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The value of productivity

Business journalist Amanda Lang discusses Canada’s economic climate


June 10, 2011
by Michael Power

WHISTLER, BC: If you took every economist in the world and put them end-to-end, they still wouldn’t reach an opinion.

That was one of the remarks from Amanda Lang, senior business correspondent for CBC’s The National and co-host of The Lang & O’Leary Exchange, during her keynote speech at PMAC’s national conference in Whistler. Lang treated delegates to a review of business and economic issues, focusing on trends and offering insights on what those trends mean for Canada and supply chain management.

“Economists do agree on one thing,” she noted. “Canada weathered the economic crisis pretty well.”

Canada did better than many other countries during the recent crisis, experiencing a recession rather than depression. The three things that matter most to Canadians are jobs, the value of homes and overall economic prospects, she said, noting the country was in good shape on all three counts.

“Nobody’s going to say 7.6-percent unemployment is a great number but it’s not a disaster,” she said. But she added there was still no room for smugness about the state of the Canadian economy, and there are still factors that could upset the apple cart of the Canadian economy.

Lang pointed to external economic shocks such as uprisings in the Arab world, noting few could have envisioned unrest in Libya affecting oil prices so dramatically. Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis had also affected the supply chain.

“You can’t do anything about external economic shocks, they’re going to come,” she said.

But an economic factor that remains within control is Canada’s productivity, Lang noted. Although supported by government policies such as low corporate tax rates, the country’s productivity isn’t increasing as much as it should, she noted.

There’s a link between innovation and productivity, Lang said, and the culture of organizations should be geared towards fostering productivity.

“Ask why or why not?” she told the audience. “Why do we do it that way? Why not try this? If you challenge the status quo, you’re going to screw up occasionally but you are going to get things right.”

Different types of innovation are possible, Lang said. For example, communicating with employees can lead to process innovation since those employees can let organizations know areas of a process that can be improved. Improved products-as well as simply inventing new products-also rank high as areas of innovation Canadian organizations should set their sights on.

“We need to think what we can do differently so that our economy continues to blossom,” she said. “A high dollar is going to keep us on our toes, but it’s on our toes that we do our best.”

Click here to go back to the Manufacturing Leadership report on productivity.