1. Honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a private company

    March 29, 2021 by Harv

    How can Collective Intelligence honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a private company?

    That was the question Riana Manuel posed to me, over lunch, in Auckland last November.

    Riana’s like that.

    I was very eloquent in my reply, “Ummmm, I dunno, how?”

    “Well, if any company can do it – Collective Intelligence can”, was her response.

    The thing with Riana, she is a force of nature!

    And so, our journey began.

    I met with my mate, Che Wilson, for breakfast the next morning, and I posed the question to him, “How can Collective Intelligence honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a private company?”

    “Great question” was his response.

    Che holds extraordinary knowledge when it comes to Māori custom, history and values. He then shrugged his shoulders and said he needed to channel his ancestors (which he promptly did in the cafe). I just sat there in awe of the depth of skill of this tane.

    Nothing crystalised from that, so he simply said, “We need a hui.”

    So, we hosted one online with a range of Māori leaders. Riana was there of course, and I asked her to introduce her question, and the thoughts behind it.

    There was unanimous enthusiasm for the kōrero this question might create.

    It was agreed on our zui that there was something credible to examine in this question, so we set a date to meet in person (8 March 2021) to flesh out what could be done with this challenge that had been set down. It’s a date I will remember for a long time.

    As a Pākēhā business, we had never posed this question to ourselves. With me being an older white fella, it was always ‘the Government’s job’ to honour the Treaty. So this was new territory for me.

    So, the kōrero ahead of us was both exciting and daunting. Maybe even a little heavy – to think what does this mean we may have to take on?

    On 8 March the sun was streaming into the historic building called the Thistle Inn in Wellington, as our group met. Not everyone knew each other. No one was sure what would come out of it. Some weren’t sure if the question was plausible. And yet they came from across the country, under their own steam to embrace what might be possible.

    We spent the first hour exploring the source of the question, the frustration of racism, the lack of movement in certain sectors to embrace Māori culture. At times I wondered, “Are we making any progress with this kōrero?”

    And then the focus altered slightly, and the term ‘cultural intelligence’ sprang up as the conversation broadened to include other cultures…and from there, things crystalised with stunning speed.

    I shared my journey of discovery with the Māori culture, simply jotting down the steps I had taken:

    Being conscious – getting curious – then a little courageous – and becoming competent

    What I absolutely love about this framework is that it’s a beginner’s mindset and ends up being an infinity loop. You can progress to ‘Competent’, fall off, and then start again. I have seen this happen numerous times as we explore new cultures as a company, or facilitator, or as an individual.

    At no stage do you become an expert or say, “I know the way!”. Cultural Intelligence, I believe, is just too complex and subtle for the expert mindset.

    Cultural Intelligence Model

    When we hit this point, the team who had assembled that afternoon at the Thistle Inn were all relaxed and happy. The best indicator that our work was done for the day. Yet, our work with the Cultural Intelligence framework is only just beginning for Collective Intelligence.

    Since then, I have thought to myself, “is Collective Intelligence underway in beginning to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi?” I think we are!

    With any idea/startup, timing is imperative, and the timing for this is spot on. I sense with many forward-looking companies there is a desire to support and embrace indigenous wisdom in commercial operations across Aotearoa. There is a growing appreciation of what depth lies beneath the Māori heritage, language and customs. This is not tokenism. This comes from a place of respect.

    So where to from here?

    I am keen to share this new framework with our Collective Intelligence teams, and explore how we can open source it, creating a platform that people can add insights, resources, and learnings to that is shared openly. It’s early days, but I know it will work.

    And who was the team that met at the Thistle Inn? Anake Goodall, Che Wilson, Erin Wansbrough, Amy McLean, Bettina Anderson, Peter Butler, and of course the force of nature, Riana Manuel.

    I cannot thank these people and their generosity of spirit enough, for giving us this gift – of a place to start.

    Hui Attendees

    Members of our 8 March hui who generously gave of their time to explore how private organisations like ours could honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
    From Left: Bettina Anderson & Ian Harvey (Collective Intelligence), Riana Manual, Che Wilson, Amy McLean (on laptop!), Erin Wansbrough, Anake Goodall, and Peter Butler. The venue was the historic 1840 Thistle Inn in Wellington where Te Rauparaha it was said (probably fancifully) beached his waka on the foreshore to whet his whistle in the Thistle.


  2. A question for you…

    February 25, 2021 by Harv

    Harv asking what?

    This is my thinking face.

    And this… is my question to you to reflect on for the month ahead.

    What the f**K is going on here?

    It’s a question I’ve been using a lot over this past month to explore something that’s been weighing on me.

    Our Collective Intelligence (and Impact Teams) processes are focussed around the art of intelligent questioning. A good question is worth a thousand good answers.

    This is one to ask yourself when your emotions are running high, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, under-appreciated, judgey, and all armoured up.

    I used it to take a pause, dig in, poke about… to see if I could see what was going on under the surface and what there was to be learned from my feelings and actions.

    It worked for me.

    Let me know how you get on with it!

  3. Imagining…the impact we can make together

    January 26, 2021 by Harv

    “I have a dream…”

    What an epic line from an iconic speech.

    Martin Luther King Jr. Day was commemorated on 18 January in the USA, and I wonder what the great man would think about the current situation in his country. He would certainly be smiling to see Kamala Harris being sworn in.

    Meanwhile at Aramoana Beach in the Hawke’s Bay, I too have been dreaming over the summer break, but I won’t claim that famous line. However…here’s what’s in my thinkery for 2021.

    Fourteen years ago I started playing with this idea of creating a ‘thing’ to support business people. It was an idea I had trialled before and it worked. It was a very simple idea – a team of business people helping each other with their stuff. I had an epic name for it too – The Bumble Bee Company – cross pollination of ideas. Thought it up by myself.


    Today, Collective Intelligence has evolved into a wonderful, diverse ecosystem of people drawn from many walks of life, and we know (and have measured) what our impact is:

    Members become more effective by developing enduring relationships at work, at home and with themselves.

