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

Most commented posts

  1. Energy is unlimited — 2 comments
  2. Great performers employ CI — 1 comment
  3. Mongrel, not pedigree, leaders needed now — 1 comment
  4. Unconventional meetings — 1 comment
  5. Economic impacts of automation — 1 comment

Author's posts

Knowledge ladders

All animals, humans included, are born with a brain within which resides an instinctive control system, ticking away 24/ 7 much like a Microsoft operating system This subconscious system controls most of what we need to survive and protect ourselves, procreate, feel pain and pleasure It also stores knowledge acquired by learning by rote and practice …

Continue reading

Employee engagement drives productivity?

Employee engagement is nowadays seen as essential if an organisation is to perform well Gallup report that business units in the top quartile of employee engagement outperform bottom units with 17% higher productivity, 20% higher sales and 21% higher profitability – all big performance differences MGI – McKinsey Global Institute – report that productivity increases by …

Continue reading

Has innovation really peaked?

US economist Robert Gordon gets a lot of publicity these days for his dismal view that ‘technological innovation is declining in pace and impact compared to those of the 20th century’ – all set out in his book ‘The Rise and Fall of American Growth’ His whole thesis is based on economic growth statistics, GDP …

Continue reading

AI to spark a new productivity boom?

A new productivity boom could be sparked by AI – Artificial Intelligence? Who says so? No less than two UK government ministers Culture Secretary Karen Bradley says: “AI has the potential to improve our everyday lives” – precisely what productivity improvement is all about And Business Secretary Greg Clark claims: “Huge social and economic benefits AI …

Continue reading

Lifestyle changes are on the move

The UK’s CEBR – Centre for Economic and Business Research – claim an important change in preferences towards work is now on the move Many people are choosing jobs which offer less pay but more attractive lifestyles or ways to help others This change in attitude is already ‘a key element in around a third …

Continue reading

Financial data can be ‘dangerously misleading’

Transcript of a second broadcast where the UK’s Ed Smythe is interviewed 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 official bank …

Continue reading

UK economy depends on private debt!

N.B. This is a transcript of a broadcasted conversation between the USA’s ‘Real News Network’ and UK economist Ed Smythe G. Wilpert: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Gregory Wilpert joining you from Quito, Ecuador. UK households are spending more than their income at an unprecedented rate. Record-busting levels of privately held debt are also …

Continue reading

Scanning the productivity horizon

First, productivity improvement transformed the agriculture sector providing millions more people with more and better quality of food and drink at more affordable prices Then it was manufacturing’s turn, providing more and better clothes and shoes, white goods and cookers, bikes, cars or planes – all making lives easier and getting from A to B …

Continue reading

More job satisfaction, more pay!

“Life is not fair – get used to it” – so said Bill Gates Many bosses might agree with him, if they were honest – they’re good examples after all As people climb ladders at work, so their job satisfaction also tends to rise – more status, responsibility and power – bigger decisions to make, …

Continue reading

Great performers employ CI

There’s a direct read-across between how the best in business emulate the best in sport In an article in The Times, Matthew Syed asks ‘What separates greats from wasted talents?’: “Great athletes are hyper-confident – they don’t believe they have any weaknesses – they cannot be beaten – they’re already perfect and so cannot continually improve” …

Continue reading

Forget GDP growth?

Jacinda Arden, new Prime Minister of New Zealand and, at 37, the world’s youngest female leader, recently claimed that free markets are a ‘blatant failure’ In future, economic performance should not be measured by GDP growth and unemployment but by whether people’s lives ‘offered enjoyment and meaning’ “We need to make sure we are looking …

Continue reading

‘Flat earth’ brigade rides again

Watch, listen to or read the media and the great and good of the economic world – the heads of the UK Treasury, BoE, IFS, IMF, OECD, OBR or ONS to name but a few –  and, with rare exception, all paint the same dismal picture viz: It’s doom and gloom for the UK economy from now …

Continue reading

Business lives getting shorter

In an article in the Sunday Times, Luke Johnson, chairman of Risk Capital Partners, says turnarounds need exceptional managers or ‘company doctors’ and a radical agenda – and not many are equipped for the job First, why do many businesses fail in the short term, and virtually all in the longer term? In 1950 the …

Continue reading

GDP anew – Indigo Prize

The INDIGO PRIZE is awarded for the best answers to: “How would you design a new economic measure for global economies that fully acknowledges not only social and economic factors but the impact of creativity, entrepreneurship and digital skills? How should your new measure be used to improve the way we measure GDP in official statistics?” …

Continue reading

Business schools are failing the nation

Luke Johnson, a well-known UK businessman and Sunday Times journalist, asks: “What are business schools for?” He believes they are ‘generally failing when it comes to researching the field of business’ Apparently, there are 120 members of the UK’s Chartered Association of Business Schools but none ‘defend the achievements of business’ i.e. the merits of …

Continue reading

Depression costs billions

A study by the LSE – London School of Economics – found that depression costs South Africa a massive R232 billion a year, equivalent to around 6% of its GDP – this is due to lost productivity caused by absence from work or attending work whilst ill Janet Yellen, when Chair of the US Federal …

Continue reading

Productivity Commission (Aus) shows the way

Peter Harris, chairman of Australia’s Productivity Commission (PC), was interviewed on the airwaves The purpose of the APC is to deal with problems that the Government finds too hard – too difficult to solve – based on a fact-based analysis And it’s most important that their views are accepted as being independent The process they follow …

Continue reading

FDI boosts productivity of UK firms

According to the ONS – the UK’s Office for National Statistics – UK companies that get foreign investment are twice as productive as other firms FDI – Foreign Direct Investment – comprises not just foreign cash injections but also foreign best practices and foreign management One has only to consider the success of foreign car-makers …

Continue reading

Immortality and galactic living beckon?

