The Mind Lab
The Mind Lab

Learning Key to Surviving Adversity

After the year from hell, anxiety levels are at an all-time high. People talk about the need to pivot. Many simply can’t. Frozen into inaction, many struggle to move forward.

When you have the massive amount of adversity we have experienced and you’re tackling things you have no experience of, equipped with just the tools you had before the adversity happened, anxiety levels reach extreme levels, says Frances Valintine, CEO and founder of New Zealand’s most innovative postgraduate school, The Mind Lab. 


“You don’t have the ability to process it.” But, she says, there is a very effective way to cope. 


“The single most powerful thing you can do to broker the new world we live in is to gain knowledge through learning. 


“Unfortunately, New Zealand has a long-held mindset that you frontload learning into your compulsory education years – from five to 19 years – then you’re done.”


She says New Zealand is low in OECD rankings for professional development learning. Except for those who are in the C-suite of large corporations, they don’t participate in formal education once they’ve completed their undergrad or postgrad studies. 


“You don’t see people mid-tier, 10 years into their careers thinking about what they can do to upskill.” 


And because people haven’t kept on learning, they hold some potentially dated ideas. They haven’t replaced them or had the debate about what things could look like. 


“Take, for example,” says Frances, “a bunch of people working for an engineering firm. They all came out of the same engineering school and they’ve been working together for 20 years. The chance of them having divergent views or thoughts or conversations about things outside their world is low so they get over-indexed by a lot of the same information. That becomes the limiting factor in their growth. 

People came to learn because they wanted to remain relevant and have longevity in their careers. They come to us because their work experience is not enough to get them to their next chapter in life.

“It’s a bit like the ultimate act of insanity where we do the same thing multiple times expecting a different outcome.”


As soon as they put themselves among people who are learning, people who are actively involved with reading and debates or watching interesting documentaries and have a diverse group of friends and work in an office where there are lots of people from different backgrounds, they get very intimidated. 


“This often happens with leaders because leaders are most likely to have fixed views because they are held in high regard because of what they’ve learned.”


So when the lockdown came along, many were unprepared. 


Ironically, the year-long lockdown was a blessing in disguise in other parts of the world. A McKinsey Global Institute study completed mid-2020 showed digital processes advanced across the world by five years in just eight weeks. Through necessity, many people took a risk, established their business online and moved to remote working. 


The fact New Zealand was so successful at curbing the spread of Covid-19 and only had one big six week lockdown actually worked against us. “We crept the other way,” explains Frances. In fact, for multiple years, New Zealand’s productivity has been going backwards.


“Most small businesses haven’t had the resources or knowledge to take the leap to improve productivity through digitisation. As other nations have come online and productivity has increased, we’ve slipped well behind.”


And contrary to what most people think, New Zealand has slipped down the innovation ratings for almost two decades. 

We’re pretty good at coming up with good ideas but we’re not good at executing those at scale.

The question we need to resolve, she says, is how to reach the rest of the world from where we live in a way that’s competitive with a point of difference offering something uniquely different. 


According to Frances, Covid-19 has brought a significant and growing divide between people who understand what a digital economy looks like as opposed to those who are still operating in an analogue, paper-based economy. 


“People came to learn because they wanted to remain relevant and have longevity in their careers. They come to us because their work experience is not enough to get them to their next chapter in life. That’s partially because of roles changing and becoming more digitised, partly because of the merging and morphing of technology. They come with an open expectation of wanting to be comfortable with change again. They want to have conversations that are tricky and challenging. They want to understand the technology that’s shaping the future.”


The tools of 2020 and beyond are new skills. And that’s where the The Mind Lab comes in.


Last year, because their programmes offer future-focused and hands-on learning, The Mind Lab saw a surge in students who sought new ways of doing things.

They come with an open expectation of wanting to be comfortable with change again. They want to have conversations that are tricky and challenging. They want to understand the technology that’s shaping the future.

The Mind Lab and Frances’ other institute Tech Futures Lab attract students whose average age is between 35 and 55 with between 10 to 30 years’ work experience.


All courses are NZQA accredited and primarily part-time. Niche and very focused, they offer a range of programmes where it’s about improving the bottom line or where the main driver is to do good in the not for profit sector. From leadership programmes to updating digital skills programmes to unlocking human potential – there is something for everyone.


The Mind Lab also recently won an MBIE tender to create a new learning platform for small businesses on how to digitise. 


“During lockdown, MBIE realised the companies they were having to support and those that lost trade and failed were those that had not digitised. For the future economy to be robust for when the next major adversity happens, people need to take this seriously.” 


The Mind Lab is a place where you can come to be among peers from different sectors who all want to learn, to broker the new world by understanding what you want to achieve and actually achieving it.


“The single most powerful thing you can do is to have knowledge. And when you start learning, it’s like an endorphin,” says Frances. “It’s hard to disconnect. You won’t want to stop that rush.”

The Mind Lab Courses

Postgraduate Certificate in Leading Change for Good 

Starts March 4 for 34 weeks part-time


A leadership programme for people who want to make a positive difference, and lead with purpose rather than for profit. People who are passionate about sustainability, humanity, community, iwi, people who work in education – they come because they want to lead with a different type of model, underpinned by authentic value.


You’ll walk away with:

  • The ability to identify new and emerging business models that prioritise purpose over profit, and adapt them for your context.
  • The ability to evaluate and apply contemporary leadership approaches to drive change for positive impact on communities, organisations and businesses.
  • A deep understanding of global and indigenous social change practice and considerations, and how these can be relevant and applicable in your community or workplace.
  • A detailed change strategy that harnesses leadership to create sustainable, authentic value in NZ’s changing social, economic, political, and cultural environments.
Postgraduate Certificate in Digital & Collaborative Learning

Starts April 12 for 35 weeks part-time


Reskilling teachers in digital and collaborative learning to prepare the students of today and tomorrow for the workplaces of the future. A fun, collaborative, postgraduate certificate that allows teachers to find their love for teaching and learning again.


You’ll walk away with:

  • New theoretical and practical knowledge about teaching and learning, supported by research and applied practice
  • Knowledge of contemporary education practices and learn how to integrate relevant technologies and techniques into your classroom
  • A more student-centered and collaborative approach to learning
  • Opportunities to innovate and lead in your professional practice
Digital Skills for the Workplace 

Intakes starting in March and May running for 7 weeks part-time


An NZQA-accredited micro-credential in the form of a 7-week online course to improve digital skills and build online confidence. You’ll get hands-on experience with useful digital tools that you can take straight back to your workplace or small business.


You’ll walk away with:

  • An understanding of what digital channels, tools and training you and your workplace needs, and how to set up and run them
  • Increased productivity through using digital tools designed to create efficiency
  • A strategic digital presence, that’s realistic for you and your work
  • The ability to be adaptable and prepared for change with an online workplace