    While 2020 was a unique and difficult year, there is no evidence to suggest it’s going to get any less complex in the near future. This is why I am excited for our future at Collective Intelligence, the impact we help our members create, and the potential of our brand-new initiative – Impact Teams.

    To thrive in this new paradigm of uncertainty and change, individuals and organisations will need to be highly effective to keep up. Dreaming of any sort of status quo is now a mere giggle. If you are a member of Collective Intelligence, you are not part of the status quo. We are at the forefront of evolving people to create a better world. We are bloody good at it, and the tools we offer you are even more relevant now than they were 14 years ago.

    How so? Let me tell you.

    Collective Intelligence – what impact will it have on ME?

    When you join one of our curated teams:

    • You will gain connection with clever, cool people who will have your wellbeing at heart. This connection becomes deeper with every meeting.
    • You will develop your courage – all in a safe place where you can explore your vulnerability (the core of bravery) and learn from being with others with different worldviews.
    • You will gain clarity on what is important for you to be focussed on in your life. Your team meetings are a time to ‘press pause’ and focus deeply on you. Your own (at times delusional) reality will be challenged by a diverse group of fellow humans, who give a sh*t, but aren’t wrapped up in your life.
    • You will be held accountable for what you want to work on, as this is peer-to-peer learning on steroids. It’s super-stimulating as you get a chance to get in behind the scenes of what is going on in other industries and other people’s lives.
    • And you’ll gain perspective – as a product of your peer-to-peer learning. Personally, one of my favourite all-time quotes was from a member who said, “I thought my situation was tough, and now I have a whole new perspective on this!”.


    Team meeting in action

    You’ll get a dose of the above three times a year as part of your team’s face-to-face meetings.

    The result? You’ll evolve into this new world we’re now living in and be better prepared to weather its ups and downs.

    New to what we do? See how our process works in our Visual Summary – or read our latest guest blog from member Ballard Pritchett on the impact Collective Intelligence has had on his life and work.

    Collective Intelligence – what part can you play in other’s lives (the WE)?

    As a Collective Intelligence member, what impact will YOU have on others in your team?

    This is a concept that’s often not given enough oxygen. Being in one of our teams means your unique contribution will impact on eight other lives. That in turn will impact dozens, and at times hundreds of others’ lives because of your influence within your team. How cool is that.

    Do you need to be more effective and want to help others do the same? Drop us a line.

    Team meeting in action 2

    Beyond Collective Intelligence – how we collectively can contribute to shaping our WORLD

    Our first Impact Teams project is underway as you read this blog. Literally. An Impact Team is working on a business in Napier on 27-28 January 2021. Six members have congregated from across the country to focus on an exciting new initiative – helping it come to life and thrive.

    Aotearoa-New Zealand has handled COVID-19 because we have worked together for a common purpose. Impact Teams are doing the same for businesses. We’ve got a diverse pool of entrepreneurs, professionals, farmers and business leaders who are all prepared to leave their work for two days to go and help other companies (who they’re not connected to), focus on becoming what they want to be.

    I get a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

    One of our original Collective Intelligence members from 14 years ago was a chap, Stuart Elingham, who was also our first-ever member to participate in a Host Day in 2008. It’s incredibly poignant and rewarding for me that Stuart is now a member of this very first Impact Team activation.

    Stuart said to me recently:

    This is what I believed could be created from Collective Intelligence when I first joined.

    He could see it before I could. Thanks for your support Stuart, and for being involved.

    We are resourced with wonderful processes and have access to an amazing array of cool people. Hundreds of them. We are ready and waiting to mobilise and empower your impact.

    Give me a call if you need to innovate your enterprise.


  4. There’s a thing going on…have you noticed it?

    November 22, 2020 by Harv

    It looks like this: the whole world is changing faster than possibly any time before in human history (which of course is not very long – but relevant to us).

    Some of us humans are conscious of the changes and adapting as best we can. Others – not so much. The impact is a divide that I see widening rapidly, causing discomfort for many involved in both camps.

    I’ve heard of a similar phenomenon when people come back from rehab, or an OE, or a long stint at say Outward Bound. They have changed personally, but their old world hasn’t. Their world view is altered, and things look mighty different.

    I see this happening in so many areas of society and I experience it more and more as the year draws to a close. It’s not about politics. It’s about being up to date. It’s about being willing to grow into a new age of inclusion. It’s about understanding that we have a Treaty with our indigenous people to honour. It’s about understanding that we are still destroying forests at an alarming rate. It’s about creating a better world…and that time is against us.

    Unrecognised privilege is a monster blind-spot for many of us, myself included. I’m working on it but still blunder blindly into stuff I can’t see from time to time.

    I have just finished reading the book White Fragility, after I found out one of our Collective Intelligence teams was studying it as a focus for their recent meeting. Ooh… it’s a bit uncomfortable. Why do we whities find it so hard to talk about racism?

    The current All Black team is full of Māori and Pasifika players, and yet the white professional commentators still can’t pronounce their names correctly. Can you imagine your beloved offspring in the AB’s or Black Ferns and the voice of the game can’t be bothered to learn their name/s?

    Recently I asked for some CVs for a board position to go on a website. The women of colour were onto it with professional photos and format. The white woman was okay. The white fella didn’t even have one and took a selfie as a photo. Why? The white fella had always been invited to the board table, and the women of colour not. So, the women have to be better prepared just to get through the door.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the impact that Kamala Harris has as Vice President in the USA. I can’t even imagine how hard that woman has had to work to get where she is today.

    Recently I had the unexpected pleasure/shock of coming face to face with a conspiracy theorist in the flesh. I have viewed them on social media, but never expected to sit down at a table with one. This bloke believed the United Nations wanted to take over the world and disband all families. F**k me gently. It took a bit of adjusting to how to tackle that conversation. It didn’t go well, and he got up and left the table when I started probing where this information actually came from.

    Anyway, back to rugby. Today as I wrote this, Keith Quinn, a respected journo and rugby legend posted on Twitter this:

    Keith Quinn Tweet 1

    Seriously Keith… (he did issue some follow up comment):

    Keith Quinn Tweet 2

    And so too did many others.

