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

Wealth of nations via TFP?

Why are some nations rich, others poor – and what does it mean for future prosperity? Amitrajeet Batabyal, Professor of Economics at Rochester Institute of Technology, and writing for ‘The Conversation US‘, argues that TFP is not an academic construct comprising ‘magic fairy dust’, as the Bank of England once claimed, but highly significant for …

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Faster productivity growth would solve many problems

Macro level productivity pearls, published in the Financial Post and penned by William Robson, CEO of the C. D. Howe Institute. which have a direct read-across from Canada to many other developed nations, especially the UK Canadians are beset by economic problems. Inflation is hammering their purchasing power. Forecasters are predicting weak, if any, growth …

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Inflation: there’s a vital way to reduce it that everyone overlooks – raise productivity

David McMillan, Professor in Finance at the University of Stirling and writing for the WEF – World Economic Forum – offers his thoughts on the current economic situation Inflation has become one of the great issues of our times. The UK’s is the highest in the G7, weighing in at 9% a year according to the most …

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Unions can be good for labor and business

I well remember the 70s, the days of ‘Red Robbo’ who destroyed the British owned car industry with outrageous, incessant strikes for more totally unjustified pay rises – and sitting around a boardroom table whilst the Union reps led the meeting and the CEO wld just sit there and dare not disagree – so read …

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How does South Korea surpass Japan in real GDP per capita?

Richard Katz, a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, draws a few lessons from the growth experience of South Korea versus Japan over the last several years which could provide useful guidelines for the UK and others A major geoeconomic event occurred in 2018 when South Korea’s real GDP per capita …

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Capital Spending Boom Helps Raise Productivity

David Harrison, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says spending on technology has soared as businesses adjust to higher wages and remote WFH    American businesses are ramping up technology investment and other capital spending as they emerge from the pandemic. If sustained, that investment boom could boost productivity and living standards and counteract inflation pressure. …

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Productivity is key to “levelling up”

In an article for Prospect magazine, Adrian Pabst, a professor of politics at the University of Kent, claims  HMG’s current initiatives for ‘levelling up’ are somewhat half-hearted . Pabst is also the author of ‘The Demons of Liberal Democracy (Polity)’ and Deputy Director (Social and Political Economy) at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research The government’s White Paper sets out …

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Five Days a Week in the Office? It’s Better for Everyone.

Allison Schrager makes several good points against 100% WFH – she is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk.” After a year of Zoom meetings and awkward virtual happy hours, New York’s youngest aspiring financiers …

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Your boss wants to boil you slowly like a frog

Chloe Berger, writing for Fortune.com, says beating the Monday blues will be especially trying for Google employees. Workers are required to come into company headquarters three times a week. But according to Laszlo Bock, former chief of Google human resources and current CEO of Humu, this hybrid model won’t be around much longer. Bock says that …

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The COVID ‘productivity boom’ is a myth

Janice C. Eberly is reported on by ‘Business Insider’ – she claims that, with remote work, employees lose the connectivity that might help them advance their careers – in particular: New research shows the GDP would have fallen more steeply in 2020 if people weren’t able to work from home. But working from home prevents …

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Employers want workers in the office for the company culture, not productivity

Rebecca Greenfield, writing in Bloomberg News, raises some interesting thoughts concerning WFH – especially those of Mark Mullenweg, founder of ‘WordPress‘, the software which brings you this post, and CEO of web software maker Automattic, who has operated for 16 years without a home base Ask executives why they’re desperate to get workers back in …

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Sunak’s economic growth philosophy

Rishi Sunak’s Mais lecture revealed a chancellor focusing hard on how to address the UK’s flagging long-term economic growth but overlooking the need for a more muscular, interventionist approach, says Giles Wilkes for the Institute of Government After last autumn’s budget, I asked “where is Rishi Sunak’s plan for growing the economy?”. In a lecture …

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Britain’s productivity has been battered by the scarcity of affordable homes in cities

