Dick Smythe was educated at Bolton School, graduated in pure mathematics and statistics at St Andrews University and then took a masters in Operations Research at Birmingham University • He became a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, Operational Research Society, Institute of Management Services and the Institute of Physical Distribution Management • His career started with a scholarship from Dorman Long Steel on Teesside, working shifts on blast furnaces and steel mills before graduating and, afterwards, in their OR department – he subsequently moved to London to join the world-famous BISRA OR department, then part of British Steel, and was involved in their corporate planning and cost reduction programmes • During these earlier years, he became an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, serving on their coastal minesweepers, and a wing forward for Rosslyn Park RFC (n'th XV), playing mostly for their famed après-rugby • He was then recruited by Europe's leading consultancy of the day, PA Consulting Group, and went on to set up and grow their Productivity Services Division into a significant part of the business, becoming a PA director and sitting on their UK management consultancy board - whilst there, he led a joint study with the CBI into UK productivity, and presented the results on TV, radio and to the national press with Director General Sir John Banham - The Times leader commented: "It is refreshing to come across something that has its feet firmly planted on the ground" • Since then, he has mixed productivity consultancy work with playing the property and stock markets, skippering his own boat in the Fastnet and many other ocean yacht races and keeping his golf handicap down to single figures • He is happily married, has two sons and two grandchildren to date, and lives either by the Solent or at Marble Arch in London

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Author's posts

Covid-19 kickstarts gigification of knowledge work

A long-needed article in the Harvard Business Review by Sameer Hasija, V ‘Paddy’ Padmanabhan and Prashant Rampai promotes an inevitable change in the way much ‘knowledge work’ will be conducted in future – back in the 80s, we ‘gigified’ much of our Productivity Services Division’s consultancy work, much to the disdain of many in the …

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Rebuilding the Economy Around Good Jobs

A prescient article in the Harvard Business Review by Professor Zeynep Ton In countries hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, customer-facing service businesses don’t just face a tough two to three months; they face a tough two to three years. Because people will still be nervous about catching the disease until a vaccine is widely available, …

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Will companies shift from China to India?

A tectonic shift in global business supply chains may be about to happen according to an article in the Harvard Business Review by Vijay Govindarajan and Gunjan Bagla   America’s (and other developed nations’) relationship with the two most populous countries in the world, China and India, is undergoing a stark, rapid and perhaps permanent transformation. …

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A clear vision for the post-crisis future?

An HBR article by Mark W. Johnson and Josh Suskewicz follows – we called this approach ‘normative forecasting’ back in the good ol’ days   As the Covid-19 pandemic shakes the global economy and disrupts the way we live, work, and conduct business, leaders are scrambling to manage the immediate fallout. But, as history proves, …

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Productivity, Credit and Debt

A great 30 minute YouTube video – “How the Economic Machine Works” – is well worth watching It was made some years ago by Ray Dalio, Co-Chief Investment Officer & Co-Chairman of Bridgewater Associates He explains the fundamentals behind how national economies work, how human nature makes credit and debt cycles inevitable, and how, ultimately, …

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The post-pandemic world?

An article by Hubert Joly in the HBR  (Harvard Business Review) raises some interesting thoughts on human needs that leaders should consider once we’re through this pandemic and past these ‘watershed times’   During the Covid-19 crisis, I’ve spoken with many CEOs who have said that a key priority for them, naturally, has been the …

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How to make ‘remote work’ more productive

An interesting slant on the pandemic impact follows – published by FastCompany.com and written by behavioural scientist Kristen Berman It might seem like the glorious era of remote work is upon us, driven by a pandemic push. Zoom! Slack! Who needs the office? The promise of uncompromised productivity paired with freedom is alluring. While software …

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Pandemic offers a productivity boost?

 An interesting article by Chris Dillow was recently published in the Investors’ Chronicle Has the coronavirus solved the UK’s problem of stagnant labour productivity?   It’s a strange question, but one posed by Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts. It expects that in 2021 we’ll be producing 2.8 per cent more than we did in …

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Coronavirus statistics: what can we trust?