    Crying is a wonderful expression of emotion, in many capacities. I would love to see more people show their true emotions in this country.

    We are expecting a wave of ex-pat Covid refugees coming back to Aotearoa in the next few years. It’s already started and speaking to those in the first wave, they are surprised just how laid back we are, and just not interested in some of the inspirational things going on overseas. They are hearing stuff like, “Can you dumb down the conversation please?” when being asked to present at events and the like here. Seriously – it’s happening. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to embrace talented, returning whānau and learn from them, not dumb them down. It’s a great chance for us to step up.

    Then there’s this stuff called palm oil. We import the by-product PKE (Palm Kernel Expeller) into New Zealand to feed to dairy cows. It’s a by-product, so not harmful – right? Bullshit. It’s supporting an unsustainable industry which is burning Asia’s remaining rainforests to plant mono-crops of palm trees. Lack of biodiversity for the planet is a major issue, and turning a blind eye is not the solution. It affects not only the climate but also the habitat of millions of animals.

    And finally (I mean I could go on all bl**dy day on this topic), we all need to be conscious of our actions and the actions of others.

    Little things compound. I challenge you to think about where this world is heading and whether you are on-board and relevant – or not.

    It’s about our own choices. And they’re important ones for shaping the world that lies ahead.

  5. What does Ian Harvey stand for?

    October 27, 2020 by Harv

    That was a question posed to me during an interview recently. I was a bit taken aback with this question at first, because I have never been asked it before, and I went a little blank. Then I recovered and gave an answer that seemed okay to the panel.

    But my cage was rattled, and it got me reflecting. I needed help to get my thoughts out in the open, so with Keith Mason, sitting in the Feilding Railway Station on a spring day in the sun, I began downloading.

    A month has since passed, and this is the order that my reflections have dropped from my head and heart…

    Harv and cat on chair
    Reflecting with a friend… Cats are great listeners – not!

    What do I stand for? This first one took a bit of searching to get the right words to describe it accurately, and maybe I still haven’t nailed it. But here goes:

    I stand for the influence, and awesomeness of female leadership and it’s traits.

    I don’t see this just for women to utilise, but us fellas too. I have always been biased toward female leadership, mostly as a result of my childhood, where men often cocked things up, and women got them sorted. However, I believe that the more women there are in key roles, the better the world will be.

    Harv at WOF
    At the Women of Influence Awards 2019 with Aimee Charteris (L), and Fee Webby (R). This is an event I have been to for the past 5 years. It’s an awesome celebration of awesome women.

    Harv as baby with Mrs Peters
    Me, circa 1960, with the woman who cared me for me in my first 1000 days.

    Mrs Peters, was a Serbian WW2 refugee my father employed as my Nanny when my mother fell ill with jaundice after I was born. She stayed involved with our family for about 5 years and was a huge influence in my life. My parents often commented that Mrs Peters (I wonder what her real name was?) had seen things we could never imagine.

    She once tried to kill a stock drover, by beating him with a shovel, after he let cattle destroy her vegetable garden. When my father Bill was called to the police station, she sat there defiant and confused as to why she had been arrested. When Bill suggested it was not the ‘done thing’ to beat the drover unconscious, she simply stated that, ‘Mr Harvey had never known hunger’.

    No charges were laid, the drover lived, and Mrs Peters became a folk legend.

    Next up, in what I stand for:

    I believe in the power of commerce to be a tool to create great outcomes for humanity and the planet.

    Commerce is not going away. It’s everywhere and has immense power to be a force for good. B Corp’s are a shining example of this.

    Capitalism has created many of the world’s issues of inequality and pollution (there are many more), and we need to find new ways of conducting business and be regenerative in our approach.

    BCorp tee wearing
    The crew and I proudly wearing our BCorp tees.

    Next up, in what I stand for:

    The importance of original thought, and action is something I stand for.

    To form your own thoughts that are well considered and robust, and then to be able to be challenged and change your mind is something I work on continuously.

    I often have an opinion on a topic and then have it altered by another world view. Mixing with a diverse group of people is really important for me to grow, and mature.

    Harv podcasting
    My first podcast interview in June 2019 – a great way to have your thoughts and outlook challenged. I love how the podcast is all about our people in the community, and what they are up to in their lives.

    And finally:

    The status quo is something I challenge continuously.

    Just because it’s been done this way for many years, by good people, does not mean it is good enough. My stand on many aspects in farming for instance, has often not gained me friends, but I believe that the status quo is not sacred.

    Harv on his farm
    I thought regenerative agriculture was nonsense for about 7 years, and then I slowly changed my mind.

    I wish that I had these formed up and in place for that interview panel that started me on this journey, rather than what I came out with on the fly. Putting them down on paper over the past month has been rather cathartic for me, and while this is a short blog, it has taken me the longest to write.

    So, thanks to the Edmund Hillary Fellowship selection panel for that question.

    A good question is awesome if you listen to the reaction it evokes in your body.

    Why not try this question out for yourself and see where it takes you? What do you stand for?

  6. Why the time is so right to launch Impact Teams…

    September 28, 2020 by Harv

    Timing is the most important ingredient when launching a new venture. More than capital, people involved, unique idea, or passion.

    Timing is not a strong characteristic of mine. Today is always the day to launch an idea, particularly if it’s one I have thought up. Which can be problematic!

    So for me to sit on an idea for four years is unusual to say the least, and it would not have seen the light of day, if not for a super question by Collective Intelligence board member, Andrea de Almeida. She asked me straight up – what idea had I been sitting on? The power of a good question at work there.

    I need to lead with a wee bit of a disclaimer – this stunning idea is not fully mine. Another fella, Anake Goodall (who has a habit of doing smart stuff), whispered it into my head where it grew legs.

    I wrote in a blog back in June that I’d been thinking a lot about ‘the 2040 I’d like to see’, and that we’d created a platform that would allow us to positively impact Aotearoa-New Zealand and its development over the next 20 years.

