John Stephen Veitch was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1942. He attended Otago Boys' High School, and Dunedin Teachers College, before beginning a first career as a teacher.
His first business was a coffee bar and games room that John and his first wife Shirley opened in 1970 (Invercargill). This business was, the first of it's type in NZ, pre-electronic games. That experience focused Mr Veitch to begin his journal, and later to begin business studies at Massey University. His interest in better business developed into an extended study of innovation.
"It's clear that innovation is a driving force in successful companies because it gives them a way to have a unique product in the market place," says Mr Veitch. He studied the innovation myths in NZ and the received wisdom on innovation from the USA. Mr Veitch believes that most of the people writing about innovation don't understand it. Mr Veitch has been involved in a number of innovative ventures, the website "New Zealand Dances" (Now closed) was one example. NZ Dances became the largest dance and dancing site in the world in terms of the number of pages (1300+). It was the only dance site that maintained a viable letters section. Quite by accident it was also a well developed example of a community based web site. However, innovative ideas, even good ones, don't always find a market niche. N.Z. Dances was never going to find the financial support necessary to sustain it. Closure after 5 years, was inevitable.
Mr Veitch now runs a successful Innovation Network on Ryze. This network has produced several business opportunities but the right mix of people and opportunity is still elusive.
In early 2006 Mr Veitch initiated and largely built an Innovation Wiki which is attracting a good number of visitors, mostly from the USA. There are now 20 registered editors of that space.
John Veitch completed a degree in Business Studies at Massey University and worked for five years as a business consultant in Invercargill. "The managers I worked with finally taught me how irrelevant most of the theory is," says Mr Veitch. He believes that the isolation of managers and decision makers is their greatest problem. "The greatest danger is believing too strongly in a single fact or outcome, based on some faulty assumption. Positive thinking is a sure source of destruction if you choose the wrong objective. That some expected outcome doesn't happen might be a warning sign. Persistence and trying harder isn't always the right thing to do. The issue that needs to be dealt with is often put in the too hard basket. Talking to people is an excellent way get that issue back on the work-bench."
"Social networks on the Internet can break the sense of isolation, many business owners feel. The trick of successful networking is to find a productive group of people. That depends almost entirely on the group leader. It takes time but good leaders eventually attract quality group members." From the point of view of the innovator, finding the right person to talk to is often critical, and very often that person cannot be found in one's company or in one's home town.
For 36 years Mr Veitch has kept a journal. This is a very useful tool for giving you long term memory you can trust. A journal is valuable to help you examine your own life. Even so journals are often badly misused both by the people who write them and by the people who often insist they should be written. Today the option of discussion in social networks and forums is available to everyone. This is a much more natural thing to do than journal writing, it is much easier to sustain and is even more effective. Journal writing is a crude form of Knowledge Management. Increasingly over the last eight years Mr Veitch has been studying knowledge work and the problems that creates for companies.
In Christchurch since 1990 Mr Veitch has worked mainly as a business consultant, first by running an innovative business creating Veech Management Circles. That idea was helpful to other businesses but was not self sustaining. The group work demanded too much of Mr Veitch's personal time, and to be fair, too much of the business managers time too. Lots of talking works, but it's not easy and cheap when you take the time required into consideration. Since 1996 the main focus has been on self development and learning a new specialist knowledge as an Internet Consultant. In the last three years Mr Veitch has focused on understanding Ryze, a business/social network that is not what the owner expected, and is not what most users expect either. "Ryze seems to have a life of it's own, and exactly what it is and how it should best be used is still in doubt. We can't be sure where that interest will lead. More New Zealand members of Ryze would be desirable." "http://www.ryze.com/"
The key features of the last year have been the growth of business blogging, and the increasing use of Wiki.
The production of training courses from developing a course outline to producing the resources staff trainers might use. Mr Veitch has a special interest in unlocking the interest, knowledge and hidden talents of people.
Developing a culture that supports innovation is critical to the success of most firms. There is no pill or capital injection or seminar that will produce that change within a company. It will help to run a series of workshops and seminars on the topic and to get everyone keeping appropriate records. It will help if people understand that innovation is a team effort and that good leadership is something that every member of the team contributes towards. Successful teams learn how to deal with the reality of living with uncertainty and yet sustaining hope and optimism and effort.
"I no longer believe the myth of the innovative New Zealander. Everyone is capable of being innovative, but innovative thinking is always discouraged. Every new idea starts out vague, weak and fragile. Those ideas are easily killed. Those with notions of a better way need to be nourished. Innovators in NZ are usually completely ignored. If they are lucky they are laughed at. Seldom does anyone help. People don't understand the process of innovation and how long it takes to get it right."
Mr Veitch is the leader of an Innovation Network on Ryze. http://veech-network.ryze.com/
Mr Veitch is the lead developer of the Innovation Wiki. http://innovation.wikispaces.com/.
Mr Veitch is the owner and developer of the Open Future web site. http://www.openfuture.biz/
There is a wealth of experience and good sense available free on the Internet itself. Mr Veitch was fully involved as a web site developer from 1996 to 2000. There was much to learn, many of the lessons were both personally and financially painful. Basic mistakes are still being repeated over and over. Mr Veitch stepped aside from the Internet for a year from 2001 until early 2002, to take stock, to get a larger view of what was happening, and to find some new directions. "Adapt to Experience" is the result of that work. If you or your board of directors want a packaged solution or specific training, Mr Veitch may be an excellent source of advice.
