I first met Norwegian economist, university professor and international productivity expert Tor Dahl when I was the editor of a business magazine. Tor wrote these lofty, thought-provoking, Harvard Business Review-type pieces that uniquely combined research and statistics with philosophy.
When we recently began thinking about unique voices we could bring to Staffing Talk, Tor eventually came to mind and we had lunch the other day to catch up and renew our acquaintance.
Meeting with Tor, an adventurous former Army Captain in Norway, is always an adventure in it’s own right. He is just an amazing guy and his stories are epic. He isn’t really a name dropper, but these famous names just come trickling out cautiously and continuously in the course of the conversation.
He had a sunburned forehead for example, and I asked him about it. He said he had been out climbing without a hat in Yosemite with a computer software guy who was a classmate of Bill Gates at Harvard.
As an aside, Tor told me he asked his climbing companion why he didn’t follow Bill Gates into business after he left school and his reply was that he couldn’t stand the guy. And further, that working with Gates on a few projects at school made him realize he never wanted to work for anyone again and he set off on the path of a lifelong entrepreneur.
Then the conversation turned to productivity. Tor recounted the story from a few years ago when he set about assembling a group of 40 of the most productive people in the world – including several household names and some of the world’s best known entrepreneurs who requested confidentiality – to come to a castle in England to discuss how they are wired and if their productivity model can be replicated.
Their consensual “secret” to productivity? “To be on a quest they freely choose that will never end.” Interesting, huh?!
Tor talked of working with David Packard of Hewlett Packard when he was U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense and they employed some productivity initiatives at the Pentagon during the Nixon Administration.
Tor also told me about working with the man who would become the Chinese Prime Minister on a huge project that saw the building of productivity centers around China.
And it just goes on and on.
Tor’s company, Tor Dahl & Associates, consults with corporations and government all over the world, contractually promising a 100 fold ROI. Sometimes he says they achieve two or three times that, but they are contractually obligated to achieve that 100x figure.
His latest research is for a piece he will soon submit to The New York Times that studies economic growth and politics from 1929 – 2010. Not to steal Tor’s thunder, but he found, for example, that the average growth in GDP in constant dollars equals 3% when we had Republican presidents for 39 years and 6.7% for the 42 years we had Democratic presidents. How would that change the current polling numbers if that factoid alone became widely known among the American populace?
Anyway, Tor is amazing, and we are lucky to be able to introduce him to you. His pieces are read by millions all around the world, and we are anxious to find out what you think as we run his first couple of stories. The first one, titled If You Focus on Productivity, You Will Get Quality for Free, will be published tomorrow.