    Well here it is – our Impact Teams initiative, which distills into action:

    • The best of our Collective Intelligence team methodology – a process that we know really works and have refined over the last 13 years.
    • The cognitive diversity that resides in the hundreds of professionals, entrepreneurs and business people (across 70+ industries and professions) with whom we have worked with. They are experienced, trusted, and understand our methodology well.


    Impact Teams Logo

    So, we combine our methodology with the wider pool of awesome people that we draw upon, and apply it to helping organisations across the country achieve their goals in ways they might not otherwise have thought possible – all with genuine (felt) impact.

    This might seem like a simple concept, but it’s taken us 13 years to refine to the point where its power is repeatedly observable in the responses we get from the people we work with.

    Why are Impact Teams the bizzo now?

    • In case you haven’t noticed, the world is a bit unsettled. Sure, COVID is problematic, but it’s a walk in the park compared to some of the big issues brewing.
    • The need for some fresh ‘impact’ creating ideas and methodologies is off the charts; ‘impact’ not with the meaning so often assumed by consultants but ‘impact’ as assessed and felt by the people we work with.
    • The traditional consulting method has remained unchanged for far too long and is tired and exhausted – struggling to reinvent itself and out of sync with the needs of many sectors of the economy and society that are calling out for genuine regenerative change.
    • Not only that, the really game-changing opportunity lies in the fact that research is proving the power of teams in solving complex, pressing problems and challenges transcends that of ‘the experts’ who ‘have all the answers’. Teams demonstrate a collective expertise that is now being redefined in an unbiased and objectively observable way.
    • And finally, we know that well-selected, facilitated, diverse, competent, unbiased teams eat complexity!


    How could Impact Teams work for you?

    A bit like Ghostbusters (can you hear the music….?). So, say your organisation has an opportunity or issue you need outside input into. You might be stuck…want to shake things up a bit…gain clarity. Who you gonna call? Yep Gh…… Impact Teams (we don’t have music yet but we’re open to any ideas – hit us with a theme song!)

    Then what?

    • An experienced facilitator of ours will work with you to nut out what and where the focus should initially be.
    • We’ll then call up a team from across the country that’s tailored to your situation. They’ll be dispassionate yet motivated to come together for a couple of days’ immersion in your problem/challenge/opportunity.
    • I won’t go into what actually happens next – because that’s a little bit special. It’s called IP! But it works. We know it works because we’ve been doing it for years within Collective Intelligence during our team host days. Now it will be available to anyone.
    • Here’s a couple of key ingredients that must be in this mix for success:
      • Your organisation must be ready to step up to the plate and embrace the future. If not, then there are lots of traditional consultants who can help you continue with what you are already doing.
      • There will be follow up. It’s called accountability – as much for us as for you. It’s hard to evade accountability over 13 years and we know that mutual trust takes a little time to build.


    Who do we want to work with?

    Anyone who is ambitious about the future and what’s possible and the courage to take action! This could be Iwi, DHBs Regional and District councils, Central Government, corporates, SMEs, NGOs and charities (if we can work out a financial arrangement that is workable for us both).

    What’s the level of investment?

    This will be valued on a case-by-case basis with the value and nature of the impact achieved, a key driver.

    Why would you, our Collective Intelligence whānau, want to be part of an Impact Team?

    • It’s fun.
    • It’s challenging.
    • It’s rewarding.
    • You get a chance to make a real (redefined) impact for the people we work with and in turn Aotearoa-New Zealand.
    • You can use your skills in a team.
    • You get to hang out with other cool people, doing stuff that really matters, for a few days.


    We’re excited about the potential of this – we hope you are too and invite you to question:

    • What impact do you believe an impact team could have on your organisation?
    • What opportunities may be ‘hidden in plain sight’ because of the current mindset / frame of reference which obscures them?
    • Whose function, role or mission do you think we could offer benefit to most at this time?

    We’re now embarking on the beta-testing phase of launching Impact Teams to market, so if you’d like to talk about these questions and see how an Impact Team could help you – get in touch using the ‘Let’s Talk‘ button below. We’re looking for beta-projects from organisations from within our wider ‘Collective Intelligence family’ who have a real need and want to create some lasting change. Our Impact Team will work for free with you and in return will ask you for detailed feedback on how we can refine our process and on-the-ground methodology (and permission to share your project’s story).

    Keen to expand your thinking around this? Join us for one of our free, interactive, online ‘ideas distillery’ webinars where some big thinkers help us take a look at how we’re going to collectively ‘be the change we want to see’. First one kicks off at midday, 15 October with Collective Intelligence member alumni, Professor Alex Hannant of the Yunus Centre in Australia. Register here:

    Or join us for our 2020 nationwide face-to-face ‘chat-over-lunch’ ideas distillery – the first one kicks off at Soda Inc in Hamilton on 13 October. Check our website events page for ticketing details:

  7. Detoxing from the agrarian cocaine – it’s not easy!

    August 26, 2020 by Harv

    Header image: Regenerative Ag consultant, Jules Matthews, getting down and dirty testing our paddocks

    Eighteen months ago I bit the bullet and committed to converting our wee farm, Raumai iti, to regenerative practices. At the time I wrote a blog about why I was converting which got lots of attention. That blog had the added bonus of actually holding me to account, and helping me with staying the course, because this habit has been trickier to drop than I thought.

    And this is why…

    For 30 years I honed the skills of growing and utilising ryegrass and clover. I became proficient at feed budgeting, working in risk management for adverse conditions, and getting the best possible conversion rates to maximise the kilojoules of metabolic energy/kg of dry matter/hectare, and so economic return. I learnt this shit in nineteen hundred and eighty at Lincoln University. It was very modern then.

    Photo 1: Me, and our wee farm, Raumai iti.

    In short form – I was all about grass and clover conversion into meat and wool. The soil was just a thing to grow grass on.

    But a wise woman I know in this field, has now enlightened me with this concept:

    “…the soil is the gut of our plants and like many of us with an upset microbiome in our gut we are seeing the same levels of diarrhoea, constipation and indigestion in our soils as in the human population.”

