Member log in

'Not an ounce of vision within a thousand miles of the Beehive' — Derek Handley

RAW DATA: Lisa Owen interview entrepreneur Derek Handley on TV3's The Nation

See the full interview here.

Lisa Owen: You said earlier this year that you think there isn’t an ounce of vision within a thousand miles of the Beehive. Why do you think that’s the case?

Derek Handley: Well, I mean, that’s possibly a hyperbole. But I think that what I meant was that we’re really living in an age at the moment of incrementalism. I think the things that are happening in New Zealand, the leadership that has been recent, is tinkering. But our generation is in the middle to two really major transitions in the world, and one is the environmental situation that we’ve got and the serious issues that we have. And the second is the increasing awareness that how we traditionally measured success and what works in the last century is not what will define this century. So if New Zealand wants to lead in the world, it needs to lead on those two issues, and I don’t think that we are and that’s what I was meaning.

And when you talked about incremental change, what do you think; do we need big radical ideas to forge ahead?

Well, I think as a person or as a company or as an organisation, how you lead is based on what your goal is and traditionally the world’s goal is growth, and the world’s goal is productivity, and the world’s measurement is GDP. And it’s very clear to an increasing number of people that that’s a flawed measure. So if we’re a country that wants to lead in the way that we have on nuclear and the way that we have on voting, we should be leading the world and redefining what success is. So if your north star is GDP and that’s all you design your policies around, then you’re going to come up with an outcome that’s not representative of what I think this generation wants success to be.

So then it’s not just politicians that are devoid of vision then. What you’re saying is perhaps all of us need to step it up a bit?

Well I think increasingly we are. But they do set the tone, right? So I think the tone is something that is set at that level, and my comment at the beginning of the year was largely around actually some of the goals that we aspire to achieve are probably not the right goals. So the last ten years a lot of people have talked about catching up with Australia’s growth and Australia’s GDP. Is that really a goal that we care to have? And I don’t think so, I think we want wellbeing, we want health and we want education, and that’s not necessarily the way we’re set up to achieve at the moment.

So this election cycle we have a new party on the scene, the Internet Party – has it changed the political landscape in your view?

Well I think it’s at least made people think twice about different things. When I had made those comments earlier I also was commenting on the fact that I don’t think New Zealand knows how to use the internet to advance the democratic process. And any party or anybody that helps accelerate that in my view is a good thing, and I think that it’s increasing that awareness that the internet’s an important tool and we’ve got a long way to go. So anyone that can help us towards using technology to accelerate democracy is to me a great thing.

Derek, I’m just curious, do you donate to political parties?


You haven’t in New Zealand?


Ok. I want to move on to your corporate world. You’re involved in a project with Richard Branson called the B Team, now it’s aimed at getting companies to tackle social problems, isn’t it, through business. But I’m wondering why should companies focus on doing good in the world as well as doing well financially? Why is that beneficial?

Well, first of all it’s not just social it’s also environmental. I think the overall vision is that business is a stakeholder in the whole of the community and the whole society, and if you just silo making money and not worry about how you make it and how it impacts society and how it impacts the environment, that’s a very last century view on the world. The view that we have with the B Team is that the way you make money, the way you create wealth, must have positive impacts for society and at the same time, given the challenges we have with the environment, help innovate and solve those issues. And that in fact will become the new way of competing, the new way of differentiating yourself. So we think that it’s not like an either/or, it’s like an and/and, and actually that that’s the way that people want to lead and the way that young people want to work.

But is it a problem convincing other people that that’s a good idea?

I think in the last 20 years it’s been building, right. But if you look at the last year we’ve already had an enormous amounts of traction. So if you look at Apple for example, Steve Jobs never really worried about these things, but Tim Cook has come out very strong, he came out a few months ago asking any investors, any hedge funds who didn’t believe in their environmental policies to sell their stock. That’s really bold leadership. We have more and more CEOs and global leaders who are doing that in business because they understand you can’t just leave your values  at the door, go to work, screw up the planet,  not worry about the impacts on society  or the workers you have in China, make money and be happy. So I think the more Tim Cooks that come out of the woodwork, the more this movement will start to pick up.

In saying that, you have described capitalism as a teenager that’s just figuring itself out, so I’m wondering, how do you think that will look when it’s all grown up? How will it look and behave when capitalism’s grown up?

I think it looks like a merger of the things that we currently silo. So we currently silo politics, civil society, non-profits, business and we think of them as discrete things. And I think the future looks like a hybrid – if you’re going to be an entity in the world you need to do it sustainably, you need to create revenue that will keep you alive, you need to address social issues and make money. So what’s happening is these sectors are starting to merge and they’re starting to play together. So business will look more and more like different sectors that we traditionally think are not business. And that’s what I think, you know, is currently happening.

Interestingly you’ve been looking for a person to be your right hand and you had an interesting application process, people applied online, they made videos, etcetera. Have you found that person? How’s the search?

