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Tim Vorley and Jen Nelles

Academic debates on productivity have traditionally been dominated by economists using growth accounting frameworks. The productivity slowdown during the last decade has especially highlighted the limitations of these orthodox approaches to explaining the productivity puzzle. In particular, many of the drivers and inhibitors of productivity growth may be related to complex causal relationships which preclude examination by standard growth accounting frameworks, and many of the other potential explanatory factors cannot be incorporated into these frameworks. While other evidence reviews in this volume reflect on the different thematic aspects of the productivity puzzle in the UK this chapter assumes a broader conceptual approach. We argue that while in-depth academic insights may help unpack individual aspects of the productivity puzzle, simply more research of this type is not the answer. Rather, if insights are to meaningfully help governments and institutions better respond to the current productivity challenges there is a compelling argument for thinking about productivity at a systems level. This chapter posits that while existing research is gradually coming to recognise the importance of the intersections to these debates, more innovative and critical thinking is required if research is to impact policy.

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Jen Nelles, Tim Vorley and Adam Brown

The existing literature has highlighted the complexities of productivity puzzle in the UK, with the systems lens providing a mean to both explore a more holistic approach as well as examining the intersections and interdependencies of productivity policies and outcomes. As the economic implications of the COVID-19 crisis continue to become apparent this presents an opportunity to reconceptualise how the future of the productivity debate might be reimagined from a systems perspective with a focus on future economic resilience. This chapter explores where and how the manifest points of crisis, and subsequent policy interventions, can serve to focus the attention on specific sub-systems of activity that are sensitive to the ways in which policies and processes are embedded in the wider system. The chapter concludes by identifying and advocating the need for more experimental and adaptive approaches based on evidence and insight emerging in real time.