FEATURE20 July 2018

Searching for the new idea

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UK businesses are not as productive as they used to be and innovation is often thwarted by organisational structure. Tim Phillips explores whether market research can fit more effectively into the innovation process to improve the flow of new ideas.


In the 50 years leading up to 2008, UK output per worker almost tripled. This wasn’t the result of some sudden uplift – for example, when we discovered the spreadsheet, or the mobile phone. It was a sustained year-on-year growth in productivity that bulldozed through recessions and crises, as well as technology and communications revolutions. And then it stopped.

What the Office for National Statistics (ONS) calls ‘The Productivity Puzzle’ shows that, in the decade since the global financial crisis, the UK’s productivity growth has hit a wall. By the end of 2017, it was 1.3% higher than it was 10 years earlier. “It is not unusual for productivity to fall during downturns, as happened in 2008-09. What is unusual is the flatlining of productivity since 2010, ” commented the ONS in 2015. “If the pre-2007 trend had continued, productivity would now be 16% higher than it actually is.” That gap is now around 20%. Other countries ...