Katherine Gehl

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Foremost Authority on Political Innovation; Leading Expert on Applying the Lessons of Competition in Business to U.S. Politics; Activist and Champion of Systemic Political Change; President & CEO, Gehl Foods Holding Corporation; Co-author, “The Politics Industry” (2020)

Biography

It is accepted wisdom that for nearly any industry competition and innovation are positives. Indeed, there is now growing debate about whether various industries are too dominated by a handful of firms at the expense of consumers in the short term and innovation in the long term. But in the U.S., there is one industry where we’re routinely told the opposite; competition or innovation isn’t needed, and concentrated market power and longstanding business models are signs of strength. This industry is arguably the most important for our future: politics. Katherine Gehl, business leader, entrepreneur and activist, is the leading authority of a new school of thought: political innovation. Gehl, who spent most of her career in business, argues that the principles of disruption that have upturned most industries in recent decades are urgently needed in the political sphere – and that the future of the world’s most powerful country, as well as its businesses, depends on it.

Gehl originated what is now encompassed by the Gehl Porter Politics Industry Theory. She co-wrote, with renowned strategy expert and professor Michael E. Porter, the influential Harvard Business School report, “Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America,” and their book, “The Politics Industry: Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy,” was released in June 2020. They apply Porter’s widely recognized Five Forces model to the politics industry, pointing out that U.S. politics are effectively a duopolized industry, controlled by two firms – the Democrats and Republicans (and their industry allies) – who create high barriers to entry for any potential new competition. The result is what one would expect of any industry lacking competition: failure to deliver on consumer demands, lack of responsiveness to broader change and a comfortable complacency disguised as rancorous gridlock. But unlike private industry, there is no regulatory authority or antitrust law that can be used to break up the duopoly and diversify the marketplace. In their thought-provoking keynotes, Gehl and Porter propose a theory of change and a series of reforms designed to disrupt this system and promote real competition in the politics industry, driving true innovation—and, most importantly, governing in the public interest—in the process. Gehl’s work is about politics, but it’s not “political” or partisan.

As the U.S. slides further into the morass of dysfunctional politics, the business world must grasp that it cannot simply prop up the status quo. From crumbling infrastructure to lack of investment in AI and the technologies of the future, political paralysis is strangling the future of America’s economy. As the former CEO of Gehl Foods, Inc., Gehl delivers passionate keynote presentations that reveal how citizens and business leaders can play a role in advocating the reforms needed to bring competition to the politics industry, as well as the long-term benefits of a more responsive and dynamic system. In this mission, understanding her theory of political innovation will be essential to success.

Gehl’s background includes roles as vice president at Bernstein Investment Research and Management, special assistant to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley for technology and economic development, director of information technology services at Chicago Public Schools and director of organizational development at Oracle Corporation. She also serves on the boards of directors at The Marcus Corporation, West Bend Mutual Insurance Company, New America, Unite America, Business for America, the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformer, and the CEO Fiscal Leadership Council for the Campaign to Fix the Debt. In 2010, Gehl was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the board of directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

Gehl graduated from the University of Notre Dame, and holds a master’s degree in education from the Catholic University of America and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Katherine Gehl is available for paid speaking engagements – including virtual and in-person keynote speeches, panel discussions, interactive workshops and advisory/consulting services – through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

Fixing U.S. Politics

July-August 2020

The Way to Repair U.S. Politics: More Competition

July 7, 2020

HBS Professor, CEO Co-Author Redouble Call For Systemic Political Change

June 29, 2020

Design Matters with Debbie Millman: Podcast (Audio)

June 29, 2020

Free Market Politics Part 1: How America's Political System Became a Duopoly (Audio)

June 25, 2020

hbr ideacast logo

Applying Porter’s Five Forces to Fix U.S. Politics (Audio)

June 23, 2020

Beginning America Over Again with a New Electoral System

June 23, 2020

Harvard Business School Study: Structural Issues in Politics Are Impeding Economic Growth (Video)

December 27, 2019

'America Has Squandered the Economic Recovery': Harvard Business Professor Says US Failed to Reduce Deficits and Shore Up Economic Weaknesses During Expansion - and Blames Hyper-partisan Gridlock

December 18, 2019

Wisconsin-Based Democracy Found Aims to Break Political Gridlock with Election Reforms

May 14, 2019

America’s Hidden Duopoly

October 31, 2018

In Illinois Politics, The Fix Is In, And We Must Change The Status Quo

September 24, 2018

Porter & Gehl on Politics: In Their Own Words

December 11, 2017

The Industry That Treats Its Customers Worse Than Any Other

September 26, 2017

Why Politics is Failing America, and What Business Can Do To Help

September 25, 2017

Harvard Study: Two-Party Duopoly to Blame for Government Dysfunction

September 20, 2017

Harvard Professor Has a Novel Way to Fix Washington Before 2018

September 15, 2017

christian science monitor

How To Fix US Politics? Maybe Start By Seeing It As An ‘Industrial Complex.’