The flurry of figures, graphs and projections surrounding the pandemic is confusing. An article in The Guardian by two experts, Sylvia Richardson and Professor David Spiegelhalter, guides us through the maze The past few weeks has seen an unstoppable epidemic … of statistics. The flood threatens to overwhelm us all, but what do all these numbers …

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Coaching Your Team Through Uncertain Times

An interesting article all locked-down managers should read by Francesca Gino and Dan Cable, and published by the Harvard Business Review As they try to ride out the coronavirus pandemic, people are stressed and scared — nervous about others’ and their own health and the state of the world. For those lucky enough to be …

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It’s output results, not input hours, that matter

A piece by Jared Lindzon of Fast Company follows – at long last, some in the outside world are now saying what this website has been banging on about for years – the pandemic has reinforced how foolish it is to compare input times with output volumes, especially when it comes to knowledge-based work. In …

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Office productivity

OFFICES ARE ABOUT TO CAUSE PRODUCTIVITY TO EXPLODE So claims Mike Phillips in one of Bisnow.com’s featured series on the ‘Future of Work’ – it’s more realisation that the pandemic has given a massive kick-start to many business changes needed given the enabling technology has been around but not used well for many years now  …

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A shorter work week?

Some interesting views from The Socialist, an Australian publication Microsoft recently granted its workers in Japan five Friday’s off in a row, resulting in a 40% productivity jump. Similar recent experiments have resulted in healthier, happier more efficient workers.  Around the world the idea of reducing working hours is a topic of debate and discussion …

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Steve Jobs’ advice on becoming more productive Is quite brilliant

Inc.com published an article by Marcel Schwantes, founder and Chief Human Officer, Leadership From the Core Steve Jobs is most famous for founding Apple and turning it into one of the biggest and most valuable brands ever. One may think that Jobs juggled lots of massive projects at once to reach the pinnacle of success. But he actually credited much …

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M/S says “Remote working is here for good”

An Inc.com report by Jason Aten follows – with only a few changes: If nothing else, in these past few weeks, we’ve learned that as a whole, people are quite resourceful when it comes to figuring out how to adapt and stay productive, even in extraordinary circumstances. You have to admit that it’s impressive how …

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Will the Pandemic make us more productive?

The following thoughts, published by Bloomberg Opinion, are from Karl W. Smith, a former assistant professor of economics at the University of North Carolina and vice president for federal policy at the Tax Foundation. The Great Suppression will continue to cause enormous economic and personal hardship for scores of millions of Americans. It is possible, …

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How to boost office productivity

The following article is by Constantine Von Hoffman, published by Computerworld and sponsored by Microsoft – it offers important advice for all office managers nowadays Upgrading to new applications and tools can do so much for a business. Up-to-date software can improve efficiencies and boost productivity, leading to both top-line and bottom-line gains. But getting …

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The economic impact of CV-19?

An article in the Harvard Business Review by Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, Martin Reeves and Paul Swartz follows – the bulk that I think I understood makes interesting reading – maybe the rest does too! As the coronavirus continues its march around the world, governments have turned to proven public health measures, such as social distancing, to physically disrupt …

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CV-19 kick starts new mentalist era

CV-19 naturally dominates the news at present – it’s all ‘doom and gloom’ as we wonder if the damned invisible bug will ‘get us’ or not We’re told there are computer models (so they must be right?) being used by experts to determine their advice on what we all should do, the aim being to …

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Covid -19 should make ‘working from home’ the norm

A flash of insight from New Zealand Go to any technology website right now, and you’ll see headlines about Google now holding job interviews on Hangouts. Or IBM stopping all domestic travel for meetings. Or Twitter encouraging all of its employees to work from home to prevent spreading the virus. David Court says working from …

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A pandemic positive!

Hamza Mudassar, writing in ‘Entrepreneur’, believes the global Covid-19 pandemic currently raging  around the world ‘will shape businesses for decades to come’ Black swan events, such as economic recessions and pandemics, change the trajectory of governments, economies and businesses — altering the course of history. The Black Death in the 1300s broke the long-ingrained feudal …

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Financial data can be ‘dangerously misleading’

This is a transcript of a second broadcast interview of UK economist Ed Smythe by the USA’s Real News Network GREGORY WILPERT: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Gregory Wilpert, joining you from Quito, Ecuador. The Bank of England has raised interest rates in the UK for the first time in a decade. The …

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Important trends for SME productivity

All business managers want their teams to get more done in less time – this means there needs to be a focus on prioritising efficient workflows while remaining consistently effective. According to therealtimereport.com, there are some important business productivity trends that all business owners and their teams need to be aware of : 1. The …

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Capitalism or Communism?