Affordable housing is an important but often-overlooked factor in determining a nation’s productivity performance – the following article published by City.am and written by researcher ARIA BABU at the Entrepreneurs Network provides some much-needed publicity Londoners are feeling the squeeze. The Bank of England has forecast the biggest annual fall in living standards for at …

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A short history of jobs and automation

Sean Fleming, writing for the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Summit, highlights that robotics and automation have come to play an important part in many aspects of modern manufacturing – the same could be said for the impact of computers and the internet on the other 80% of developed economies, the service industries. One-third of …

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A brief history of GDP

Author Peter Vanham, from the World Economic Forum, looks at GDP – Gross Domestic Product – the sum of the value of all goods and services produced in a country each year, which has become the main tool for measuring a country’s economy – and rightly emphasises its inventor’s warnings about its limitations What if …

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Why do we still measure things in horsepower?

A thought-provoker by Joe Phelan, published on LiveScience If you’re buying a car and have no experience with power measurements or vehicle stats, you may be baffled by one of the vehicle’s key capabilities: its horsepower. Based on that term, you may assume that a horse can produce around 1 horsepower. Linguistically, it makes perfect sense. …

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The rise of intangible capitalism

A report in the Jordan Times heralds the future for us all – indeed, it has already started – written by Eric Hazan, a managing partner at McKinsey & Company, Jonathan Haskel, Professor of Economics at Imperial College London. and Stian Westlake, Executive Director of Policy and Research at Nesta  In a 2014 book, the …

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Many ways to stuff up productivity

More good stuff from down under – with Ross Gittins, Economics editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, offering solutions to the current ‘productivity puzzle’ afflicting most G7 nations at least A good New Year’s resolution for readers of the business pages would be to read more widely and think more broadly, so their thinking about …

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Productivity down under

Large extracts follow from an interesting article by Judith Sloan, a leading economist and ex Commissioner of the Australian Productivity Commission, writing in ‘The Australian‘ – she makes many good points which other ‘experts’ tend to skim over, including recognition that current productivity measurement is seriously lacking – but she then goes on to base …

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Billionaire investor warns inflation to curtail gains

Billionaire investor Ray Dalio sounded the alarm bell after inflation in the US surged to the highest level since 1990 and warned his social media followers that rising portfolio values do not necessarily signify increasing wealth. “Some people make the mistake of thinking that they are getting richer because they are seeing their assets go …

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Automation – friend or foe?

Robert Skidelsky, writing in the Guardian, points out that the growth of mechanisation brings many benefits, but vigilance is needed to keep it in check   What the economic historian Aaron Benanav calls the “automation discourse” has been going ever since the luddites smashed textile machinery in Nottingham in 1811. At issue is whether machines destroy or …

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Clusters to level up UK

YahooFinance reports that the best way for the government to deliver economic growth across the UK is by creating, or building on, clusters of economic activity in different parts of the country – something the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is about to say – years ago, we strongly recommended the same in ‘Productivity Knowhow’, …

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Having the power to put a spanner in the works pays very well

Torsten Bell, CEO of the Resolution Foundation and reported by the Guardian, claims: “If your skills mean you can hold things up at work you’ll be rewarded far better than the easily replaceable” Power matters. It’s central to international relations and politics, but doesn’t always feature prominently in economics. The power that does get attention, …

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Weak investment, innovation and management hamper UK productivity

David Milliken reports on a new research study for Reuters which claims: “Low business investment, weak management and too few commercial patents are the main factors behind Britain’s weak productivity record that has been a puzzle for policymakers for years” A study by researchers at the London School of Economics and Resolution Foundation think tank …

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Digital Solutions empower the employee experience

Enterprises are still adjusting to hybrid work. While many challenges still stand in the way of efficiency, new digital solutions are accelerating new channels of communication, new ways of networking, managing, and generally helping employees thrive – the following reads as an ad in disguise, but it’s still interesting If there’s one thing organizations have …

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Busy but not productive?

