Top company chairperson Joan Withers questions if New Zealand is doing enough to equip the next generations with the tools to cope in a highly disruptive business environment.

"I really worry about the increasing disconnect between people who have got opportunities in terms of their lives and their careers and those who are finding it difficult," Withers said in an interview with Fran O'Sullivan for the Herald's Mood of the Boardroom video series.

"And the thing that we're all facing, even those of us who are gainfully employed and view ourselves to be reasonably well qualified, is that this age of disruption is unprecedented," she said.

"We are entering an era where the key decision tool is going to be an algorithm and artificial intelligence means that a lot of what humans do is no longer going to be done by humans."


Withers, who chairs Mercury and The Warehouse, is one of New Zealand's most accomplished businesswomen and was awarded Chairperson of the Year in the Deloitte Top 200 awards in 2015.

Withers cautions business people not to underestimate the extent of disruption.
"I don't think there are any profit pools that will be safe. When you look at New Zealand - I don't know that we ever had an ultimate moat - but we've got even less of a moat now in terms of what's going to happen with the likes of Amazon coming across the Tasman.

"So that's both a threat and an opportunity, but I think we've got to think very carefully about the future of work and about the way that - especially with children coming through, and I now have grandchildren - what is New Zealand going to be like for them?"
Withers urged the next Government to look hard at whether the education system was fit for purpose in a changing world.

The Herald's Mood of the Boardroom Election Survey will be published on Tuesday, September 12.

In an event streamed on, National's Steven Joyce and Labour's Grant Robertson will debate the survey results.

In the next Mood of the Boardroom CEO video, Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon will spell out why it's important for the nation to set bold aspirations. Staff reporter