Discussion: Productivity (paradoxes) revisited

Tuesday 28 July, 2015
6:30 for a 7:00 pm start, finishing at 20:45
De Santis 11-13 Old Street (near junction with Goswell Road)
London EC1V 9HL
Productivity word cloud

Image © mindscanner [Source: Shutterstock]


Britain has a productivity problem. Its relative standing in the international league tables has been in decline since the 1870s — when it was in pole position — but the big change was in the 1970s, when most Western European countries overtook it, claims Stephen Wood, Professor of Management at University of Leicester. It declined before the recession, and has rallied, but has plateaued since 2013. If a significant increase in productivity is one of the keys to the much predicted economic recovery it may not materialise.

Since the election the discussion of productivity has moved to the mainstream, in the media and politics, and the recent Productivity plan announcement from HM Government indicates the new administration is taking this seriously. But bigger questions remain.

The uptake of ICT and the creation of the ‘networked society’ promised increased in efficiency and productivity, but they have not appeared in the way many expected. Now robotics, automation, and autonomous systems offer great upsides in productivity, but should we be skeptical in the face of the boosters? Why has productivity failed to rally in the UK compared to other advanced economies such as the US? What is the relationship of services — including healthcare — and productivity? Should productivity be measured in new ways? How has ICT impacted — and might it impact — on productivity? What is the potential — and what are the challenges — around autonomous systems? Is the focus on productivity taking place at the expense of other aspects of economic progress?

The discussion will be introduced by Phil Mullan, economist and business manager, and author of The Imaginary Time Bomb. Following the model of the previous discussion, we will be encouraging participants to write-up their conclusions; we will also be discussing in what forms we might collectively communicate our insights.

There is a small cost to take part in this discussion (to cover the costs of food and refreshments).

If you’re interested in meaningful insights into, and serious debate around, these themes, please join us!

Initial Readings

Papers and reports



  • Productivity, The Bottom Line, BBC Radio 4, 30 May 2015: The programme asks what productivity really means and how different sectors go about measuring it [Notes by Nico Macdonald]

For further reading, listening and watching review bookmarks tagged ‘productivity’ on Delicious


If you would like to take part please book via Eventbrite (where you can also add the event to your calendar and find a map locating the venue).
Eventbrite - BIG POTATOES discussion: Productivity (paradoxes) revisited


19:00: Reading time
19:10: Introduction
19:15: Introductions by participants
19:25: Introduction of themes by Phil Mullan
19:40: Discussion of the themes
20:40: Planning around writing and other initiatives
20:45: Finish


If you have questions about the event please contact Nico Macdonald

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