Recently, some mathematicians claimed to have proved that it is impossible for we humans to live forever, despite what some optimists from the stem cell, genome or cloning camps might say According to Professor Joanna Masel, University of Arizona: “Ageing is mathematically inevitable” – we complicated animals are fated to follow one of two opposing …

Continue reading

NHS wastes £40 billion every year!

Different parts of the NHS forever claim that they’re working to capacity – that they cannot cope without the injection of significantly more resources, funded by the taxpayer, not some ‘magic money tree’ But what is the capacity of each of these parts, and the total NHS? Nobody knows – so the assumption is made …

Continue reading

Avoid ‘ludicrous’ pay levels

Once upon a time, in the UK, in the 18/ 19th centuries, many capital (factory) owners minimised their workers’ pay in order to maximise their capital gains – they overdid it – worker resistance grew and Trade Unions were formed to argue for a fair deal for employees Years later, in the 20th century, the …

Continue reading

Conglomerates’ days are over – EU beware

In the last quarter of the last century, conglomerates were all the rage – the bigger the organisation, the better – CEO Owen Green built BTR – British Tyre and Rubber – into a huge business covering engineering, packaging, materials, building products and polymers He merged Dunlop, Sumitomo rubber industries, Hawker Siddeley aircraft production, Nylex industrial products, Siebe control …

Continue reading

Future wealth will be different

There’s a world of difference between material and mental worlds The human race has reached a watershed, a tipping point, between the two where the mature benefits of the former seem to be peaking whilst the early benefits of the latter are rapidly taking hold So how do we differentiate between them? Material wealth = …

Continue reading

Implementing plans requires stamina

A good corporate plan is a punchy summary of where an organisation aims to be in five years time, say, and broadly how it is to get there Essentially, the plan should define the organisation’s business model – how it will conduct its business, be better than its rivals and be harder to copy Good …

Continue reading

Measure what you need, not what you can

Performance measures are needed by all managers, in public as well as private sectors, to steer them towards taking the right action in the right places at the right time They should answer such big questions as: Is my team/ unit on course or not – if not, how far off – are we standing …

Continue reading

UK management skills lacking

Alexandra Frean, a business columnist of The Times, claims: “The most accessible solution to Britain’s low-productivity problem is the presence in virtually every workplace of accidental managers” i.e. people who are promoted to positions quite different to past jobs where they did well She says they cannot be thrown in at the deep end – …

Continue reading

Trade Unions vote for Brexit

Some Trade Unions are beginning to realise the benefit of being free of the constraints placed upon the UK by the EU For example, the recent takeover of Opel/ Vauxhall by the French company PSA once would have been judged ‘a disaster’ because of expected closures and job losses: Now, the local Labour MP, Kelvin …

Continue reading

Economic impacts of automation

Doomsayers forecast that robots will fully automate and so steal all our jobs – others say ‘bring them on, and the sooner the better’ A gloomy report for the World Economic Forum estimates that technology will create about two million jobs worldwide by 2020 – but displace seven million This would be worrying enough for …

Continue reading

Core human needs at work

Much has already been said about hierarchies of human needs which need to be met if workers are to be motivated However, a recent study of 12,000 white collar workers by Tony Schwartz, CEO of ‘The Energy Project’ and Professor Christine Porath of Georgetown University is well worth noting They claim that employees have four …

Continue reading

AI will transform the future

In the early 19th century, most of the world’s population was employed on manual, back-breaking agricultural work – then automation increased the productivity of farmers more than tenfold whilst reducing their numbers from being the majority of the workforce to less than 2% – and the many outplaced moved on to new, better-paid jobs in …

Continue reading

The coming productivity boom

Why is the American economy not as productive as it used to be? Why is US GDP growth below 2% per annum, well short of the 3.5% it averaged before the Great Recession of 2008? Bret Swanson, President of Entropy Economics, and Michael Mandel, an economist, believe ‘the long productivity drought is almost over, as …

Continue reading

Robots to transform Education

An article in The Times reported that Anthony Seldon, former headmaster of Wellington College, UK, believes: “The imminent arrival of robot teachers will herald the greatest revolution in education” “Personalised learning, facilitated by artificial intelligence, will mean that every student from Eton to the most deprived school in Blackpool, will receive education of a standard …

Continue reading

Continuous Improvement is a must for all

In an article written by Dr John Neill for The New European he considered ways to end austerity initiatives without bankrupting the country and ‘put the UK back on the right road’ He kicked off quoting the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England arguing that if the British economy could achieve the same performance …

Continue reading

Why chase productivity improvement?

