“Think like a system, act like an entrepreneur” – Matthew Taylor on how to ensure ‘good work’

6 Oct 2017

At a briefing at the British Academy yesterday, Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and author of the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, discussed how business can ensure ‘good work’ for employees: work that is fair, decent and with scope for fulfilment and development.

Published in July, Taylor’s review considered the implications of new forms of work on worker rights and responsibilities, as well as on employer freedoms and obligations. At a briefing as part of the British Academy's Future of the Corporation project exploring the future of business and its role in society, Taylor considered the implications of his Review three months on.

Discussing why 'good work' matters, Taylor suggested that business could improve productivity by engaging their employees and giving them greater independence.

“The notion of citizens as people who should be respected, who should be listened to, and who should be encouraged to participate, seems still to stop at the door of the factory, the door of the shop, the door of the office", he said.

“If we managed people better -  if their work was better and they had more scope to be creative and autonomous… if they could bring their ‘whole selves’ to work, we might have more productive workers, more productive organisations, and a more productive economy”, he added.

Taylor also argued that automation and advances in artificial intelligence should be used to benefit humanity, something the British Academy recently recommended in a recent report with the Royal Society on data governance and use.

“It is important that we approach the question of technological change through a humanistic mindset. The goal of technological innovation, of AI, of robotics, should be to improve the quality of people’s working lives", he explained. “One of the things technology should make possible is organisations which strip out lots of the bureaucracy and hierarchy, and which empower people to have greater levels autonomy."

The discussion then turned to how business can make the recommendations of the review a reality by 'thinking like a system, acting like an entrepreneur.' This approach from the Royal Society of Arts encourages people to think systematically about a problem and its context, and adopt an innovative approach to encourage change. Taylor explained that this mantra influenced the 'nudge rather than shove' approach of his Review: incentivising change and empowering employees, rather than banning things outright. 

The Future of the Corporation is a three-year research and engagement project from the British Academy looking at the the role of business and its purpose in society – from rebuilding trust to the challenges of rapidly-developing technology. Find out more about the project and sign up to the mailing list by visiting

Read a briefing note from this event.

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