The search is going amazing. We had over a thousand people involved. And most encouraging for me, a lot of them were expatriate New Zealanders, you know, looking for a reason to come home. Very bright people, very inspired people. And we’re now down to the last five, and this weekend we’re going through a couple of things and very soon we’ll make some decisions.

Ok watch that space, thank you very much for joining me this morning.          

Comments and questions

Lisa Owen: You said earlier this year that you think there isn’t an ounce of vision within a thousand miles of the Beehive. Why do you think that’s the case?

Derek Handley: Well, I mean, that’s possibly a hyperbole.

Possibly? Auckland to Wellington is just 650kms. Derek in Auckland of course views himself as a visionary even to others he is a bobble head of buzz words."Possibly" after his early j***ing about the Internet Party he should perhaps stick to his knitting and stay away from politics.

Stick to his knitting?

Could say the same for lawyers who profess to know who should and shouldn't be proselytising on the changing shape of our world.

After all the legal fraternity is well regarded for its anti-establishment zeal and piquancy for driving society forward...

If only more people in NZ were like Derek and were willing to stick their head above the parapet to shock such a passionless bunch into some kind of action the better off we would all be.

Until then we can continue to look forward to all the vision a bunch of white baby-boomer males can muster...

Come on anonymous you can't profess to even understand the mumble jumble he's spouted here? I don't think even Derek understands the transcript.

There's nothing passionless about NZers. Many are overseas doing great things and shock horror even doing great things in NZ and from NZ.

I think NZers are doing just fine in the world without being told in shallow speak what they should be doing.

Prickly cactus you are.

There needs far more clout in all facets not just politics, for gen y representation. I think that is his general message.

The boomers in power (from boards to beehive), and the y's who know what the futures
Gonna be (cos they are younger/ the inventors/creators) have an inherent distrust of each other. And the boomers are too powerful (aging pop / low y voters). So ys need to kick back with some clout. Derek is just a spokesperson of such, onya D.

Cactus is just jealous.
Be more ballsy.

Way to pick up the least important part. How about when asked what capitalism would like when it's grown up, and he describes communism? That was sweet.

I have no idea why this guy can command so much publicity. I agree with Kate, Mr Handley is a "bobble head of buzz words." And a tireless, getting very tiresome, self-promoter.

Good on Mr Handley for doing well with two relatively minor businesses. Maybe he should concentrate on his next business.

And maybe the media should stop trying to make a star out of this guy, at least until he has accomplished something star-worthy (Branson has), or until he can express a coherent set of ideas and vision, not just buzz words.

Yes business guy

I find the most grating feature of Handley's moral crusading and busy bodying into how businesses should be run for societal good is that at one point he tried to set up a business to profit from internet gambling.

People can change overtime but with Feverpitch he did not seem to bothered taking public money for that venture when they were clearly sailing very close to breaking US laws. He was not bothered by the law then or moale. Maybe because it failed he moved on.

Like you I have no real idea what he is talking about. The media love it because it gives them content without doing any work.

He got 1000 job applicants how many apply when a new supermarket opens. Australia got 330k for their dream job a few years back.

Like others sick of this self promotion.

But he's not entirely wrong, is he, in terms of 'No Vision' emanating from government. Not by a long shot. Our electoral system - in both brevity of term and complexity of composition - is ensuring that here is absolutely no risk-taking for longer term benefit/growth.

We have a brilliant politician but NZ does not have a leader.

Come on...tall poppy change moment...please stop playing the man.

Join the debate about the situation, the goal, the strategy. We need to strive for more, not shoot the messenger.

Personally growth and productivity improvements are critical. The debate needs depth. I think the dairy industry is incredible. We also clearly have enormous building sector growth. What seems to be happening that is most intriguing is an increasingly dynamic set of 5 to 20 year old businesses striving for true world class performance and opportunity.

If we need to modify our measures and commentary it is in putting recognition, support and perspective around this very exciting change apparent in our economy.

In the last year exports grew by 10% all due to dairy and forestry. There has been ZERO growth in all other exports of all other products. Exports to china up $7b to other markets down $2b.

Not sure there is a change in our economy. Maybe new companies replacing fying ones but this is not new.

So on that basis I agree in part with Derek the government efforts over the past decade or so has at best let us standstill in fact reality is we have gone backwards in real terms.

Methinks Mr Handley is angling for some R&D money.

...and yet, so many Corporations already have triple bottom line reporting...

The real measure of a man's words is his deeds.

Mr Handley has listed Snakk with much PR and hype - part of his vision of what he believes businesses must be about. Team B etc etc.

The evidence so far is that Snakk has benefited hugely those who promoted the company, sold down their shareholdings for huge obscene gains and showed no commitment to the business or company.

Excuse as while we politely tell Mr Handley to keep his vision to himself.

