Fortune magazine, October 29, 2012: “There’s No Quit in Michael Porter. He has influenced more executives – and more nations – than any other business professor on Earth. Now, at 65, he and an all-star team aim to rescue the U.S. economy.” Article by Geoff Colvin, followed immediately by the article “What Business Should Do to Restore U.S. Competitiveness” by Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin: “America’s feeble economy reminds us every day that our global competitiveness is in trouble.”
(What? The most powerful economy in the world is “feeble”? Compared to what? The government of Rwanda, who Porter advises? Of course things could be improved in the US, and Porter recommends several useful courses of action. But “feeble”?)
The Economist magazine, The World in 2013 (published November 2012): “What Washington Must Do Now. Michael Porter and Jan Rivkin, co-leaders of Harvard Business School’s United States Competitiveness Project, propose a plan to restore America’s vitality.”
Michael Porter has been writing about business acumen for decades, focusing on market sensitivity, competition and customers. His most famous concept is the “Five Forces” illustrated here. He is clear and commonsensical, able to reduce ideas to simple expression.
So what are we supposed to make of the news that the Monitor Group, a Cambridge (Massachusetts) consulting firm founded in 1983 by Porter and other Harvard-linked entrepreneurs, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy this month?
Porter has remained active with Monitor throughout its existence. Monitor’s highest-profile consulting was its attempt to improve Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy’s image for $3 million a year in 2006 to 2008.
Monitor spokesman Eamonn Kelly said the Khadafy ordeal was unrelated to the firm’s troubles. “We were facing increasing financial pressure as a stand-alone business,” he said. “The recent economic downturn drove us to evaluate our strategic options.”
Which means what, exactly? It sounds like a case of “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Which is a healthily humbling aphorism for all of us in the teaching and consulting business.
Regardless, Michael Porter remains an excellent teacher, and his books remain worth reading.
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