• 04 Jan 2019 8:05 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Certainly in the UK, drones have had a bad press recently - with the disruption caused at London's Gatwick airport.

    However, the sensible ones among us (and I do - perhaps rather arrogantly - include myself in that category) know that throughout history, technologies have been used for good and bad purposes.

    Drones are also used to improve agricultural productivity by giving farmers a view of their fields and crops they could not afford to get in other ways.  They are used in  law enforcement and in the military, by sports broadcasters, and so on.

    So, don't blame the drones: they are just pieces of technology.  Blame their operators.

    But remember, if the 'bad' users (or their impact on society) outnumber the 'good', technology cannot be uninvented. Once it is 'out there', it stays out there - even if made illegal.

    So, society must get used to drones - and their misuse. Be prepared to deal with mischievous or criminal drone use - it is not going to go away.

    And, of course, continue to apply the technology to society's advantage. Make the beneficial impact outweigh the harmful.

    Go, drones! 

  • 28 Dec 2018 7:50 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    My father, who unfortunately died early at the age of only 54, was, like me, a technophile.

    I often say on seeing or using some new piece of technology .. “My dad would have been amazed by this”.

    Of course it’s not only technology that has changed since he was around. The would is a different place in many ways and he would have been surprised at many of them.

    I was reflecting on this the other day and thought about what might have surprised him the most. Certainly the internet/web he would have loved ... but in the end I settled on Ted talks; the fact that so much knowledge/learning is available at your fingertips - and for free - with some of the World’ greatest minds available in your living room - is truly astonishing.

    We are such a lucky generation!

  • 22 Dec 2018 5:05 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    The top one per cent of UK firms grew on average by eight per cent each year between 2004 and 2014, while the lower 99 per cent experienced annual productivity growth of less than one per cent over the same period. This is the long tail of UJK business productivity which has to be shortened if national productivity is to rise significantly.

    But how do we cut this tail. 

    Well, many of these 'tail companies' are small businesses.

    The UK government, like most governments, often expresses its commitment to, and support for, small businesses. But they throw these businesses small 'bones' of support or comfort occasionally; they rarely construct, much less execute, a coherent  and sustained programme of support.

    Small businesses rarely ask for much - a favourable tax regime, an absence of bureaucracy and access to finance are their most common requests. Government responds with more regulation and legislation - because that is the business of government.

    Governments often seems to want to stifle productivity development. Over the last decade, many have been supporting 'ailing businesses', creating 'zombie' firms that should have gone to the wall.

    All they need to do is to create an environment in which well-run firms can thrive and prosper. Then they need to get out of the way and let those firms get on with it.  Some won't make it - but that is the law of the (business) jungle.  It will see the tail reduce. 

    Job done!

  • 14 Dec 2018 7:52 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    We are all under pressure to multitask - to deal with emails, messages and reminders whilst also doing our 'real job'.

    Even when not under this avalanche of inputs, many of us choose to listen to music as we work. We eat lunch at our desks as we work.  Students update their facebook pages (and more) whilst they listen to lectures

    All this means our productivity is increasing, right?


    For most of us, it means our performance dips.

    A recent research study shows students who multitasked on their laptops during lectures scored consistently lower in tests (by about 17%) than their non-multitasking peers.

    We seem to have difficulty balancing priorities among all the tasks - dealing with trivial rather than important issues because they require less concentration and thus fit well in a multitasking scenario.

    But failing to concentrate on, and effectively deal with,  the important items  on your agenda is not a recipe for success.

  • 07 Dec 2018 8:10 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    On a recent business class flight, the guy next to me got out his laptop and worked on if for most of the flight. I ate the meal, had a drink, snoozed a little and did a crossword. 

    Who was the most productive?

    Well of course, he would claim he was. He got some work done.

    But that is like people who confuse productivity with production. Doing more is not necessarily being more productive.

    In my relaxed time onboard, I was not doing nothing.  I was contemplating, thinking and reflecting. I went into meetings later that week much better prepared and I am convinced the decisions I took that week were ‘better’.

    We get so little time to consider and reflect, it is worth taking the time to stop and do so when you can. In the broader sense, you might get less done ... but your productivity will increase.