    So, this new world I have embarked on is totally different. It is about growing healthy soils, and it’s nowhere near as glamorous – initially. In fact, it’s a bit messy, with lots of new plants introduced that I don’t even know much about.

    I could go into the details of our conversion, but that’s not what I want to write about. Instead I’m really interested in my addiction to my old world of instant gratification, and how appealing that is. And there is another aspect to this journey, that I hadn’t predicted. I have become far more interested and attuned to nature that at any time in my farming career.

    Regenerative practices are based around diverse mixes of pasture sward. Sometimes dozens of different species are planted together to emulate a natural prairie-style sward, with the plants mutually helping each other out. This is totally weird to me, as I was raised on a more mono-sward approach.

    But it’s starting to make sense to me, ironically far more than what I was trained to do originally.

    Luckily, I have two people helping me through this conversion. Dennis Nieuwkoop is my go-to for practical help, and providing the seeds and seaweed-based fertilisers I need. And Jules Matthews from Integrity Soils for the analytics and advice. Jules monitors the soils, and measures stuff I have never considered in 30 years of conventional farming. Never.

    Here’s Jules’ definition of what regenerative ag is:

    “To start, let’s define regenerative ag in the simplest terms. It is about improving the whole system function. This includes our natural ecosystem, financial integrity as well as the social and personal aspects of a farming enterprise. Ideally, we will allow guiding principles to be applied in local contexts encouraging ingenuity, adaptability and the full capacity of human creativity. Regenerative ag is not an end goal but a journey of syntropic improvement as we look to restore the balance and function of the world that supports our existence. It is a principle-based approach to farming rather than a rule-based system such as organics. It is measured by outcomes including and not limited to water cycle function, nutrient cycling, biodiversity, animal wellbeing, food quality, economic integrity and social health. It involves a shift from viewing land as a commodity belonging to us to seeing it as a community which we belong to. Our job is to grow our understanding and connectivity both with the environment and within ourselves.”

    Following on from that last sentence of Jules’, here’s the other big surprise – my mental health has benefitted. When I go out into a paddock, I am more observant of what is going on, and it is awesome to see the symbiotic thing happening between plants under my feet.

    However, there are also times I would just love to fall back on using the agrarian cocaine (synthetic nitrogen) and get that big instant fix. I have hit that wall three times in the past 18 months, when my now-natural ecosystem has not been very buoyant, and I just want to get in there and fix it.

    Here’s what Jules’ has to say on that:

    “So how is Harv doing on his methadone programme? After a ‘hiss and a roar’ he was off, taking on new shiny tools such as applying fish hydrolysate, new seed mixes and bale grazing, trading one set of actions and inputs for another. Like many, this has proved challenging as he has looked for all the same indicators that things were going well. Not seeing these he quickly ran to wanting to return to the known method of choice, as short-term results and gratification seem to drive our actions more profoundly than long term commitments.

    Getting Harv to slow down enough to dig a hole and check out the soil life beneath his feet and the health of the plants who are busy transforming sunlight energy into carbohydrates to feed the underground livestock has been a journey in itself. Greater yet is to have him connect with the concept that he is not a sheep or beef or even a grass farmer but rather a sunlight farmer who is harvesting free energy to grow a healthy ecosystem system. For Harv it just got more complex. He now has to consider the needs of the microbes in the soil as he does his feed budgets and actually consider the old adage of “grass grows grass” and how that looks in reality in an adaptive grazing system.”

    What Jules is measuring under my feet (even though it’s new) makes more sense to me than what I used to measure before. What strikes me is how complex a natural farm system is compared to the more industrialised farming approach. Everything is connected and when it is in harmony, the results are magic.

    Photo 2: “You’re developing rhizo sheaths on your plant roots” meant nothing to me 18 months ago. Now I see it as a step towards our soil being healthier and more active, meaning ultimately a higher water absorption and water holding capacity. Image credit: Jules Matthews.

    The joy I got in hearing that we have started to activate our sandy soils (see photo 3 below), is far greater than anything I got growing grass in a prior farming life. Now, we basically farm in a giant sandpit with soils that are low in organic matter and nutrients and to think I am having a positive impact on this environment, while growing food, feels very regenerative indeed. The world needs food and the environment needs rejuvenating, and this system does just that.

    Photo 3: Our sand to soil transition: the darker colour is an indicator of increasing organic matter due to a tailor-made bale-feeding and straw-spreading exercise. Both new to me. Image credit: Jules Matthews.

    Jules’ thoughts on the matter are:

    “What Harv has on his regenerating journey, rather than someone who is just replacing one set of inputs with some that are more environmentally friendly, is his willingness to transform himself through understanding and action. Discovering rhizosheaths (the film that coats plant roots when there is healthy, active symbiosis between plant and microbes) developing on his plant roots on my recent visit had him able to see the impact his new practices are having as biology is quickly turning sand into soil, building organic matter, cycling nutrients and sequestering carbon. Like adopting any new practice, having someone to walk beside you is key to avoid the pitfalls and enable you to see the progress you are making.”

    Photo 4: The bale-feeding and straw-spreading exercise underway.

    What I have witnessed outside the farm gate, is some really interesting behaviour from the establishment. Traditional farmers are either pushing back on regen practices, or saying they are already doing it by rotational grazing of stock. Sometimes they are saying the same thing. Both views I believe are utter bullshit.

    However, there are some really interesting signs out there.

    Greenpeace recently turned up on the doorstep of the Ballance Agri nutrient plant in Taranaki. Greenpeace has a long history of being very smart, strategic protestors about a wide range of environmental concerns. They are well researched and articulate, however can get a little tunnel-visioned (in that it’s not Urea at fault, but rather the management) but what we know is, Greenpeace don’t go away.

    What’s ironic about this protest is that Ballance are sponsors of environmental awards around the country, and I wonder if we will view this in a few years’ time like we do now Benson and Hedges once sponsoring sporting events?

    The big traditional fert companies have a dilemma. Can they adjust quickly enough to the new paradigms of growing soil, rather than grass, or become obsolete – or is there another possibility? Meanwhile there are a bunch of niche fertiliser companies who are growing very quickly, having done their time in the shadows.