HOUSTON A new APQC study found that the average knowledge worker spends only 30 hours out of a 40-hour week on productive work, resulting in lower job satisfaction and greater likelihood of leaving their company. APQC’s research found that training, mentoring, and employee empowerment can help organizations navigate these productivity challenges. APQC, which surveyed 982 full-time knowledge workers, …

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Entrepreneurs – Naturally More Productive

According to John Hall for Entrepreneur United States: “Being an entrepreneur isn’t for the faint of heart. While it’s true that there’s some luck involved, not only do you need a big idea, you also have to have the courage and tenacity to see it through. As a result, this means putting in long days …

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The British Government’s approach to the economy’s productivity problem needs a rethink

 Derek du Preez, writing  for diginomica.com, claims that the British Government has a tendency to focus on sector specific issues whilst failing to recognize that productivity is an economy-wide problem that is highly interconnected It is widely acknowledged that the UK has a productivity problem. After decades of growth, the financial crisis of 2008 led …

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How can technological innovation mitigate climate change?

Stephen Carson  and Harald Edquist, in an article published by ericsson.com, claim technological progress has the power to transform lives, but it’s often come at a high cost – they outline how technological innovation, specifically ICT, can play a leading role in addressing the challenges of climate change. In effect, the more ICT employed, the …

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Low-paid migrants are no answer to labor shortages

The Wall Street Journal reports on a speech to Boris Johnson’s supporters where the U.K. prime minister talks of a new economic model but meets criticism from some traditional party backers British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would press ahead with his government’s pledge to end the influx of low-paid migrant workers despite the country’s …

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How to boost productivity with ‘Autonomous Motivation’

Some interesting thoughts from Dr Marc Nickell, a Forbes Business Council member and co-founder of Rocket Station – he is ‘obsessed with the pursuit of better practices’ – extracts from a recent article follow   The success of your business depends on the team of people who work in your office. Their productivity is directly …

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Who Will Win and Lose in the Post-Covid Economy?

A wise, balanced article on national economic options which lie immediately ahead, post pandemic – published by the HBR, written  by Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, Paul Swartz and Martin Reeves of Boston Consulting Group As an extraordinary recovery is underway, it won’t be long before business leaders face a perennial political economy question: With wages rising and …

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Why Computers Didn’t Improve Productivity

A ‘sad but true’ article in many respects by Steve Denning just published by Forbes.com – it reflects much of my own experience, starting with only getting access to a mainframe IBM 1401 overnight, and alone, to develop a computer simulation programme for redesigning the electric arc steelplant – the computer was busy all day …

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Collaboration Overload Is Sinking Productivity

An article about employees’ changed workloads in this new post-pandemic era,  published by the renowned Harvard Business Review , written by Rob Cross, Mike Benson, Jack Kostal and R J Milnor – and precised below Collaborative work — the time spent on email, IM, phone and video calls — has risen 50% or more over the …

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4 reasons hybrid offices won’t work

A provocative article by Joseph Woodbury, CEO of Neighbor, and published by fastcompany.com – arguing that WFH full-time is not a sensible productivity tactic In a singular (and hopefully rare) global pandemic, we seem to have collectively forgotten our need for each other. Without thinking twice, companies are rushing to roll out remote work policies …

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History tells us what will decide whether we work from home in the future

Another good article from Ross Gittins, economics editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, who always peddles a lot of sense   By now it seems cut and dried. The pandemic has taught us to love the benefits of working from home and stopped bosses fearing it, so we’ll keep doing it once the virus has …

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How Artificial Intelligence Will Shape Our Future

A prescient and wise article just published in entrepreneur.com and penned by Archil Cheishvili claims we’ll witness the creation of industries that are unimaginable now, thanks to AI As AI improves and becomes more powerful, its impact on the world economy will become vastly more significant. It will affect virtually every aspect of the world economy — from unemployment rates …

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The future is not so bright

Realism or pessimism from Martin Wolf in the Financial Times – read on and decide? The 2020s will determine whether we have a chance of averting irreversible damage to the climate. But, for the UK, this comes together with other big challenges. Its response will also determine what happens to the wellbeing of its people. …