  • 30 Nov 2018 8:19 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I only recently cam across TRIZ - a (Russia-originated) problem solving and creativity guide for 'the rest of us' - those who are not creative by nature.  Part of its 'secret' is that it is built 'on the shoulders of giants' - an analysis of past patents and patent applications from which it draws out 'innovative principles'.

    So, to solve a problem you simply (?) decide what type of problem it is, find which general category it falls into, see what people have done in the past - and identify the broad category of solution; apply this broad solution to your problem to create your solution, your new product or whatever.

    This is a relatively analytical approach to creativity - whoever would have thought that was possible,

    Such an approach may or may not suit you and your team - but I recommend you read up and try it. You have little to lose - and you might dramatically improve your creativity.

  • 23 Nov 2018 8:28 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Every week there is commentary in  the US press about the productivity of football (NFL and/or college) teams or individual players.

    This is not productivity - it is about performance  ... but fails to use an output/input ratio ... the very essence of productivity.

    Player performance is important - but US sport (or sports reporters) uses far too many spurious  statistics - and language that upsets a relative purist - the winningest team and so on.

    They cite previous performances ands results between two teams as if it might have some bearing on the current matchup.

    I am sure fans find it interesting ... I hope they do because a lot of resource goes into compiling these statistics ... but do they do harm.

    I can image in a player on team X saying after a loss to team Y, "Well, its 27 years since we've beaten them - what do you expect?"  If you build a reputation, some players and teams will succumb to it.

    Statistics are real - but can be used to motivate if applied and employed correctly.

    Think before you apply measures - in football, and in business.

  • 15 Nov 2018 10:03 PM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Do you want an innovative organisation - a creative workforce?

    If so, think about when you,. yourself,  last had an original (or half original) thought. Not recently?

    Well, if you can't think originally, why and how do you expect your staff to do so?

    You need to be disciplined about thinking - and about adopting approaches and techniques that encourage creativity. You need to work at it - to practice those techniques and force yourself into situations where you have to think.  (I recommend looking at TRIZ - look it up!)

    When you start thinking, you can start encouraging your staff to do so.

    What's it like being a role model? You are about to find out.

  • 09 Nov 2018 7:45 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    I have recently been writing assessments for students on productivity-related courses.  This is one of the more difficult exercises in academic life - and, of course, exceedingly important ...both for the quality of the qualification involved  -  and  for the future life of the students.

    One of the advantages is that it makes you think carefully about what you are testing - and therefore about the content and makeup of the course.  Assessment is in some ways a summary of the course - setting out its main purposes.  The big distinction between different types of course is whether, on successful completion, students should know stuff - or be able to do stuff.  This reflects massively in the forms of assessment you can use. Testing 'doing' is much harder than testing 'knowing'.

    I am much more interested in the 'doing' - after all I want people to be able to improve productivity, not know about improving productivity in theory.  I think the assessments we use are getting better at testing the 'doing' but our situation, and our testing, is complicated because we are creating online courses - with online assessments.

    I will improve - I review student performance on assessments and try to work out where the flaws in the assessment itself have contributed to poor performance.

    What I am trying to do, of course, is to improve my productivity - not in producing more assessments in the same timescale (though that would be nice) but by improving the quality of the assessments - and thus the value offered to customers(students).

    Productivity pops up everywhere, doesn't it!  If I can't improve my own productivity, how can I expect to teach others how to do it?

  • 02 Nov 2018 7:54 AM | John Heap (Administrator)

    Those of you who read last week's post will know I was in the USA on vacation.  I am now back in the UK and can reflect on the political differences.

    The USA was preparing for the mid-term elections and there was continual political advertising on the TV - most of which was completely negative, attacking opponents rather than offering positive suggestions and solutions to America's ills.

    The UK seems much more policy based - and far less confrontational (though it does have its moments).  But there is far too much discussion and pontification about Brexit (Britain's exit from the European Union).

    Neither set of politicians seems focused to any degree on productivity - yet that is the only issue that is likely to increase the wealth and well-being of their citizens.  The only concern of most politicians seems to be their own re-election ... policy and principles come much further down the list of priorities.

    How do we convince them to take productivity seriously? Do we need to turn it into a contentious issue they can debate and even argue about - and be confrontational with their 'enemies'? 

    The problem is if we take that approach, while we do that, their real (economic) enemies are improving their productivity and winning the economic war.  We need focus now!

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