    I’m looking forward to our first New Zealand fertiliser company becoming a B Corp in the future. That would be a huge step forward. To be clear, we are lagging behind the USA and Australia in this space.

    So, back to me. I had learnt enough to get started, and kick the habit, but not enough to keep going. That’s why having people like Jules and Dennis are so important to this movement. My concern is that too many farmers bite the bullet and convert, without enough support to stay the distance. That would be such a waste.

    Jules’ says, “What I see is the demand for this guidance is already outstripping the availability of people able to partner farmers in this transition. Just as having the pusher run the detox programme while their income depends on sales is not a good model for success – so we must confront the who, and how, we will guide farmers as they embark on this journey.”

    I had the privilege to interview Rod Oram earlier this year for my podcast. I asked him what he thought needed to happen to combat climate change. His response was very cool, “For people to fall in love with nature.”

    I’m starting to get that loving feeling!

    But I’ll leave Jules to have the final word here:

    “Farming regeneratively is perhaps the most profound career choice a person could make and the least understood and appreciated in our modern world. This is a journey of courage and enlightenment for those who embrace it in its fullness.”

  8. Why I love this bastard Dave Blackwell

    July 29, 2020 by Harv

    And other bastards like him.

    Sometimes life serves up a pile of shite, and it affects everyone differently. The shite comes in many forms, and impacts in many ways.

    Some of the most interesting people I know have faced the most incredible adversity, and I have interviewed some of them in our podcast series Stuff that Matters Now. Often this shite appears at critical times in your formative years, and sets off a response that can be really hard to fathom by loved ones around you.

    Personally I wouldn’t be doing the work at Collective Intelligence if it wasn’t for the adversity I faced as a kid. In fact I wouldn’t have the personal capacity if it were not for that adversity.

    But back to that bastard Dave.

    This month he features on the podcast:

    I wanted to find out how he was coping with the COVID-19 impact as CEO of Spidertracks. As it turns out – pretty well really. Then thirty minutes in he starts talking about his battle with addiction and the 12 Step programme he is going through.

    Now if you listen to it, you’ll hear a very confident CEO talking, and a humble man explaining his journey. But after the interview he was disturbed and raw. Together, but raw. He told me he wasn’t sure he wanted anyone to hear it or not. He asked for his trusted teammate Claire Bond to listen to it, and if she was okay with it. Luckily for us Claire said, “This podcast needs to be aired, you would actually be robbing people of something if you didn’t.”

    It is a great listen. Why? Because it’s real life and it is so true for so many, in different ways.

    As a parent, we want to create a wonderful life for our kids. Keep them out of harm’s way. Give them a better life than we had. It’s all quite natural. But in reality, it’s the adversity that moulds us. So how do we bring kids up to be resilient? A lack of adversity is definitely not good for them.

    As a father I saw my role, rightly or wrongly, to be part resilience-builder for my kids. Toughest bloody job in the world being a parent. I was a fucking expert before I had kids. And now I feel I know nothing of parenting. Proud of my kids, but did I do a good job as a father? No idea.

    But back to that bastard Dave.

    I love him for his courage and passion to keep going and face his demons. He is his own person, and gives a shit about creating a better world in his own way.

    Yep, he would have created havoc for those around him over the years. His siblings would have worn it perhaps. Loved ones? Who knows, but he’s getting through on his own terms.

    I get asked from time to time, “Who do you admire most of the people you have worked with at Collective Intelligence?” That’s easy. Reformed addicts. They have been to the bottom of the pit, and come out to face the world again. They are great to work with, because they have done their work, and continue to do their work every day. There’s a lot we can learn from them.

    And here’s a thought that’s bobbing around in my head. In this new world that is in front of us, there’s a new reality emerging: leaders who do not understand their privileged backgrounds will be left behind. Unrecognised privilege will become a huge handbrake for leaders. Another reason Dave is so good at what he does. But more on this in the future.

    Right now, I’m grappling with the idea of writing a book about the learnings from working with this crazy, courageous community of people at Collective intelligence. The title of the book will be something like, “No one’s got their shit together, and that’s okay!” One of our facilitators, Sarah Tocker, also wants to add, “It’s all a fucken facade”…

    But back to that bastard Dave.

    He will definitely feature in the book, because I love bastards like him – and bastardess’s too.

  9. Making it happen – 2040 and beyond

    June 29, 2020 by Harv

    Since March I have been focussed on what ‘opportunities’ COVID-19 is going to offer, and how we make the most of this disruption. Lots of reading and interacting with innovators here and in Australia. I have also had the good fortune to patch in fortnightly as a guest to the Griffith University MBA Road to Recovery + Regeneration Co-creation, facilitated by Alex Hannant and Ingrid Burkett from the Yunus Centre.

    Recessions are a brilliant opportunity to look at new ways of operating. In my back-catalogue of experience, the massive setback we farmers went through in the eighties under Roger Douglas was the most invigorating thing to ever happen in my 30-year farming career. It was definitely shite at the time, but the agricultural sector never looked back once we shook off the dust.

    Image Source: MacKay Cartoons

    So here we are at the mid-ish stage of a worldwide pandemic. Aotearoa has done incredibly well, banding together to eliminate the virus. Five million people coordinated and focussed is a powerful thing. Yes, we are having some wobbles right now, which is bloody frustrating, but I am proud of how we have focussed as a nation on the issue of COVID-19 for the good of everyone.

    Now what?

    The government is doing their thing with plenty of stimulus being thrown at the economy. There will be successes and failures with what they are doing for sure. However, I believe it’s what we do as citizens that will have the most impact on economic innovation. I say innovation because I’m not interested in recovery. I believe the opportunity cost of not responding with innovation is huge. Our fixation with notions of recovery, rescue and resilience and a continual effort to try and replace or recapture what’s been lost, or taken away, is not the right mindset. Instead let’s seek out what we have never tried or had before.

