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. Looking To The Future: Redefining Work — 3 comments
  2. Energy is unlimited — 2 comments
  3. Unconventional meetings — 1 comment
  4. Ridding ourselves of the productivity fetish will help us combat climate change — 1 comment
  5. Future lives of leisure, not work? — 1 comment

Author's posts

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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How We Work Has Changed Forever

Keir Weimer pens his thoughts in a Forbes magazine article – he adds that he is founder of Keir Weimer Multimedia, a real estate & lifestyle entrepreneur, No. 1 bestselling author, keynote speaker & high-performance coach.   The world has changed dramatically over the last 12 months, and so too has the way we work …

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Productivity After The Pandemic

Interesting views  expressed in the Financial Advisor magazine from Laura Tyson, former chair of the U.S. President’s Council of Economic Advisers, is Professor of the Graduate School at the Haas School of Business and Chair of the Blum Center Board of Trustees at the University of California, Berkeley. Sadly, as ever, they all hinge on …

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Counting hours worked isn’t cutting it anymore

A bang-on article in Fortune magazine by Robert Pozen, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management  If you are reading this, do you really care how many hours I took to write it? Or do you just care about the freshness of my ideas and the clarity of my writing? As this example illustrates, counting …

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Flexible work schedules are attractive to many remote employees. 

Jesper Schultz is  CEO of BasicOps, a San Francisco internet-platform, who allowed his remote employees to set their own working hours and found they were way more productive and much happier as a result. During the pandemic, he allowed his small team to adjust their preferred working hours. The flexibility encouraged workers to prioritise their …

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U.S. May See Post-Pandemic Productivity Surge

Rich Miller pens an optimistic article for bloomberg.com – welcome stuff after the past year plus – he refers to a McKinsey & Co. report which makes a lot of good sense for what may happen out there – indeed, only they, of all the management consultants in the world, publicly recognise the importance of …

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Looking To The Future: Redefining Work

Aruna Ravichandran, a Forbes Councils Member, offers a very readable and sensible article on the way work must be radically re-organised in future – and emphasises our regular drum-beat that “it’s outputs that matter most, not inputs and presenteeism”   Back in the before time — that is, before March of 2020 — many of …

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Now is the time to embrace a four-day workweek

Brad Badelt is a freelance science and environment writer – a Canadian based in Vancouver – his article below adds weight to the increasing momentum for a reduction in working hours per week for most employees – albeit not all – for example, brainworkers work 24/ 7 In 1930, at the onset of the Great …

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The Pandemic Is Widening a Corporate Productivity Gap

Bains claim to recruit the ‘best of the best’ to its consultancy ranks – so bear this in mind when reading the following extracts from an article by Eric Garton and Michael Mankins, both Bains partners – they claim the pandemic has widened the gap between top performers and other companies   During the Covid-19 …

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We’re Productive, But Are We ‘Okay?’

Rick Western, CEO at Kotter, is an expert in transformational change in complex global organizations and has spent more than 35 years assisting Fortune 100 companies with strategic initiatives, leading development activities and managing business units – he raises some interesting points about human capital well-being in an article for the ‘Chief Executive’ magazine which should …

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It’s time to redefine workplace productivity

By Adrienne Gormley – an article in Techradar.pro fully supporting our view that, apart from the huge increase in the amount of time available for productive work caused by the pandemic, there’s also a huge increase in productivity on the way as people focus on why they’re paid, not the time they input Business leaders …

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COVID’s creative destruction is cause for productivity optimism

Positive thinking from across the pond – Business in Vancouver, by Jock Finlayson and Ken Peacock  Amid the human carnage and economic pain caused by the COVID-19 calamity, it is tempting to search for silver linings. One that is attracting interest among some economists is the prospect of a productivity resurgence once the pandemic is firmly …

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Productivity is almost magical, but don’t forget the side effects

