NZ cities innovation

London, New York and Tokyo top the 2017 Innovation Cities index. Auckland limps in at a feeble 89. Wellington rates at 108.

An organisation called 2thinknow released the index. No, I’ve never heard of it either. It describes itself as a “global innovation agency”, whatever that means.

According to 2thinknow the index scores 500 cities using 162 indicators for measuring conditions conducive to creating innovation in a city.

It says the top 50 cities, which includes Sydney and Melbourne – 2thinknow’s home, are nexus cities. Auckland and Wellington sit in the second, hub, band. Below that are node cities. 

Yes. You’ve guessed it. The 2thinknow survey is meaningless. There is no need to take it seriously, but no doubt someone will see it and worry.

James RosenwaxJames Rosenwax says Auckland should focus on agility and the knowledge economy as it continues to emerge as a dynamic global city.

Rosenwax leads Aecom’s Australia and New Zealand cities practice. He recently authored a report on using innovation to transform Australian cities.

He says Auckland is already on the radar for many of the world’s major companies.

The Economist Intelligence Unit rates Auckland as the world’s eighth most liveable city. Yet Rosenwax says being seventh on the Jones Lang LaSalle Investment Intensity Index is more important.

“The JLL index is a measure of a city’s ability to attract investment from global corporations”, he says.

Read the full story by Bill Bennett in the New Zealand Herald.

competitive and ecological advantages

Huawei Connect: Guo Ping says the days when companies can succeed by going it alone are coming to an end.

The Huawei deputy chairman says: “Society is becoming digital and intelligent. We don’t know what intelligent society will evolve into. Yet I am sure every modern industry system will become more complicated.”

As well as being more complex, industries are now interconnected and integrated. This has forced companies to be more open and flexible.

Guo says traditional companies get their advantage over competitors from their core competencies. They also own and control key resources.

Society more digital, intelligent

That competitive model is outdated. Today there’s a need to build ecosystems of companies that work together. The move towards a more digital and intelligent society means the effective use of external resources is more important.

Huawei came up with a new senior management structure to reflect this view.

Huawei Rotating CEO Guo Ping
Huawei rotating CEO Guo Ping

Guo is one of Huawei’s three senior bosses who each take turns at being the chief executive for six months at a time. This allows what is now a large, global scale company to stay nimble.

All three of Huawei’s rotating CEOs retain seniority even when it is not their turn at the top. Each gave a major keynote on a different aspect of the company’s strategy during one of the three days of the Huawei Connect 2016 event.

Industry ecosystems

Guo quotes an article in the Chinese edition of the Harvard Business Review to underline the importance of industry ecosystems. A diagram from the article shows a two-dimensional map of business advantage.

Competitive advantage and eco-advantage are the two dimensions . The map is a two-by-two grid with each quadrant characterised by a different animal.

If a business has low competitive advantage and low eco-advantage it is a panda. It doesn’t do that well in its own niche and is unable to adapt to changing environments.

Panda enterprises have weak core resources. They lack the capacity to mobilise and use commercial ecosystem partners. They are an endangered species and only survive in nature reserves.

Tiger enterprises can compete. Indeed, they are fierce and innovative. Yet while they can make breakthroughs in established areas, they are poor at connecting with external resources and partners.

Ants are individually weak but have strong collaboration and organisation. It’s easy to underestimate their power. Although they don’t do well at core competitiveness, they are sensitive to trends, have good mobility and use external resources.

Wolf pack organisations have speed, endurance and collaborate skills. They compete well in their own niche, but are adaptable and can thrive anywhere. Wolves are well suited to uncertain environmental conditions.

Guo may not be comfortable seeing Huawei compared to wolves. It is, after all, just a metaphor used by the Harvard Business Review.

A sense of smell

Yet he says that wolves have a strong sense of smell and a quick response: “These are qualities we respect at Huawei”.

Getting an industry ecosystem to work means building broad alliances of what Guo calls heroes.

He says there are three ways to make this work:
1. Making a bigger cake is more important than fighting for a larger share.
2. Managing cooperation is more important than managing competition.
3. Benefit sharing drives the evolution of the ecosystem. It is also the result of its success.

To win, companies like Huawei have to be ready to walk away from certain value and leave it on the table for partners. There is often plenty to go around.

Guo says in a decade the internet of things market will be worth as much as US$100 trillion.

“Huawei is committed to the pipe strategy. I’d like to see the internet of things evolve like the electricity industry where the development of the grid led to the invention of many new devices. Even if we only get one percent of the market, that would be a huge target”, he says.

Bill Bennett travelled to Shanghai as Huawei’s guest.

GridAKL Huawei

There was a time when an ambitious New Zealand innovation project would have looked to the UK, US or Japan for an international partner.

Now China is the first port of call.

Yesterday Huawei Technologies signed a three-year, million dollar sponsorship making it the foundation partner for GridAKL.

All such deals are symbolic. There are two messages here. First, China is central to Auckland’s ambition to be an Asia-Pacific innovation hub.

Second, it marks Huawei’s ascendency in New Zealand. The comes just ten years after the telecommunications giant first set up shop here.

The deal signed yesterday will see the Huawei fit out GridAKL buildings with its latest technologies. Huawei will also bring its procurement team to Auckland to meet potential business partners.

Guo Ping, Huawei’s global deputy chairman was in town for the announcement. He said Huawei had already made partnerships with many New Zealand companies.

More symbolism: Auckland Mayor Len Brown and Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce were on hand to welcome Guo Ping. Both politicians understand the significance of Huawei’s backing.

GridAKL is Auckland’s innovation hub. Ateed (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) manages GridAKL. Auckland Council invested $20 million in the project.

Ateed CEO Brett O’Riley say Huawei brings international credibility to the council’s investment in the innovation precinct. He says this reinforces the city’s vision.

Huawei and GridAKL announced the sponsorship deal in the impressive, yet barely finished Lysaight building on the corner of Halsey and Pakenham Street’s in the city’s Wynyard Quarter. Just hours before the announcement workers were removing construction equipment from the building and pulling protective tape off the windows.

Yesterday an official told me he expects the first companies will move into the new building in September. Ateed says there’s already a waiting list for desks and the nearby GridAKL building is already operating at capacity.