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Speaker Q&A

Frances Valintine: Learnings from a tech innovator

Frances Valintine is considered one of the most innovative people in New Zealand.

For over 20 years she has committed to shifting education practice and policy within the technology-driven global environment. Frances founded The Mind Lab by Unitec, which was developed to empower students, teachers and principals with skills for today's world.

And last year, she launched Tech Futures Lab, to navigate the new world of technology enabled businesses. In the past three years her organisations have taught over 100,000 school students, 2,200 teachers and worked with 250 New Zealand organisations.

Frances was named one of the top 3 NZ Innovators of the Year at the 2017 New Zealander of the Year awards and has won a host of other accolades, including a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award. Frances will be speaking at the Nurture Change Business Retreat about how to be innovative in your business.

Who is a leader that you learnt something incredibly valuable from and what was the lesson you learnt from them?

I can honestly say I admire and have learnt from many people. Some of them were leaders of impressive businesses or drivers of great causes. Many of the people I greatly admire are everyday people who have big hearts, compassion and a commitment to doing the right thing. Some of the people who I have learnt life lessons from are people who I never met but who display leadership in a way that could not be ignored. These are the people who in times of trouble or hardship can still find a silver lining and who motivate others to be the very best they can be.

What lesson in business do you try to pass on to others and what does it mean to you?

Business leaders need to feel a real connection to what they do. Without passion, the road to success will feel very long and challenging. I believe that if you have a clear vision and passion, you will attract amazing staff who are aligned to a common goal and driven by a collective purpose. This in turn creates a strong culture of trust which helps drives success.

What has been your biggest learning in business to date and why?

All businesses - at some time - will have the wheels fall off. It is what you do when things turn pear-shaped that determines how rock-solid your leadership, systems and processes are. I believe in total transparency and open dialogue with the team, to share the obstacles that the business faces to enable a team approach to problem-solving. I also believe you need real diversity of thought, age, experience and gender etc., to encourage team innovation and to build an adaptable business that continues to be 'fit for purpose' over time.

Do you have any tips on how you can future-proof your business?

Never stop being curious. Never stop asking questions. Never make assumptions.

Who do you think is a great innovator and why?

I am in awe of Elon Musk. He is possibly the worlds boldest visionary. I love that he works hard for a more sustainable future, tied to his absolute belief that he and his teams can make it happen. His ability to drive positive change from developing electric cars, to harnessing and storing solar energy. To working on solutions to remove batteries from the world. The one goal which I hope does not eventuate anytime soon is his desire to colonise Mars. Earth needs him here.

What do you think is the most important innovation of your lifetime so far?

Without a doubt, the internet. It has connected people, amplified conversations, delivered education, solved problems and created opportunities for so many in both developed and developing nations.

How do you look after your health and wellbeing?

Let's just say I'm lucky to have great genes. Getting as much fresh air in my lungs as possible is my baseline commitment to health and wellbeing. I'm also vegetarian and committed to consuming as little processed food and sugar as I can. After that things like rest, a decent night sleep, regular training and real holidays are an ongoing work in progress.

What are you most excited about in attending the Nurture Change Business Retreat in Fiji?

Having the time and space to have great philosophical discussions and the ability to connect with a broad group of people. It certainly doesn't hurt that it is located in paradise in the South Pacific.

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