Ross Gittins, economics editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, highlights the benefits of national productivity improvement in his article below – in particular, he applauds the effectiveness of Australia’s  very own ‘Productivity Commission’ – however, he rightly reminds all that mental wellbeing is at least as important as material wellbeing  Something we’ve had to relearn …

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Improve Productivity By Getting Better At Being Better

Some practical suggestions follow from Peter Bendor-Samuel , a contributor to Forbes magazine – he certainly reads like a guy who has been on the front line, experienced the problems many organisations find when they seek quantum leap panaceas for their lack of productivity progress, and find their often expensive solutions don’t live up tp …

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The Silver Lining of 2020*

More reasons to be optimistic on this great day when the UK regulator passed the Oxford CV19 vaccine which could enable billions to look forward to a more normal, even better, life – this time from Tyler Cowen, economics professor at George Mason University, writing for Bloomberg.com – despite the pandemic, Tyler believes 2020 saw …

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Something more to look forward to in 2021

Ed Conway, economics editor of Sky News, recently wrote a positive article in The Times – in essence, his views were: For decades, developed world economies have lacked ‘oomph’ Productivity is the ‘silver bullet’ viz: The more we earn for each hour worked (an old school view) the more is spent on every other bit …

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Four-day week could boost jobs in Spain

Adam McCulloch reports in ‘Personnel Today’ on a proposed initiative being considered in Spain – to reduce their working week in order to boost employment, health and productivity – in our view, a 4 day working week is inevitable, and soon, just as a 7 day week became 6, and then pressure grew for 5 …

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France planned to reverse globalisation but is still bleeding jobs

Today, a smattering of schadenfreude is permitted to lighten the mood of all our British readers, especially after the last, rather heavy, post on the future economic needs of developed nations – the following extracts are from an article by Liz Alderman writing in the New York Times about our old enemy France, soon to …

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The post-pandemic brave new world

The following views from Martin Sandbu, the Financial Times’ European economics commentator, are well worth reading – in my case, at least twice to get the broad span of them on board – there is no doubt that CV-19 has created a major watershed for businesses worldwide and it now needs leaders to grasp the …

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Microsoft software criticised as workplace surveillance

Alex Hern, writing in the Guardian, raises serious concerns about Microsoft software and a ‘Big Brother’ return to office work, especially when time inputs are, at long last, being recognised as far less important to efficiency and effectiveness success than results output Microsoft has been criticised for enabling “workplace surveillance” after privacy campaigners warned that …

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The future of work?

Citrix is an American software company helping organisations to simplify cloud transformation and speed adoption of digital workspaces and virtual desktops to enable greater agility, productivity, and security – Darren Fields, their Vice President UK & Ireland, contributed the following article, published in the HR Director magazine What does the future of work hold? In …

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WFH results = Productivity Up, Innovation Down

Interesting findings about WFH (alone) follow from Wharton’s Management Professor Michael Parkes, reported in the Wharton Business Daily, and Mark Golan, a top Google executive – despite their lack of clarity on precise measures used, their good news  is (labour) productivity has not stalled due to CV19, counterbalanced by the bad news that innovation has …

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Knowledge workers are more productive from home

An interesting study has come up with the above headline finding – it was published in the Harvard Business Review and conducted by Professor Julian Birkinshaw  and Pawel Stach of London Business School, and Jordan Cohen of Lifelabs Learning – extracts follow For many years, we have sought to understand and measure the productivity of …

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Is the pandemic making us more productive?

A big-picture, easy-to-read article just in from the antipodes, published in the Australian ‘Financial Review’ and written by Nathan Sheets, chief economist and head of global macroeconomic research at PGIM Fixed Income – essentially, he agrees with our view that the pandemic, when eventually over, will be seen to have ushered in a sea-change in …

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Potential £145bn productivity boost for UK economy

An LLB – LondonLovesBusiness.com – finance reporter has just announced some good news – the potential for some very big and positive numbers concerning UK SME sectors which would do much to dispel the gloom currently darkening the lives of so many in the UK – if the report is anywhere near being right, one …

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The Key to solving the Productivity Puzzle

