It has been two years since the launch of our 2013 TalentNZ Journal. To mark this anniversary, each day over the next month we will share an interview with one of the 30 kiwis and provide an update on where they are now.


Today we share Paul Hansen’s full interview which you can read here.

Two years on, we checked in with Paul Hansen and asked him four questions about what he has been doing since we published the journal. You can read Paul’s responses below.

1. Two years on I am
I am still living in ‘The Riviera of the Antarctic’ (Dunedin). The two companies I’m involved with, 1000Minds (decision-making software) and GoSkills) (online business education_ are going really well. We’re privileged to have been joined by four other very talented people, who are helping to ensure that our offerings are truly world-class.

One thing I did last year that really stands out for me was, with my business partner Franz Ombler, to spend time as a Google ‘contractor’ at the Googleplex in California. As well as free bicycles and lollipops (see the picture below), it was an eye-opening experience to be in the heart of Silicon Valley. Every encounter we had was really positive; the standard reaction was: ‘Yeah thanks, we get it, we can see how that works. Let’s do it.’ Perhaps this enthusiasm and generosity of spirit was, in part, because we were visitors. But, in fact, I think it was much more than that; I think that’s the kind of ethos that makes great organisations (and countries) great.

2. Recent thoughts on how to build a talent-based economy
My experience in Silicon Valley both inspired and depressed me. It confirmed for me that that’s the type of environment, full of creative and positive people, that I want to be part of. But also I realised that in spite of all the fine talk about ‘innovation’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘impact’ in the corner of the world I come from, on the whole, this is not really what’s happening much.

In my opinion, too many people in New Zealand are using their talents, usually in jobs funded by taxpayers, for ‘rent-seeking’ (as economists refer to it) – in essence, enriching themselves by leveraging their privileged positions to extract advantages from their control over resources (mostly contributed by others) – rather than by creating wealth (things of value in general).

Rent-seeking behaviour – and I admit it, I’m a rent-seeker in some aspects of my university professional life – is accompanied by a complacency and reluctance to try new things and take risks (that could pay off big time, but why bother?). An economy with a significant proportion of rent-seekers instead of wealth-creators is not attractive to ‘talent’ – unless the talent wants to, in effect, retire there as rent-seekers too. Unless we redress this imbalance, our standard of living will continue to slide relative to other countries.Imagine instead living in a country where talented people feel energised by the opportunities they have to realise their full potential and to contribute? My cousin Les Weir used to encourage his colleagues as they left the office he managed at the end of each day to ask themselves ‘HIMADT’: Have I Made A Difference Today? I reckon that’s a good question we all should think about.

3. Books, research and talks that have shaped my thinking
I’m really enthusiastic about the range and quality of courses that are available for free from the world’s best universities and teachers via sites such as , and (and many others too – try Googling ‘MOOC’). Another concept I’m excited by is Laurie Pickard’s ‘No-Pay MBA’ site:

Overall, thanks to the internet, the education sector is on the brink of a revolution (that’s why I’m involved with, which delivers online business education). World-class education – representing extraordinary value for money for students and taxpayers alike – will be increasingly available for everyone, not just the privileged few. This represents a huge advance for human civilisation.

4. Any additional thoughts for young people?
I think every young person, especially if they’re leaving school and going on to university or polytechnic (or whatever), should watch the short video – and try answering the question for themselves – ‘What if money was no object?’, featuring the wise words of Alan Watts.

Connect with TalentNZ
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TalentNZ Journal: Grow talent edition
We are currently in the planning and research stages of our 2016 TalentNZ Journal: Grow talent edition. The journal will illustrate grassroots initiatives that New Zealanders are doing to grow talent. Our focus is on encouraging innovative ways to develop talent across New Zealand. The Grow talent edition will be the second edition in our TalentNZ Journal series.

About TalentNZ
The 2013 TalentNZ Journal is part of our TalentNZ project. TalentNZ is designed to facilitate a structured discussion on how to make New Zealand’s talent-based economy flourish. The Journal features interviews with 30 Kiwis, essays from contributing writers and data with a focus on cities and the economy. The 2013 Journal, and in particular the 30 interviews, showed us that by managing the four integrated work-streams – grow, attract, retain and connect – New Zealand is more likely to become a healthy, dynamic and interesting place to live in the long-term. TalentNZ builds on Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision of making New Zealand ‘a place where talent wants to live’. Sir Paul outlined the reasons why his vision is important in a 20-minute video at the Institute’s StrategyNZ workshop in 2011. To learn more about the TalentNZ project see

If you have any questions about the TalentNZ project, please contact us at