There is too much greed in the world, and way too much focus on money. If Derek can bring more attention to this, its better than most other people with resources to do it..

The best he and those of like mind should focus on is bring home economics into the classroom from an early age; make it compulsory. So many people struggle due to the mismanagement of the limited resources they, and are blinded by television advertising; partly because they watch so much.

Teach the masses how to shop around for bargains, make their own meals, and live of what they have got. You have to ask yourself why more emphasis isnt placed on this in the classroom around?

Actions of this nature will erode the monopolies of supermarkets and reduce the business and power the financial institutions. Most importantly, it will share the resources around, rather than the current concentration that is taking place.

No point in waiting for governments to take action over this. They are probably the biggest part of the problem.

More power to the people through appropriate education, and use of the internet to lessen the effect of the politically bias media..

What is lacking in politics is the inability to move from short term horizons and the implement big hairy audacious goals. 3 yr term partially to blame as is MMP which trades off big ideas in the name of accommodation of a partner. Ideally we would have 10 yr strategic plans agreed in a bi partisan way that survive 3 yr changes of Govt. I agree this guy uses platitudes with no follow up from the why and what to the how!!

Under MMP, once the voter bribe is in by previous government, ( working for families, interest free student loans to study anything at all, incentives to have more children by children) and is being "enjoyed" by those who directly benefit from it, there is no political party capable of electioneering for changes that upset the redistributed social bribes already in play.

We need to make people understand unless your genuinely unable to work that living on a benefit is a right yes but its not a lifestyle of choice. I Get really aggrieved that 8000+ workers were brought into this country to pick fruit. grapes etc. That is 8000 jobs the people abiding on a benefit did not take. And these people can earn a certain amount from seasonal work without impacting on their benefit.

People on a benefit say there is no work out there!! This situation is totally wrong and morally bankrupt and can't be allowed to continue. But in saying that we need to recognise it will take a generation to change attitudes.

It could take only one election to change policy though. Let the labour market work within the country. Currently we have workers limited to jobs in NZ, but employers able to hire foreigners when they fail to attract Kiwi workers. The argument will come down to free trade deals. Blame those who swapped workers' free-market rights in favour of advantages for employers, if you want, but targeting beneficiaries is misguided.

National has made a start. Beneficiaries were now able to be drug tested. And there are penalties for those who are not seen to be looking for work. In this age of entitlement, people feel the Govt should keep them without any reciprocal contribution of their behalf.This lack of individuals taking responsibility for their lives must end.

There's no doubt he's clever, and he's not alone in that. He should have been asked to define 'leadership', and of what? Whom? Country? People? No leadership in NZ, a country which depends on trade and we've just seen a major leap in the right direction for those of us who depend on lowering the barriers to trade, especially with the US? What exactly does he think about climate change when he aligns himself with the aviation industry, one of the greatest offenders? He needs to be asked the tough questions, instead of constantly being sucked up to.

Think you have this wrong.

As the land for growthing get further depleted, due to rising seas levels, contamination, lack of water etc, production of food takes on a greater importance. The smart business minded are seeing this, and buying up MZ inc best fertile land so they can dine out on the certainties of tomorrow.

As demand for good quality food increases, demand for NZ produce with increase and the current barriers to trade will have no relevance.

Think you could be stuck in the short term thinking that most of our politicians are maybe? Ever heard of the word sustainable!!

The comments here are great examples of lack of vision. Does any reader here understand the monetary system and its implications? Why it means we always have to work more and the gap between speculators and workers keeps growing? I don't know if there's a conspiracy there, but that situation is real.

In the prelude to the interview the journalist asked "Can businesses really turn a buck AND make the world a better place?"

That question, while not put to Derek Handley, cuts to the heart of the matter. Can businesses operate inside a model that demands an ever-greater rate of work (because money is valueless without work) while not eating up the planet? The answer is yes, they could, but it wouldn't be the best approach:

Economies currently struggle to distribute money among the population (i.e. create jobs), especially at a pace that keeps up with the money creation necessary to continue the financial pyramid scheme (a byproduct of having money only created as loans) and thereby avoid hyperinflation. What's needed to stave off hyperinflation – and also deflation – is a certain amount of work. That work could be environmental remediation.

Businesses could be made to invest in environmental efforts, and this would create work. Of course prices of goods would increase to accommodate the extra work required, but at least we'd be paying as we go and the more people in employment would help keep financial gains accumulating among speculators, which is currently happening with money being created but not the work needed to support the money's value. It would actually help lessen the income gap and would reduce poverty.

But this isn't the best idea. It would be much better to handle deflation without hurting people. It would be better to consume less, to shrink the economy, and this could be done without people feeling like they're missing out so long as advertising were cut and incomes/goods were adequately distributed. But that requires a different economic model; a financial revolution. In the meantime, we could destroy the planet so as to create work by fixing it.