September 14, 2017

Stern Strategy Group

Our Political System Is Failing. Michael Porter Has Solutions

September 14, 2017

New Research Exposes Why Competition in U.S. Politics Industry is Failing America

September 14, 2017

Political Failure Through a Business Lens

September 13, 2017

Wall Street Journal logo

Harvard Business School's Latest Case Study Looks at American Politics and Finds a Rigged System

September 13, 2017

A-Z Name

Gehl, Katherine

Biography

It is accepted wisdom that for nearly any industry competition and innovation are positives. Indeed, there is now growing debate about whether various industries are too dominated by a handful of firms at the expense of consumers in the short term and innovation in the long term. But in the U.S., there is one industry where we’re routinely told the opposite; competition or innovation isn’t needed, and concentrated market power and longstanding business models are signs of strength. This industry is arguably the most important for our future: politics. Katherine Gehl, business leader, entrepreneur and activist, is the leading authority of a new school of thought: political innovation. Gehl, who spent most of her career in business, argues that the principles of disruption that have upturned most industries in recent decades are urgently needed in the political sphere – and that the future of the world’s most powerful country, as well as its businesses, depends on it.

Gehl originated what is now encompassed by the Gehl Porter Politics Industry Theory. She co-wrote, with renowned strategy expert and professor Michael E. Porter, the influential Harvard Business School report, “Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America,” and their book, “The Politics Industry: Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy,” was released in June 2020. They apply Porter’s widely recognized Five Forces model to the politics industry, pointing out that U.S. politics are effectively a duopolized industry, controlled by two firms – the Democrats and Republicans (and their industry allies) – who create high barriers to entry for any potential new competition. The result is what one would expect of any industry lacking competition: failure to deliver on consumer demands, lack of responsiveness to broader change and a comfortable complacency disguised as rancorous gridlock. But unlike private industry, there is no regulatory authority or antitrust law that can be used to break up the duopoly and diversify the marketplace. In their thought-provoking keynotes, Gehl and Porter propose a theory of change and a series of reforms designed to disrupt this system and promote real competition in the politics industry, driving true innovation—and, most importantly, governing in the public interest—in the process. Gehl’s work is about politics, but it’s not “political” or partisan.

As the U.S. slides further into the morass of dysfunctional politics, the business world must grasp that it cannot simply prop up the status quo. From crumbling infrastructure to lack of investment in AI and the technologies of the future, political paralysis is strangling the future of America’s economy. As the former CEO of Gehl Foods, Inc., Gehl delivers passionate keynote presentations that reveal how citizens and business leaders can play a role in advocating the reforms needed to bring competition to the politics industry, as well as the long-term benefits of a more responsive and dynamic system. In this mission, understanding her theory of political innovation will be essential to success.

Gehl’s background includes roles as vice president at Bernstein Investment Research and Management, special assistant to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley for technology and economic development, director of information technology services at Chicago Public Schools and director of organizational development at Oracle Corporation. She also serves on the boards of directors at The Marcus Corporation, West Bend Mutual Insurance Company, New America, Unite America, Business for America, the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformer, and the CEO Fiscal Leadership Council for the Campaign to Fix the Debt. In 2010, Gehl was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the board of directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

Gehl graduated from the University of Notre Dame, and holds a master’s degree in education from the Catholic University of America and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Katherine Gehl is available for paid speaking engagements – including virtual and in-person keynote speeches, panel discussions, interactive workshops and advisory/consulting services – through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Media

Array

Books & Research

Array

Recommendations

Reviews for Political Innovation

“A new paradigm for political action that forces us out of our ideological corners.”

— Austin Ramirez, CEO, HUSCO International

“It’s brilliant…You have hit a grand slam, and it’s very, very important.”

 — Mickey Edwards, Vice President at The Aspen Institute, Former Congressman, and Author, The Parties versus the People

“An extremely insightful analysis of the duopoly that has rigged our politics for their own benefit.”

— Greg Orman, Author, A Declaration of Independents and 2014 Independent Senate Candidate

“A superb accomplishment.”

­­­— Mike Gallagher, Member, U.S. House of Representatives

“…a fresh take on reforming our politics and worthy of serious consideration by activists, elected officials and the public at large.”

— FairVote

“…inspiring, visionary report.”

 — Voter Choice Massachusetts

“This work is magisterial.”

— Adam Hanft, Founder and CEO, Hanft Projects

“This essay will be seen as groundbreaking.”

— Peter Ackerman, Managing Director, Rockport Capital and Chairman, Level The Playing Field

“The U.S. political system isn’t broken. ‘It’s working exactly the way the two main parties designed it.’ That’s the conclusion of a new Harvard Business School study. The new analysis blames a system that allows an industry—in this case the political industry—to create its own rules with little oversight.”

—Jeffrey Sparshott, The Wall Street Journal

“A new analysis by the Harvard Business School outlines why U.S. voters are so frustrated with their political leaders…analysis suggests that government dysfunction helps to explain why many Americans and business leaders feel that the United States is slipping.”

—Associated Press

“‘Why Competition in the Politics Industry Is Failing America,’ concludes that ‘Our political problems are … a failure of the nature of the political competition that has been created. This is a systems problem.’  Why it matters: ‘Politics in America is not a hopeless problem, though it is easy to feel this way … It is up to us as citizens to recapture our democracy — it will not be self-correcting.’”

—Mike Allen, Axios

“Porter and Gehl explained that the current political system is a private industry that is structured around two parties but also includes other interest groups affected, including lobbyists, campaign consultants, think tanks, and the media…The authors, who applied the tools of business analysis to American politics, said there is in fact a near-term solution to changing the political system, or what they call the ‘polarizing duopoly that is no longer serving Americans.’”

—Nicole Sinclair, Yahoo Finance

“Though they concede that the situation is complex, Porter and Gehl identify four key areas of the political system that could be revamped to improve how politics can deliver for everyday voters.”

—Harvard Gazette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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