Thursday, May 10, 2007

Porter thinks his way to the top

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“Times names Michael Porter ... the current king of management thinking”

MICHAEL E. PORTER is the Bishop William Laurence University Professor at Harvard Business School. With 18 books and a host of influential articles to his name, his status in the world of management thinking is legendary. As well as teaching and writing, he consults widely with the Monitor Group, the consulting firm he helped to establish.

Professor Porter is an educator but he is not a performer or management superstar in the conventional guru sense. One magazine observed that he was as likely to write a bestselling management blockbuster as give a lecture wearing a bra and stockings. Few of his books are available in paperback.

He has advised the public and private sectors world wide and has received civic medals usually reserved for military heroes or extraordinary sportspeople. The son of an army officer, he was born in 1947 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He studied mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton and then switched to business, gaining an MBA and PhD in economics from Harvard.

A talented golfer and all-round sportsman, Professor Porter has always been obsessed by competition. His first widely-read book, Competitive Strategy, is now in its 63rd imprint. In it he analyses competition, introducing his Five Forces framework, still essential reading for MBA students. He subsequently moved from competition between firms to competition between nations. In The Competitive Advantage of Nations he examines why some countries are wealthy and others not. His study of national economies is extensive, though not always welcome. In Can Japan Compete? he showed that the long recession suffered by Japan was the inevitable result of successive postwar Japanese governments’ policies. In 2003 he produced a report for the DTI on the UK’s competitive position — examining ways to tackle the productivity gap in the UK. He also established the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City in the mid-Nineties.

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