Our Team

Dr Ron McDowall ONZM – Co-founder and Director

PhD, M.Phil, D.Phil, BBS/Sc, CPEng, IntPE

Ron is a co-founder of Rutherford Business Group and its subsidiaries, including Rutherford Business Institute, Rutherford Business Futures, and Rutherford Consulting. He teaches in the AUT MBA programme and is an honorary senior lecturer at the University of Waikato School of Engineering. His current teaching and research focuses on complexity and chaos, resilience, decision/judgment theory, foresighting/backcasting, sustainability, governance and ethics. Ron is a Chartered Professional Engineer, a registered international ‘Ingenieur’ and is a former board member of Institution of Professional Engineers NZ (now Engineering New Zealand). He is also a Professional Member of the Royal Society of NZ. Ron was awarded the ONZM for services to science for his work with the UN, and also received an award from the Government of France for service in the field. His international experience with world agencies includes facilitating many interagency negotiations, conferences, and workshops. Ron has consulted internationally to more than thirty governments along with the World Bank and most United Nations agencies. He has consulted to many corporate organisations both internationally and nationally.

Ron was a specialist scientist engineer working in the area of sustainable development in developing countries and has traveled the world on more than 140 major UN Food and Agriculture Organisation missions. He has more than 30 years of industrial consulting engineering and management experience with many industry sector groups.

Ron is a well-established and recognised international expert on complex systems, the decision sciences and sustainability, from both technical, engineering and business points of view. He has presented courses all around the world, covering high-stakes decision making and executive judgment for hundreds of senior executives. Ron maintains an ongoing program of consultancy, research, and publishes articles for well-recognised international organisations UN Environment Program, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Bank, UN Development Program, and many refereed conference papers.

Dr James McDowall – Co-founder and Director

PhD, BMS(Hons)

James is a marketing technology futurist and has a doctorate in marketing. He was the first in New Zealand to utilise scenarios and futures studies at this academic level. This study included significant research into artificial intelligence and its impact on business practice. Outside of his research, James is an experienced marketer, and works with companies in New Zealand and abroad, in addition to managing his own business ventures. James is a professional member of both the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Institute of Directors, and is often asked to speak on the topics of artificial intelligence and futures at events throughout New Zealand.

Nicole Oliver – Co-founder and Director

B.Bus, MPM(Agri-Business), PhD candidate

Nicole is a big-picture thinker who is passionate about helping individuals and businesses have ‘lightbulb moments’. She takes a strategic approach to projects and has an enthusiasm for digital marketing and communications and helping clients she works with get this right. Her areas of strength are in online communication, developing social media strategies and digital content creation, including videography and photography. As well as her strengths in the digital space, Nicole has an in-depth knowledge of the agri sector and is involved with a number of organisations, such as NZ Young Farmers and the Rural Business Network. Nicole was recently a digital advisor and photographer to former Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Bill English. She is a graduate of The University of Waikato with a Masters in Agribusiness and is a current PhD candidate.

Wendy Oliver MBA – Co-founder and Managing Director

Wendy is an entrepreneur with over 24 years’ experience developing businesses in the agri-business and honey industries, leading the development of significant exporting businesses. Wendy’s skills are business development, strategy, sales, relationship management, business acumen and leadership. Wendy is a member of the Institute of Directors and has an MBA with Distinction from The University of Waikato.


Dr Sohail Inayatullah

UNESCO Chair in Future Studies, Futurist at the Graduate Institute of Futures Studies, Tamkang University, Taipei; and Melbourne Business School, the University of Melbourne; and Adjunct Professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. He has written and co-edited 22 books. Sohail has over 30 years’ experience as a forward thinker. He has helped leaders from Canada, Turkey, Thailand, Australia, France, Malaysia, South Korea, Belgium, Hong Kong SAR, Iran, Turkey, Switzerland, Singapore and many other countries create the narrative they need to shape their future. Sohail provides the learning framework to consider alternatives and help envisage the preferred future.