How to maximise economic recovery


There is a small window of opportunity for the Waikato region to maximise its recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown. This was the key message for the region from a group of business leaders who gathered to start exploring the issue.

The LEGO® Serious Play® session, organised and facilitated by Rob Bull from Plexus Consulting, drew from a range of sectors.

Participants were Senga Allen from Everest – All About People, Darwin Ginty from Safety Genius, Richie Jenkins of The Instillery, Clifford Buchler from Mega Mitre 10), Hamilton & Waikato Tourism’s Jason Dawson, and Matt Gatchell from Fill a Bowl.

Waikato Business News talks to Rob Bull.

What gave you the idea?

I have been advocating the opportunity that the economic lockdown has given businesses – which is to avoid the cliches that are coming out to “return to a new normal”.  Being forever an optimist I am passionate that we can actually create a more positive approach which is to “return to better”.  As a region we have some very, very smart business people, I wanted to harness their thinking about what this could mean for our region and what we need to do to maximise an economic recovery.  I also wanted to use LEGO Serious Play to demonstrate how the process can create valuable conversations in a very short time frame.  So bringing together a group of business leaders representing key sectors seemed a natural idea, to harness the innovative thinking of the region.

How does Serious Play work?

LEGO Serious Play works is a simply facilitated meeting that creates focused conversations and problem solving.  Participants are taken through a series of questions which probe further into the subject each time.  Each participant builds their own model in response to each question resulting in a 3D interpretation of their answer.  Each model is then used as a base for group discussion, understanding different perspectives, knowledge sharing and decision making.  Depending on the questions, the group can complete a shared model of the ideal response to the challenge they have been asked to explore – ideal team, elements of customer experience, annual plan etc.

The use of LEGO enables a different mindset, approach to a problem than traditional brainstorming sessions can achieve.  It is a ‘leaning in approach’ rather than participants leaning back in their chairs around a meeting room.

LEGO Close up

What results came out of the workshop?

There were a number of key messages for the region, business leaders and community leaders.

The emphasis on strong cross-sector collaboration was a key element.
Also key was maximising the people we have in the region by retraining them to fit specialist areas such as IT, construction and other growth-focused sectors. It’s a case of using the resources we have.

What was also important was the need to respectfully put any past failures aside and focus on what we are great at. As one of the participants said: “We don’t have much time, urgency is key, let’s not dwell on past mistakes”. We don’t need to blame each other if some decisions are not perfect, we are in this together.

We have a small window to make a difference.

There is a need to break the red tape thinking approach – to create a collaborative approach and get things done faster, respecting the knowledge of everyone.  Don’t slow things down because that is the way we have always done it.  It’s a new time, let’s start with a new mindset.

We also need to maximise and protect our natural resources, with a healthy and protective environment.

What challenges did the participants identify?

Getting caught up in red tape

Keeping our regional independence while improving and maintaining connectivity and access to markets.

People – having the right skill mix to step into key jobs.  There is a disconnect between what polytechnics and universities are producing versus what is needed in the current economy, particularly in IT and construction.

What was most unexpected for you in terms of the outcomes or suggestions?

The group really surprised themselves about how consistent across the participants the issues were despite being in different sectors.

Not really unexpected but encouraging is the willingness and desire for groups like this to collaborate and provide leadership. There is a true feeling that we can make it work.

How do you see future cross-sector collaboration working?

I am aware that there are multiple conversations occurring at the moment, and that is possibly an indication of pausing, bringing groups like this together sooner rather than later on a regular basis, putting specific challenges to them and receiving and acting on the recommendations.  If the message from this group was to be followed, this would be a regular activity sitting alongside regional leaders.

Where do you personally see the pressure points over the next six to 12 months?

  • Speed (lack of) of decision making – being caught up with the bureaucracy.
  • Ad hoc decisions without the collaborative input.
  • Sectors not being involved and given the chance to think outside of the box – for instance, tourism, hospitality
  • Bringing the right workforce into the region – construction is potentially going to be in a boom phase but can we attract the workforce?
  • Tourism – how do we support this sector and the money that won’t come in from overseas visitors?

About Author

Waikato Business News

Your source for local business news in Waikato