Communism has been defined as a system where: People work according to their ability and receive according to their needs All big decisions are made at the centre All data is processed at the centre   Capitalism, on the other hand, is an alternative where: People are free to buy/ sell/ invest in whatever they like …

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Universal Credit conflicts

In a new report, presented to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, researchers argue Universal Credit should focus on supporting people into decent and productive work where their skills and capabilities will be developed and used effectively. A ‘work first, then work more’ approach facilitated by Universal Credit, which is focused on placing conditions …

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Following the wrong stars?

  “The lacklustre level of productivity growth in the UK, commonly measured as the level of output per hour worked, has been evident ever since the financial crisis in 2008/09 and has, as of yet, shown so signs of coming to an end” So claimed an article by Eleanor Stevenson, written for Ebury Partners UK …

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Mavericks don’t fit straitjackets

Recall what the great Steve Jobs said: “Think differently” when giving reasons for the global success of Apple Then consider the spat between Finn Russell, the supremely talented Scotland fly-half and Gregor Townsend, the current Scotland rugby team manager and ex-fly-half, which was reported on in the Sunday Times by ex-England fly-half, Stuart Barnes Russell …

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Piketty tackles inequality

Thomas Piketty, the French economist ‘rock star’, has just published a new tome – Capital and Ideology – a mere 1,100 pages of it David Smith reported in the Sunday Times that ‘it looks at inequality regimes over time’ Key points Piketty makes include: “Every human society must justify its inequalities” – but notes that the …

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Inherited inequality

The following extracts were taken from an Audrey Pollnow review of ‘The Meritocracy Trap: How America’s Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite’ by Daniel Markovits Markovits, a professor of law at Yale, argues that a system that once promoted social mobility has created a self-perpetuating class of elites – …

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Process productivity decided by humans

By Tommy Weir, for Gulf News and author of “Leadership Dubai Style” When it comes to boosting productivity, people immediately point to the need for process improvement, automation or outsourcing, whilst overlooking the most important factor of all – the human worker Indeed, many companies are happy to splash cash on technologies and strategies that …

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BIF drains, not lines, national coffers

The following are extracts from ‘Divested’ by Ken-Hou Lin and Megan Tobias Neely They claim the BIF – Banking Insurance Finance – sector is draining, not lining, developed nations’ coffers For proof, they look to the USA’s experience Until the 1970s, the financial sector accounted for a mere 15% of all US corporate profits: Banks …

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The puzzle to persist?

According to Valentina Romei, writing in the Financial Times, the last decade  saw living standards in the UK grow at their slowest rate since the second world war She says: “The jobs bonanza, and the economy’s performance as a whole, was undermined by weak productivity, which grew at its slowest level in 60 years” She …

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Billionaires reveal their secrets

An interesting piece by Jade Scipioni in a CNBC news piece ‘Beyond the Valley’ There are some 2,600 billionaires in the world — and more than two-thirds are self-made A few have of the latter have shared lessons on life and how they found success Warren Buffett, worth some $80 billion – Invest in yourself: …

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AI promises huge productivity gains for financial services

In an article by Donna Fuscaldo in Forbes magazine she claims AI (Artificial intelligence) will bring lots of gains to the financial services industry, whether it’s through automating processes or adding more convenience for their customers. But now we can quantify just how big of an enhancement AI will have on the bottom line for …

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2020 foresight for fossil-free energy

A report by Kelsey Warner in The National says that, over the next 10 years, the Middle East’s biggest export could become the sun, not oil, thanks to new technology that turns solar power into fuel A new Bill Gates-backed clean energy company, Heliogen, based in Lancaster, California, has concentrated solar energy to exceed 1,500°C …

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Wasted time at school

Government sanctioned waste has a lot to answer for Ministers might bang on about the importance of productivity improvement but their thinking seems restricted to vital investment in infrastructure, R&D and skills training Drive around any town mid-afternoon and see streams of kids walking home from school – and wonder what they do when they …

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Productivity crisis fixed?