A very interesting approach has just been published in project-syndicate.org for solving the ‘Productivity Puzzle’ – it was written by Professor Diane Coyle, University of Cambridge who is also a member of the newly formed UK Productivity Institute Although the factors contributing to stagnant productivity are well known, economists and policymakers have so far paid …

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Debt may be cheap, but the UK’s poor productivity will cost us dear

Phillip Inman, writing in the Guardian, says “Thinktanks urging cuts in business taxes to rekindle the entrepreneurialism of the Thatcher decade seem to forget that many industries which once powered growth are now dying” The strangely easy agreement between economists of right and left that the chancellor should set aside concerns about Britain’s rising debt levels still holds …

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AI will unlock USD 15.7 trillion in global productivity by 2030

India is taking the potential for AI – Artificial Intelligence – to improve productivity very seriously indeed – their government is pushing hard to build on its existing IT strengths and become a world leader in AI – this will give a massive boost to its economy and standard of living whilst helping to solve …

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£300 million to boost UK manufacturing productivity by 30%

Businesses with creative ideas to boost the UK’s manufacturing capacities are set to receive £300 million of joint government and industry funding according to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, UK Research and Innovation and The Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP in the announcement below – on the plus side, any such investment has to …

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Why Software Won’t Eat The World

An interesting article from Greg Satell offered by Medium.com which supports the argument that technology, artificial intelligence and computers in general are NOT poised to take over our lives and run the world In 2011, technology pioneer Marc Andreessen declared that software is eating the world. “With lower start-up costs and a vastly expanded market …

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CV-19 provides a giant leap for creative destruction

As the world focuses on ‘track and testing’ whilst medics internationally race to prove their CV-19 vaccine/ treatment stops people dying or suffering badly, there are many positives emerging from this damned pandemic – especially given it probably won’t be the last one, and some in the future may even be man-made Creative destruction of …

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Long-term planning for remote work

Extracts about WFH follow from an article in the HBR (Harvard Business Review) by Mark Johnson and Josh Suskewicz Mark Zuckerberg recently shared his plans for the future of remote work at Facebook. By 2030, he promised, at least half of Facebook’s 50,000 employees would be working from home. “We are going to be the most …

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Ridding ourselves of the productivity fetish will help us combat climate change

The following article by Simon Mair was published in  The Conversation  – despite some non-academic language, he highlights some of the productivity issues now afflicting more developed economies. Simon is an ecological economist, trying to understand the current economy in order to build a better one. He is also a co-investigator on the ESRC funded …

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The ‘Circular Economy’ to boost national productivity

When talking about productivity, most focus on labour productivity and seemingly ignore how well other costly input resources are used – hence the following article by Rémy Le Moigne, MD of Gate C, and published by Greenbiz, is most welcome During the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals faced a major shortage of personal protective equipment, ventilators and …

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Academics to boost productivity growth and level-up living standards

Here we go again – our leaders announce the supreme importance of productivity growth to the improvement and levelling up of UK living standards – then they have to be seen to be ‘doing something’ – so three years ago they set up a PLG (Productivity Leadership Group), but that has had no notable success …

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COVID brings productivity into sharp focus

An article follows which was published by the ICAEW – Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales – it helps explain what the strangely named ‘Be the Business’ organisation is actually doing to improve UK SME productivity levels – after three years of trying, maybe COVID can explain their lack of any quantified success …

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How much does bad management really cost the UK?

By Kristy Dorsey, Business Correspondent, writing in The Herald, has spotted that middle management inadequacies explain much of the ‘productivity puzzle’ before CV-19 struck, and most of them remain in their jobs Would you hire a solicitor who had never been to law school, or take your car to a mechanic who had no automotive training? How about …

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The Occam’s Razor Of Productivity

Good practical sense from Professor Jim Woods in stockinvestor.com for all busy executives out there – and stock investors too Want to achieve more in life? Of course, you do. Yet for most of us, the idea of achieving more comes with the corollary notion that we are going to have to do a lot …

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