In 2003 Mr Veitch participated in a series of discussions to help develop a statement from "civil society in New Zealand" for the World Summit on the Information Society. Out of that developed an interest in the way people are actually using the Internet, and some Internet use research in the suburb of Bryndwr, Christchurch
Mr Veitch has been advocating a peer to peer Internet since 1997. He achieved success with NZ Dances by driving that idea. (Over 700 people contributed to that site.) Now with Web 2.0 tools becoming available it's easier and easier to make that a reality.
In the last four years Mr Veitch has been discovering the possibilities of social networking as a business tool. "When I first looked at Ryze I thought it was a sure waste of time. Now I know different. It can be very productive, mostly in ways you never imagined. You do meet interesting people. You do get stimulated by interesting and innovative ideas. That does improve your own capacity to be innovative, but perhaps even more importantly it gives you confidence in your own ideas." People who have regularly participated on Ryze over three years have improved their ability to write well to support arguments, and to be effective leaders.
Mr Veitch has become an expert on the process of learning from what you are currently doing. "Adapt to Experience" is entirely based on that ideal. Every member of your business, team, club or society, needs to become both a knowledge gatherer and a data source for others. Knowledge is only useful when the hard work of "thinking it into use" has been done. Commonly that process is called learning. Many of us in the modern world have jobs where we "learn ourselves a living".
In August 2005 Mr Veitch opened the "Virtual Handshake NZ" list on Yahoo. This list has attracted all the leading business networkers in the country and a few from overseas. An initiative from this list is to get involved in educating NZ about the importance an value of networking. "http://groups.yahoo.com/group/VirtualHandshakeNZ/"
In January 2008, a new web site devoted to continuous learning and innovation by engaging with other people online was opened. Open Future Limited is a company focused in training individuals and organizations on the effective use of online tools. There are currently two versions of the site. International, and New Zealand, with an open invitation to other developers to establish versions in other languages and in other countries.
Mr Veitch developed the web site New Zealand Dances, which was a brave effort, but was doomed to failure. 20 years ahead of the market maybe. In everyday life Mr Veitch and his wife Carolyn regularly attend dancing classes, and 1-2 times a week can be found social dancing in Christchurch.
Mr Veitch has maintained a journal for more than 34 years. His journal began by accident, it was just some notes about things that interested him and things that needed investigation and perhaps changing. At the time in New Zealand the political situation was very stable, but locked in a post war dream that couldn't last. New Zealand badly needed to stop being a colony of Britain and to learn how to become a small independent country. Economic and political change wasn't happening, and social situation was slowly declining. The motivation for the journal was never personal, yet in a strange way it's very personal, it's about the things that are important.
The journal was the inspiration for the study of innovation. You have to be able to bring lots of "knowledge" together in one place, hopefully in one mind. Innovation is inspired when the unusual is contrasted with the usual.
Mr Veitch sees the possibility of people getting personal and community benefits from the Internet. But to achieve that each person needs certain basic skills. "For a long time I assumed that everyone learnt those skills quite quickly. I now understand that the contrary is true. People need help to get the best out of the Internet."
It is in this spirit that he has published these pages to help the community learn about the Internet. "http://www.ate.co.nz/internet/"
Because of the lack of confidence and real skills, the true potential of peer to peer contact on the Internet, is not being used. People either never join peer to peer groups, or if they do, all they do is "Lurk". That isn't very helpful. To get benefit from the Internet you have to start to contribute your own ideas as well as try to understand what other people are saying. It's the process of exposing your own thinking that helps you to learn, and the responses from others are a good reality check on your progress. Social networks are very important in this process, far more important than people realise.
Mr Veitch believes that helping CEO's to understand and use the Internet effectively is a game breaking strategy to develop new businesses and to save existing businesses. "If we are going to trade in the world we need to be part of it. Much of the business we do in future will be collaborative in nature. We will collaborate with international partners and we will sell on international markets."
Mr Veitch has worked hard to understand the implications for employees and for their companies of the increasing incidence of knowledge work. There are important realities pointed out in the Cluetrain Manifesto, that apply to every individual and to every company, voluntary organisation and govenment. On the Internet people will say what they choose. Threats of legal action are only effective at the extreme margin, and that earns the organisation taking legal action notoriety. Best therefore that we learn to live in this wide open, free flowing, communication environment.
Knowledge workers need to be trusted; trusted to communicate about their work to people outside the company, trusted to choose how to use their time at work, trusted to find ways to be productive at work. This is very difficult for middle managers and for senior managers too. The work of knowledge workers can't be supervised and monitored as though this was a production line. Knowledge workers are not clones, neither square pegs nor round pegs, each one is a unique peg. When they come and when they go they bring or take away their knowledge with them. Companies need to have processes that promote and encourage information sharing. Many new web tools are now making information sharing possible for people who have little or no technical knowledge about how the Internet works. The Web 2.0 environment, makes global engagement both possible and inevitable. The effect of that on our markets and our work futures is unpredictable, but much better for us if we are involved and active participants, than if we pretend these changes are not happening.
Those basic suggestions will prepare staff with the basic knowledge required to negotiate through the vast changes in the technical, business, social and political environment that we are all faced with.
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