People were strangely fascinated by the idea of getting 100 entrepreneurs in a room and letting them loose to come up with their best ideas for lifting New Zealand out of the recessionary mire.

"Are you going on your Segway with your jet-propelled hat?" a colleague quipped as I made my way to yesterday's Entrepreneurs Summit.

Those with visions of a function centre full of mad inventors would have been disappointed. The assembled were neatly pressed, congenial business people, universally enthusiastic about their common task of giving birth to five top ideas to lift the nation's productivity. The event ran impressively to time.

There were names among them: Seeby Woodhouse, founder of internet service provider Orcon; hairdressing chain owner Rodney Wayne; Tamaki Tours founder Mike Tamaki.

Minds were focused and spirits were high as they split into 12 working groups to develop a list of 30 ideas from an original crop of 170. These are people used to getting things done.

At lunch the teams presented their favoured concepts and they were put to the vote.

Unsurprisingly, the much-publicised brainchild of Auckland real estate agent Graham Wall - he of national cycleway fame - made the interim cut with few amendments: give free return airfares on Air New Zealand to any visitor who commits to spending $10,000 while on holiday here.

Other ideas had an air of familiarity.

Seeby Woodhouse's team wanted to see a much greater percentage of New Zealand's vast dairy exports leaving the country as high-value-added products such as protein powders and specialty cheeses.

"Sometimes the ideas that are the simplest are probably the best," he said. Someone should tell Fonterra.

Another group was keen on introducing compulsory superannuation to boost the capital available for investment in business development. Someone should tell Winston Peters.

One of the five final ideas, the Flying Kiwi Fund, sounded remarkably like the Government-backed New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

There was the marginally wacky category. One group promoted the idea of government loans to regional irrigation authorities for harvesting water in the high country and storing it for use by farmers in drier times. The gravity of it falling towards lower-lying land would save on expensive pumping costs.

Then there was the ra-ra category - New Zealand needs a national brand and a sense of identity as a nation, reported Tom Mulholland, author of The Power of Healthy Thinking. The sentiment was accompanied by "No Moan Zone" posters displayed around the function centre. There would be a game show entitled Who Wants to be a New Zealander? broadcast in every country except Australia, with millions of dollars worth of prizes and Kiwis getting the final vote, Mulholland said.

The eventual "Give it a go bro" concept got top billing of the day.

A sense of "New Zealand Inc" pervaded the concepts, such as the online trading mall to showcase New Zealand specialty products to the world and the single community of entrepreneurial champions to nurture and mentor high-growth businesses.

Critics would say that's not how it works, that kind of cohesiveness is too difficult to create.

Then again, New Zealand is a nation of just 4.3 million people, a city-state really. And it's no more or less logical to think positively than it is to think negatively.

This group of blue sky thinkers may not have saved the world yesterday, but you've got to admire their outlook on life.

Five top ideas to save the country

"Give it a go, bro." This was the number one idea to come out of yesterday's gathering of more than 100 entrepreneurs, aimed at coming up with five productivity-enhancing ideas to be implemented within 18 months.

"Give it a go, bro" is a proposed marketing and educational campaign to change New Zealanders' attitudes. That No 8 wire mentality is being lost and we need to regain a positive outlook on things from health to business to national pride, its proponents say.

Number two was the so-called KiwiCard - offer free return airfares to tourists who buy a $10,000 debit card that can be used only while they are in New Zealand.

Coming in at number three was Harness the Possum. Kapiti Coast maker of possum skin gloves Greg Howard could launch his business to the world, but for lack of raw material. New Zealand is overrun with 70 million possums, so why not invest some of the money spent on 1080 poisoning into getting more trappers out there killing the pests and delivering to an industry that can't get enough of the pelts?

Fourth favourite idea was the Flying Kiwi Fund - create a venture capital fund to back exciting New Zealand businesses in their growth phase.

In fifth place was the slippery concept of better co-ordinating the nation's $760 million research and development spending and making research institutes' intellectual property available to entrepreneurs.