained the IKEA model and how everything is internal and owned by IKEA. IKEA has had great consistency from only having 4 CEO’s in the past 70 years, all internal appointments.
Everything is vertically integrated, they own the forests that provide the timber and aim to be using 100% renewable energy sources by 2020. IKEA also owns all of the massive warehousing and retail premises they operate in as well as some entire shopping complexes.
He described how Ikea started as a mail order business from catalogs and the milkman would deliver the items for free. The IKEA vision is 40 years old and still their driving force - "To create a better everyday life for the many people". Aiming at the many people means keeping costs down and enabling customers to take purchases home in flat packs – this self assembly means the customer shares the responsibility and benefits of keeping prices low. Flat packs became a science and production and design was adapted to materials and production techniques.
David spoke of the HR approach at IKEA, sourcing down to earth, straight forward people, and managers who are decentralised with responsibility to run their business. He says he goes to work in jeans, in an open office, where there is no hierarchy. Maintaining a strong culture is key to their success and that feeling of being part of something special. IKEA certainly has big goals aiming for turnover of $50 billion in 2020
It was an honour to hear Sir Ray Avery's story, which he began by urging us to go home and work out how many days we have left to live, and to make a plan for the rest of our lives and not just bumble through. Further, "Learn like you are going to live forever". Wise advice from this ‘thinker’.
Sir Ray shared stories of his upbringing in orphanages and homes before living on the streets of London. How he developed a hunger for knowledge as a result of being ignored in the classroom and how this contributed to his power of observation. This power of observation enabled him to see things (opportunities!) that other people did not and become aware of what people needed. "Observation leads to innovation"
Sir Ray encouraged the audience to become more customer centric, not product centric, and go out of their way to discover what the customer needs.
He explained how he came to be educated in the field of Science and immigrated to New Zealand in 1973 where he found "home". "Nothing is impossible in New Zealand. There is a resilience, a willingness to give things a go, of not being a victim". "Failure is not the end - it's the culdesac on the way to success" was another gem.
Here he went on a journey of earning people's respect by doing things for our global community, and ultimately through helping people in third world countries. His stories of these missions were incredible and inspirational. Read more about his great work at www.medicinemondiale.org or support the cause by purchasing one or both of his fascinating books, ‘Rebel with a Cause’ and ‘The Power of Us - New Zealanders Who Dare to Dream’, a fascinating and beautifully presented table-top book into the NZ psyche.