The Times has announced a project to be run by the strangely named ‘Be the Business’, a government sponsored initiative aimed at solving the productivity crisis said to be afflicting the nation 100 big companies, including Amazon, Aviva, BAE systems, British Land, Cisco, Google and Rolls Royce, ‘will promise to boost UK productivity by encouraging …

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More recognition of ‘consumer surpli’

A splendid article by Diane Coyle, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge and contributor to www.project-syndicate.org, has just been posted by the East African Business Week – it’s entitled ‘Rethinking Productivity’ and helps explain much of the current productivity puzzle supposedly afflicting many developed nations, including the UK The word “productivity” typically …

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Wasting time is not wasted time

Rest periods, R & R, tea breaks, lunch breaks and most meetings – call them what you will – are essential for brawn workers’ muscles to recover – they couldn’t work at full speed for a solid eight hours – just as Usain Bolt couldn’t run full pelt over 400 metres compared with 100 metres …

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National inputs also ‘seriously flawed’

Official measures of GDP are said to be ‘seriously flawed’ Now, a report by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and the Centre for Cities think tank claims ‘millions more people are unemployed than official statistics suggest’ Worse still: “The joblessness rate could be three times higher than thought” because some three million …

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At last, official recognition of the ‘GDP gap’

Yian Mui reports on CNBC that the US Federal Reserve wants to know what the internet is worth to you. He says the answer could help the central bank solve one of the most puzzling paradoxes of the modern economy: The current expansion is the longest in history, yet productivity gains are weak and GDP growth, …

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New UK ‘Productivity Institute’

Productivity of UK businesses is set to be supercharged with £88 million in new government investment announced the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy: £88 million new government investment to help close the productivity gap between UK and major world economies and turbocharge British businesses investment will help power the next generation supercomputers which …

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Productivity stagnant despite global stimulus

Mark John reports that economies around the world have failed to boost productivity levels despite $10 trillion of central bank stimulus unleashed since the global financial crisis of a decade ago, according to the WEF (World Economic Forum) think tank. Productivity, a measure of an economy’s ability to generate growth, has become of a matter …

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A National ‘Balanced Scorecard’

All nations – governments and their electorates – need a National Balanced SCorecard (NBSC) of performance measures – a set of cardinals they each can monitor which covers all important factors affecting their standard of living (SoL) and quality of lives (QoL) The  NBSC would be a mix of measures – some absolute, some subjective …

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Beware ‘snooptech’

Ben Gallagher, co-founder of B+A, a management consultancy, raised an interesting slant on new digital possibilities ‘Snooptech’, as the Telegraph reported recently, is a £2.7billion industry The increasing sophistication of digital tools, as well as the continued stagnancy of productivity in the UK, has created a market for technology whose sole purpose is to allow companies …

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BoE powerless in UK productivity crisis

Tim Wallace in the Daily Telegraph reports Mark Carney, Governor of the BoE – Bank of England – saying: “Britain’s economy has a new, lower speed limit” Growth can only get to even modest levels before inflation takes off whereupon ‘we must ease our foot off the accelerator’ Ben Broadbent, one of Carney’s deputies, claims: …

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Three Factors Of Successful Companies

Kweilin Ellingrud, a senior partner at McKinsey & Co, contributed the following interesting article to Forbes magazine   It’s been 12 years since the last recession, when the World Bank estimates that global GDP fell by 1.7%. But some companies were better prepared than others: their revenues didn’t fall as far and, as the recession …

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Organisation productivity measurement

Professor Jillian MacBryde from the University of Strathclyde says: “When manufacturers talk about productivity, they’re not talking about the same thing as the economists and politicians – they’re not even talking about the same thing when you go from company to company” Such is the current fog enshrouding the productivity of UK businesses The set …

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Mentalism overtaking Materialism

According to official statistics, the GDPs of all G7 developed nations have been trending flat, even downward, over the last decade and more The big question is whether, at the turn of the century, the G7 reached a watershed between their old 20th century materialist economies and the new 21st century mentalist economies – the …

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A new ISC rides to the rescue

Puzzle no more about dormant national productivity – the cavalry have arrived in the form of Andy Haldane, chief economist of the BoE (Bank of England) who is to chair the government’s new ISC – Industrial Strategy Council – it’s another quango of sorts for a select few of our great and good to deal …

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