    So, it’s 2020. That’s a couple of decades until we mark 200 years since we signed our founding partnership document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Twenty years is not long, yet it gives us time to focus on some big opportunities and issues. I am hoping to still be around in 2040, and I want to make the most of this time so I can reflect, and say, we have come a long way!

    I want to be able to celebrate an intelligent and unified nation in 2040.

    This is important to me on a number of levels:

    • Collective Intelligence has now created a platform that will allow us to positively impact New Zealand and it’s development over the next 20 years (which I will expand on in good time).
    • And…Aotearoa-New Zealand is one of the more influential countries in the world. We are small, smart, innovative, and have a democracy which is working well. Other countries look to us to navigate a way for them to follow. We need to step into that space with courage, and be confident with who we are, and what we can do that others can’t.

    We also have lots to sort out too. Inequality, racism, environmental harm, mental health, infrastructure, the ravages of colonisation… this shite needs focus and innovative responses applied over the next 20 years to be addressed.

    So that I don’t turn this blog into a small book, I’m going to list just some of the areas that I think need focusing on, and share a few opinions on what we can do to get them over the line.

    Here they are in no particular order:

    Focus 1 | Health:

    My Opinion: The NHS is being held up as the gold standard of health by many doctors around the world. So WTF can we not adopt some of / all their practices? Yes, I am naive in this subject, but our hospitals can’t even communicate easily with each other due to different IT systems. Why can’t we have a Ministry of Health that doctors and nurses have faith in, and are proud of?

    My Thoughts: This is possibly because the health sector is being run like an efficient business, and not a robust health provider to the public. There are models of management being operated in health sectors in Europe where Teal management systems are working wonderfully. These Teal organisational systems empower those on the ground in real time to create their own outcomes. It’s just one doable action that would make a positive impact.

    Focus 2 | Government:

    My Question: How do we get the Government (regardless of who is in power) and the bureaucrats, to become more closely aligned with entrepreneurs, and vice versa. ‘Smart Government’ needs to become the norm, where we can get the big levers of central government working alongside smart young entrepreneurs.

    I Say: Banqer and The Blue School are examples of brilliant education initiatives started by young women seeking to improve education outcomes. Give them the resources to get on with it sooner.

    Teaching youth about the power of investing in impact companies (with small investments) would make huge inroads in re-aligning capitalism towards more inclusive commercial models.

    Focus 3 | Green Economy:

    This is clear: Investment into a green economy is a must-have post-COVID. It creates more jobs, and a more robust economy. This article summarises the views of 230 economists from around the world.

    Gone are the days: when Green economics is inferior economics. Yes – there is still much to learn about the green movement, but they have learned a thing or two about economics.

    Focus 4 | Nature:

    This is a no brainer: As stated by Rod Oram in a podcast interview I had with him back in January, ‘we need to fall in love with nature’, and protect and understand her thoroughly.

    I know a little about this subject: Regenerative agriculture is a lever that farmers can use right now, but they are turning away from it because they will need to let go of ego-driven production KPI’s. Regenerative agriculture practices allow for more water and carbon to be stored in the ground and produces more nutrient-dense food. This article points out how it is also great for farmers’ wellbeing and state of mind. I have experienced this myself through my transitioning period to regen ag – get into it!

    Focus 5 | Colonisation:

    I’m gutted: that our jails are full of Māori. There is a direct link to colonisation. Jailing Māori is not working. We need to do something different. An often-quoted stat from the UK really caught my eye: it costs over £40K to send a kid to Eton and over £200K to send the same kid to prison. Just send them to Eton?!

    And so: I have no idea what the answer is here, but FFS, the current system is not working.

    Focus 5 | Infrastructure

    Another Dog’s breakfast: National infrastructure is just too important to be placed in the hands of political parties who often have short-term goals. We are a dog’s breakfast when it comes to investing in infrastructure.

    This would work: Bring back a modernised form of the Ministry of Works (the Ministry of Action!?). Create the capacity for us to build our own infrastructure, in an entrepreneurial way. If we can build yachts that foil, this should be easy.

    Focus 6 | Sustainable Development

    It’s already framed up: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are well thought out by smart bastards and should be understood by all professionals.

    I’m excited: Just this week I have been invited by Toni Grace (who is looking to align our city Palmerston North, with the UN’s SDG’s) to meet with others to look at how we start this journey in our patch. Aotearoa can lead the world in this space.

    Focus 7 | Inequality

    I See: Inequality is a major source of unrest, poverty, poor health and generally f**ked up issues within our country.

    Here’s one solution: B Corp certification is a framework for companies to become a force for good and create regenerative commercial practices – not just look after their shareholders. We currently have 30 accredited B Corps in the country. Get that up to two to three hundred and it would transform our trust in commercial activity, creating more opportunity for talent to find a home

    That’s enough on my list for now. Time for some final thoughts on what we need to DO.

    What needs to change for us to kick-start these opportunities?

    1. Embrace new power: there is a new movement emerging across the world. It shows up in all areas of life, from politics, education, health, civil rights to commerce. It’s called ‘new power’ and is inclusive and hard to resist. We have recently seen it battling ‘old power’ across the world. Trump represents old power – which acts like a currency. Black Lives Matter is new power, and works more like an electrical current.
      We have had our own form of new power on show in Aotearoa in the past 12 months, with old power paradigms making way for new power paradigms. Bob Jones vs Renae Maihi is an excellent example, so too is Fletcher Building vs Pania Newton at Ihumātao.

      I believe there is nothing to fear from embracing new power, other than having to let go of ego and status. In fact, if we as a nation embrace this new power, and become more inclusive, we will smash many of the issues stated above.

      At Collective Intelligence we are about to go full on new power – watch this space!

    2. The age of experts/consultants is in decline: Their relevance is diminishing as issues are becoming too complex for individual experts and consultants to add real value to. Where consultants stumble is that their bias (whether conscious or not) nullifies their expertise.
      For some time, I have wanted to develop a new offering from Collective Intelligence and take our model into the realm of helping large organisations transition and evolve.

