I have been small most of my life.
When I was born, doctors took my parents aside and gently informed them that I was a dwarf (the doctors were wrong). My short stature at baseline was reinforced by my decision to pursue elite-level gymnastics. The hours of training consumed immense amounts of calories, meaning that there was little superfluous energy available to be used for vertical growth. As a result, throughout my childhood my peers were – quite literally – head and shoulders above me.
In gymnastics, my short stature was a significant component of what was described as my ‘natural talent’ for the sport. As you can imagine, a diminutive frame enables a rather impressive power to weight ratio – though I was more interested in how quickly I could turn multiple somersaults relative to my taller teammates. In competitions, there were zero points on offer from the judges for fitting into a leotard that might have been intended for a doll. But, there were plenty of points to be gained from high difficulty and tight execution – both of which are easier when no part of you is ever too far from your centre of gravity. Because of how it was used, my size was a valuable attribute.
I share this because, in some ways, Ko Awatea is small. For that matter, New Zealand (and indeed our world) is small. In and of itself, our size is not relevant. However, what we do with our size is highly relevant.
We are all aware of the challenges and limitations that may be associated with being small. We can do some things to reduce the impact of those potential limitations, but we can do much more by choosing to capitalise on the benefits.
At Ko Awatea, our size means that we are ideally placed to develop, test and implement innovative ideas, approaches and programmes in the healthcare space. Furthermore, our size means that, compared with other countries and organisations, there are fewer bureaucratic and political barriers to change – in part because we have to negotiate and penetrate fewer layers. Our size allows our successes to look even more impressive and affords us a degree of safety in our failures, together with the opportunity to truly dissect and understand results across the spectrum of outcomes. These and other factors mean that we can be aspiring to be not only an incubator but also a major global exporter of our ideas and solutions.
Small may or may not be beautiful but, when we use it well, small is great and can achieve great things. And, sometimes – as it was in my case – small can grow.