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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  1. Looking To The Future: Redefining Work — 3 comments
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Author's posts

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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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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