Are we limiting ourselves? image


Are we limiting ourselves?

Written by Jeremy Praud, Head of UK & Europe at LI Europe.

I’ve been putting it off, but the other day I finally decided to properly read “Management 2020” cover to cover instead of just flicking through the key paragraphs. It makes some great points – and there is good insight to be found in those 57 pages – but I was struggling to get past page 15, something didn’t feel right. The caption says “The UK… suffers from a significant productivity gap compared with the US, Japan and Germany”. Nothing to argue with there – we all know that right? And Figure 1 helpfully shows the UK highlighted in red, a third of the way down in 6th place. At the top, the US, France and Germany. Hang on – France? Really? Where’s Japan – erm, I just found it way down in 12th place.

The graph must be wrong – I’ll check the OECD website. The report was published in 2014 (although you can still download it today), and I can only find the most recent data – but it paints the same picture. So we’re more productive than Japan! Who would have thought it? Certainly not the author, or proof readers, or anyone else in the past 4 years who skimmed past it. Why is that? This is a government report after all – I’ve got to believe some pretty skilled people reviewed this report – why is it that that no one picked up on this error?

That got me thinking. When something is part of the established narrative, we tend not to question it. We just nod, and carry on.  “Behind the US, Japan, and Germany” – that’s the narrative, and since it is how we define ourselves, there is little incentive to really change. “Better than Japan, but a long way behind France” – that’s a very different truth. One much harder for a Brit to take, and surely a much better incentive to show we really can improve productivity if we don’t shackle our minds?

Link to Management 2020 report

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