I ATTENDED an FWB Park Brown summit event this year which focused on the Scotland productivity index. The index was established in 2019 by CBI and KPMG. It seeks to boost productivity in our country after previous concerns that we were lagging behind others.

With a 1% increase in productivity, there could be a £2.3 billion rise in gross domestic product. There are four clear pillars to the areas to address productivity, and across them, in total, 15 aspects.

The four pillars are business practices, skills and training, health and wellbeing, and infrastructure and connectivity.

One per cent is the type of margin that sports dealt with in moving from no medal to medal success. I recall listening to a British cycling coach describe they found the two seconds improvement, equivalent to 1%, they needed to reclaim gold – a combination of improved infrastructure (bike technology), specialised dynamics training for the athletes and increased health through strength and conditioning of athletes. All recognisable to the Scottish productivity index key areas. What struck me during the summit, was the comparison with Team GB’s Olympic and Paralympic medal success over the last 20 years and the similarities in the systematic approach, and the small percentages that are between succeeding and not.

The system was led by UK Sport. Along with the sports, they created the vision to increase Team GB medal success, from a low point of one gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Games. They created a “mission review” framework. It had four pillars to it – athletes, system, structure and culture. Across all of these, 18 elements were identified. Sports invested in by UK Sport were assessed against the mission review and this was significant in future investment decisions. What it also created was sharing of best practice. So where one sport might be rated highly in one element, another may not. Knowledge and expertise was transferred across the system in this way in a myriad of formal and informal events and relationships. I experienced this as both a performance advisor at UK Sport and as performance director of two sports. It was a fundamental aspect to the success. Whilst sports competed in their respective competitions, they were operating under a “one team” mentality while at the Olympics/Paralympics. There was shared success, as through successive Olympic/Paralympic four cycles, medal success increased, leading to greater confidence and investment from UK Government to UK Sport and into sports.

The Scottish productivity summit featured excellent knowledge and ideas about the way ahead. This is important but I would argue more significant to success will be collaboration across sectors, to share knowledge. CBI Scotland director Tracy Black has written in The Herald about the need for a “shared purpose”. The most crucial success factor will be bringing business sectors together under a clear and coordinated approach, where everyone can see a mutual benefit to invest at the same level of collaboration and sharing of knowledge that underpinned Team GB success. There is one note of caution, learnt from the Olympic/Paralympic journey. There was an over-focus on the “what”; the medals.

It was encouraging in the Scottish productivity index discussion to see health and wellbeing as a key pillar. As a society, in the last five years mental health has become far more recognised and discussed. This aspect does need further development and not just to help people to cope but to help people to also thrive, just in the way we often approach physical health. Getting the most out of people by upskilling them towards mastery, helping them to grow mentally and emotionally towards autonomy and showing respect to them will go a long way to everyone contributing to a more productive country.

Graeme Thompson is a CEO coach and group chair with Vistage International, a global leadership development network for CEOs