1. Productivity improvement (PI) at national level has the following aims: To improve the standard of living (SoL) of all in the land, mostly by producing more and better material goods and services at more affordable prices whilst using fewer limited and so costly resources To increase the number, quality and rewards of jobs for …

Continue reading

Future lives of leisure, not work?

Technological advances mean that many workers will lose their jobs to automation – but billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates say increasing the potential output of every human being is always a good thing Buffett says: “The idea that more output per capita should be harmful to society is crazy: If one person could push …

Continue reading

Unconventional meetings

Paul Sullivan of the New York Times, writing in The (Central Oregon) Bulletin, reveals surprising examples of new activities to increase productivity and retain employees Eric Tetuan runs an event and production company called ProductionGlue based in Midtown Manhattan, New York A few years ago, he saw staff morale was sinking and mistakes rising so …

Continue reading

Remote working

A Northern Ireland finance firm, AKFP Group, closed its HQ for a full month in July for a ‘remote working initiative’ They found it boosted both staff morale and productivity Staff were allowed to work from locations of their choice – the result was ‘they reaped the benefits of being able to change venues, eradicate …

Continue reading

Tesco’s ‘Steering Wheel’

The blunt truth, according to Terry Leahy in an article he penned for The Times, is that if public services were exposed to more competition, their performance would improve He strongly believes in competition after spending 33 years at Tesco during which time it rose from being a bit of a joke to the third …

Continue reading

Regional commuter network needs development

Several top business leaders are now pushing for government development of the regions as the best way to get UK productivity out of the current doldrums, back on track and closing the gap with the rest of the G7 In particular, they focus on the need to greatly improve public transport within, not between, those …

Continue reading

Wages up, demand up, productivity up

Some say low productivity growth results in low GDP and wages growth – and productivity growth depends on new labour-saving inventions or new managemet practices that come along which allow companies to produce more output with fewer hours of work But others question this – does low productivity cause low wages and growth, or vice versa? …

Continue reading

Skills mismatches, training failures

A report by the IPPR – Institute of Public Policy Research – claims the number of  over-educated UK workers has increased by a third over the past decade – companies are failing to make use of their skills There is also a mismatch between employees’ training and what employers find useful And yet: “About a quarter of …

Continue reading

Pareto at large

If GDP measures are to be believed, some 80% of global GDP is generated by less than 20% of the global population At global level, the top 20% of economies would appear to have productivity levels at least three to four times better than the rest, the other 80% – and this gap is widening …

Continue reading

Mongrel, not pedigree, leaders needed now

Is there something rotten at the heart of UK (and G7/ EU) leadership quite apart from the lack of good measures and productivity knowhow with which they manage their economies? Indeed, why are their economies apparently so sclerotic these days, especially the UK despite their track record for empire building, starting the Industrial Revolution and …

Continue reading

Human targets are best

In his book ‘Happiness’, Richard Layard points out that: ” People care most about their income relative to that of other people” i.e. more than the total itself He says most people would even be willing to accept a significant fall in their living standards as long as they could move up compared to other …

Continue reading

Can PLG plug a big productivity gap?

Whilst investment, innovation, competition and luck all play a significant part in the performance of any organisation, public as well as private, it is its management that has the most influence The same applies at national level with government ministers And if managers and ministers, whatever their level, are to do their jobs well they …

Continue reading

Why only labour productivity?

Why do we measure just labour productivity when it’s the productivity of all costly input resources used together that matters most: Because we always have done – it was relatively easy to count in the old manufacturing days? Because if you produce more per worker, there’s more to share out to each worker – which …

Continue reading

Happiness at work

Undoubtedly, productivity growth has made a huge difference to the quality of lives of billions of people, first by reducing work negatives – tasks that are dull, dirty, dangerous or difficult – and then increasing work positives by adding many more jobs which are interesting and fulfilling whilst also enhancing social lives with greatly improved …

Continue reading

MGI assess productivity puzzle

The MGI (McKinsey Global Institute), the in-house think tank of the consulting giant McKinsey & Co, opened a recent ‘discussion paper’ on the productivity puzzle afflicting the USA and other developed economies by stating: “Now, as low birth rates slow the expansion of the labour force, increasing productivity, the output we get from every hour …

Continue reading

National productivity measurement

Question: What is any manager at any level prompted to do when bombarded with the following: From the ONS (Office for National Statistics): “UK productivity has grown by just 0.5% – it has taken a decade to deliver as much productivity growth as was previously achievable in a single year” A media headline: “Britain has …

Continue reading

Inequality is on the move

The proportion of rich to relatively poor keeps changing as more and more of any nation’s people benefit from the huge productivity gains made since the Agricultural and then Industrial Revolutions which started in the 1700s Clearly, most of the poor in most developed G20 nations are a lot better off than their counterparts in …

Continue reading