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Britain is running out of new ideas and it’s killing productivity

Writing in Cityam.com, Sam Dumitriu, Research Director at the Entrepreneurs Network, addresses a longer term problem with current efforts to improve national productivity – the problem being that, despite more brainworker inputs, the impact of their new-ideas is becoming more and more marginal  It is no secret that Britain is in a productivity slump (if …

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World’s largest trial of a shorter work week

In an article for Mashable.com, Amanda Yeo reports that Iceland ran the world’s largest trial of a shorter work week – and says ‘the results will (not) shock you’ The trial was run from 2015 to 2019. An analysis of the results was finally published this week, and surprise! Everyone was happier, healthier, and more …

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High productivity figures pre-Covid masked some underperformance

Martin Wall, writing in the Irish Times, reports that Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste (Irish Deputy PM) says the government is seeking to have a record 2.5m people in work in 2024 – he offers some ideas which other nations might consider Ireland’s high national productivity figures before the Covid crisis masked significant areas of underperformance in …

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Prioritise employee wellbeing

A chap called Barney Cotton, writing in the Business Leader, recommends prioritising employee well-being, the latest hot business topic, or companies may suffer greatly   Personio, a European HR software for SMEs, is calling for businesses to prioritise employee wellbeing alongside company culture – or risk a boom of burnout, and in the worst cases, …

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Back to dreary normal?

Chris Dillow makes several interesting points in an article in the Investors Chronicle, finishing on a ‘slender’ positive note  The economy is returning to normal. Latest figures show that since November real GDP has risen 3.5 per cent and the number of employees by 429,000. Yes, both are still well below pre-pandemic levels, but we’re getting there. Which …

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A 5-hour workday is most productive?

Douglas Perry, writing in the Oregonian, claims the 8-hour workday is a ‘holdover of old ways; research suggests 5 hours is the office time sweet spot’ Eight hours is too long to spend at work. Recent research says so. The 8-hour workday has been the norm for more than a century, but employee surveys suggest …

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The coming productivity boom

An article of optimism in the MIT Review by Erik Brynjolfsson and Georgios Petropoulos – AI and other digital technologies have been surprisingly slow to improve economic growth, but that could be about to change. Productivity growth, a key driver for higher living standards, averaged only 1.3% since 2006, less than half the rate of …

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A government review of social care

The following impressive, yet depressing, article from John Seddon, head of Vanguard Consultants – I have no connection with them, and never even met him, but regular readers will know I’m an admirer of their approach to productivity improvement which seems far more efficient and effective than all others peddled by the bigger consultancies, including …

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Pandemic provides unexpected boost to UK’s productivity prospects

Valentina Romei offers the following in the Financial Times Technology and machinery investment is up 3.2% compared with pre-pandemic levels The shift to homeworking, online consumption and social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic has driven increased investment in new technologies that could deliver an unexpected lift to the UK’s long-term productivity slump. Britain has been …

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How to solve the puzzle of missing productivity growth

A perceptive article published by the Brookings Institution and written by the well-known economist Erik Brynjolfsson and two colleagues, Seth G. Benzell and Daniel Rock Despite the economic damage wrought by the novel coronavirus over the past year, an analysis published by The Economist in December 2020 argues that the COVID-19 pandemic may have made a boom in productivity more …

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Don’t Underestimate the Power of Kindness at Work

An important article follows on the powerful impact that kindness can have on a range of productivity issues, especially as we move from an era of materialism to mentalism – it was published in the Harvard Business Review, written by Ovul Sezer, Kelly Nault and Nadav Klein and clearly supports my wife, Rhona’s quote: “There’s no …

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AI and productivity

Extracts follow from a ‘cover story’ just published in the Financier Worldwide Magazine The global AI market has rocketed in recent years: According to UBS, the AI industry was a $5bn marketplace by revenue in 2015. By 2025, the size of the AI software market is forecast to reach $126bn McKinsey Global Institute reckons AI …

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