      This is a planned iteration of what we do now, with another focal point added – organisations as well as individuals. We will continue to do what we do so well now with individuals, and build our ‘Impact Team’ model alongside that will support organisations.

      We have hundreds of capable professionals in our community to draw on to form these ‘Impact Teams’, who can go and apply our methodology to help create this new future that awaits us.

    So, that’s our next big step in the world, and we are ready!

    What and where do you think we could be applying our new ‘collective intelligence at work’ (Impact Team) methodology to?

    I would love to hear your views, and what it is that you are doing in your field of expertise – what it is you’re focussing on over the next 20 years to create that intelligent and unified nation I’m dreaming of in 2040.

  10. I thought I was an eternal optimist – ha!

    May 27, 2020 by Harv

    It started as a throwaway line, a casual conversation thing…

    Before Christmas I was with my son Guy and his partner Becca, who had prepared a lovely meal, and reflecting on 2019. I was saying how tough it had been having five surgeries in 12 months and I stated at the end, “but of course I’m an eternal optimist”. When I said that I totally believed it.

    But no. My wife Kate interjects with an incredulous look on her face saying, “no, you’re not”, and I’m more than a little miffed with her reaction. I chose to just move on at the time thinking that it was a bit rude and unpleasant, but that’s the end of the subject.

    However, three weeks later Kate and I are having a conversation with Catherine van der Meulen and her partner James Nilson, while waiting for an outdoor movie to start. Cath asks me, “how was your year Harv?” So off I go again and say 2019 was a tough year due to surgeries etc, however, I am an eternal optimist…etc, and bugger me – I get corrected again. This time more forcefully, “No, you are not an eternal optimist!”, by my bloody wife.

    Again, I was a little embarrassed and slightly pissed at this rebuke, however I realised this was completely out of character to be such a …… and I needed to have this conversation out in the open as soon as possible. At this point I thought Kate needed to get her point of view corrected. I’m good like that!

    So, the next morning over breakfast, deep breath, and I ask, “what’s with this, ‘I’m not an eternal optimist thing?’”

    Kate expressed very forthrightly, that what she has had to endure for the past few years has been anything but living with this mythical eternal optimist, and that at numerous times I have been bloody hard to live with, given my depths of despair. She acknowledged that living with continual pain is tough, but really, what the hell was I thinking talking like that? Gentle wee soul that she is – I was totally taken by surprise. However, I was listening, trying that curiosity thing, and trying to be a little more open minded, just.

    The conversation continued over the next few days and I started to reflect on what Kate has had to put up with while I waited for surgery, and then went through it as well. It was a cathartic process for Kate – me, not so much.

    The persona of being an ‘eternal optimist’ was something I took on as a kid. This was my role as the youngest in a family that had gone through some tough times, especially when my older sisters buggered off overseas when I was 14 years old. It was very much part of my chosen identity – be a positive and optimistic son to help my parents when they were not coping. It was a very strong belief that I had of myself, and I never doubted it. So to have this challenged was not easy at all. And bugger it, there definitely seemed to be some foundation for Kate’s opinion.

    But if I wasn’t an eternal optimist, what was I? There was a need to get this sorted in my wee head. I’m like that too.

    More conversation with Kate. Am I a pessimist? Nope she says, “however, you can be pessimistic…”. Yes, I can be. So, I’m not a pessimist, but definitely not an eternal optimist (apparently). Enough talk for me. I start researching the subject which is well written up.

    As I investigate, I find out that the last thing I am, or even want to be, is an eternal optimist. They cause bloody havoc and I realise I have worked with some in the past to great detriment, with them being way too gung-ho and not blessed with enough critical thinking. I was going off this made-up identity thing big time.

    So, if I’m not an eternal optimist, and not a pessimist – then what am I?

    Well maybe a realist? That sounded like a fit for a while. But the problem with this is the title. Realist. I have no idea what is real, or not. It was close but not at all comfortable.

    It’s a bit like people who call themselves a futurist. What the hell is a futurist? No one has been able to foretell the future. It’s nonsense.

    Anyway, I dropped the research and just let things settle. Then out of nowhere, I’m reading Margaret Heffernan’s book Uncharted, which is a ripper by the way, and I come across the following descriptions.

    Heffernan says that psychologists distinguish between two kinds of optimists:

    Explainer optimists – who accept that bad news is neither permanent (things can improve), nor universal (there’s good happening somewhere), and

    Expectant optimists – who see problems but anticipate improvement; and they have a fighting spirit.

    Both are especially productive because optimists are more likely to reach out for help, to collaborate, and tend to trust others – all of which gives them more resilience and capacity than they could ever possess alone.

    I had clarity at last. I’m an expectant optimist! Even Kate agrees, so it must be true.

    One comment that really stuck with me early on in this investigation was a remark from Kate. She said, “I have no idea what you are on the scale, but you are tenacious.” And that is true too.

    So the newly-crowned expectant optimist recently reached out to a number of people seeking help to reframe my thinking and energy. I needed to get my head up and my heart engaged with the opportunities that lie ahead. I got on the Zoom machine and connected with some trusted people. One question from my friend in Melbourne, Andrea De Almeida, was masterful:

    Andrea: “What is the big idea you have been sitting on Harv?”

    Me: Ummmm – what do you mean?

    Andrea: “You are an entrepreneur. You will have an idea you have been sitting on!”

    Me: Ummmmm – yes, well I have actually.

    Andrea: “Why haven’t you activated it yet?”

    Me: Ummmmm – well the timing wasn’t right and I needed a key person to roll it out.

    Andrea: “Is the timing right now?”

    Me: Yes, it is.

    Andrea: “Do you have the key person now to roll it out?”

    Me: Yes, I do!

    And so, the expectant optimist has his head up again and heart pumping, with a plan coming together to create a more regenerative and entrepreneurial Aotearoa in the near future.

    To Andrea I say – thank you!
    To Kate – good call!
    To everyone else – I’ll keep you posted 😉

Members Area

Forgot your password?

Login not working?

Clear your Browser Cache:
Windows: Press Ctrl+F5
macOS/OSX: Press Command + R

Learn More

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content