We’re in a productivity crisis, according to 52 years of data. Things could get really bad.

Author’s Note: This article was written over 60 hours with love and care using the blockbuster mental model. If you like my writing style, and you want to create high-quality viral content using the blockbuster approach, you’ll love my Blockbuster Blueprint newsletter, which delivers three in-depth articles every week.

“The most important, and indeed the truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of the manual worker in manufacturing.”
— Peter Drucker

I spent over 500 hours researching and writing this article. Those 500 hours were spent reading through dozens of books/studies in 10+ fields (history, economics, technology, philosophy of science, manufacturing, management, sociology, investing, innovation). I spent so much time because the topic was both much more interesting and complicated than I originally thought. And, as is the case with all of my writing on Medium, I use the blockbuster philosophy. This means I don't click publish unless I think it is one of the best articles that has been written on the topic.

As a result of going through the research process, I will never think about productivity in the same way. What I learned blew my mind over and over, and I hope it does the same for you as the reader.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The “Great Boom” was supposed to last.

From 1870–1970, there was an incredible 50x increase in the productivity of the average manual worker. Let me break that down so it really lands for you like it did for me:

  • 50x Increase: Imagine getting 50 hours of work done in one hour. Or imagine doing the work of 5o people by yourself.
  • On Average: We’re not just talking about a 50x increase for the most ambitious, smartest manual workers. We’re talking about all manual workers.

To put the profundity in context, the “Great Boom” is one of the most amazing and under-appreciated events in economic history. The chart below captures its magnitude and uniqueness:

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Michael Simmons (blockbuster.thoughtleader.school)
Accelerated Intelligence

I teach people to learn HOW to learn / Serial entrepreneur / Bestselling author / Contributor: Time, Fortune, and Harvard Business Review)