U.S. competitiveness is indeed at a crossroads. Confidence in the country’s leadership position is waning while profound pessimism for its future stays steady. The good news is – according to a recently published report of survey findings by Harvard Business School (HBS) professors Michael Porter, Jan W. Rivkin and Rosabeth Moss Kanter – “we know many of the steps that government and business must take to allow firms in the U.S. to win in the global marketplace while lifting the living standards of the average American.”
Part of a major project launched by HBS to help U.S. leaders understand, assess and improve U.S. competitiveness, the second annual survey revealed surprising similarities in thinking amongst business leaders and the general public: overwhelming consensus for rewriting the corporate tax code to lower rates and eliminate loopholes.
Other actions strongly called for by the nearly 7,000 HBS alumni and 1,000 members of the general public surveyed include multiyear efforts to invest more in communications and transportation infrastructure and easing immigration for high-skill workers.
But policymakers are not the only ones who must act; business leaders must play an equal or greater role. The survey reveals many firms in diverse sectors (manufacturing, healthcare, education) are already deeply engaged, but as always, there is substantial room for them and others to do more. Specifically, the report points to several opportunities for business leaders to act collectively, or with the support of government bodies, to restore U.S. competitiveness, including:
- Building a skilled workforce;
- Upgrading local suppliers;
- Fostering innovation;
- Bolstering regional strength.
As Professor Porter noted in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek interview with Charlie Rose, “The rest of the world ha[s] been steadily improving their competitiveness, their skills, their infrastructure, reducing corruption, lowering their taxes.”
It’s time for America to do the same. The question is will we take the necessary steps to make it happen?
Read the full HBS report, “Competitiveness at a Crossroads.” For Porter and Kanter speaking inquiries, contact Danny Stern at firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-276-4344 x209 and visit https://sternspeakers.com/.
Michael E. Porter is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School. In 2001, Harvard Business School and Harvard University jointly created the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, dedicated to furthering Porter’s work. Porter helped launch, and continues to lead, Harvard’s U.S. Competitiveness Project, a research-led effort to understand and improve the competitiveness of the U.S.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter is the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the chair and director of Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. Her most recent book is “Super Corp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth and Social Good” (Crown, 2009).