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Productivity. What’s your response to this word?

Author: Oliver Jobson

Maybe it makes you think smugly of that day when you managed to hit all those deadlines, and you found yourself operating without distraction or deviation from your plan. Or perhaps, in contrast, it recalls that day when the siren call of Twitter pulled you away from the task at hand and you ended up losing an evening just to catch up.

If you run a business, maybe it reminds you of the constant struggle to hit budgets and deadlines. Or if you once studied economics, maybe it conjures misty memories of complex equations and obscure acronyms.

In this paper, I want to show how the concept of productivity acts as a mirror and a mantra: a mirror which reflects our assumptions, and a mantra that can actually block critical thought about how organisations work.

I will set out why some common assumptions about productivity are mistaken, and, worse, how they can misdirect policy makers and business leaders. I then want to provide a better vision of productivity, drawing on a growing body of evidence from varied settings. The discussion will take in some ideas from the research literature and my own experience of working with a wide range of organisations.

This article is part of a serialisation of the white paper "Productivity: A better way; A look at solving the productivity puzzle", written by Steve New, Associate Professor at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

Read the next blog in this series: "Productivity as a mirror: A ratio for all seasons"

Download and read the white paper in full >

Help solve the Productivity Puzzle at www.productivitypuzzle.com

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