Who is Michael Porter?

Michael Eugene Porter is an American academic born on May 23, 1947, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Porter is widely considered to be the leading authority on business strategy and competitiveness, with his work resulting in several analytical tools and frameworks that are used by business schools, executives, non-profits, and governments alike.

Porter’s graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Princeton University in 1969. Two years later, he earned an MBA at Harvard Business School and later went on to secure his doctorate in business economics two years later. 

In an interview for the 2010 book The Lords of Strategy, Porter noted that his interest in competition stemmed from a love of sports. As a child, he played basketball, baseball, and football and was even on the NCAA championship golf squad while at Princeton.

Porter is now the author of over 20 books and approximately 125 publications on business, strategy, competition, and health care delivery, among other topics. He has been recognized for his contributions with over 30 major awards and honorary degrees. Indeed, according to Fortunemagazine senior editor Geoff Colvin, Porter “has influenced more executives – and more nations – than any other business professor on Earth.

Industry competition and company strategy

Porter’s earliest work saw him become a pioneer in the application of economic theory to better understand industry competition and how companies chose to compete.

Ideas from books such as Competitive Strategy (1980), Competitive Advantage (1985), and What is Strategy (1996) are taught in almost every business school around the world. Around this time, Porter also developed the Five Forces model to address what he considered to be weaknesses in the popular SWOT analysis.

His initial research into value chains, industry structure, and strategic positioning continues to be relevant in the dynamic and interconnected markets of today.

Economic development and competitiveness

Porter is also interested in economic development and competitiveness with a particular focus on microeconomic foundations of regional and national development.

Perhaps his most defining work in this area is the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project, which houses over 50 million data records on industry clusters and business environments to facilitate economic growth and competitiveness.

Porter realized that the ability of the United States to be competitive was dependent on regional economies. For the country to produce quality goods and services, these regional economies needed to become hubs of innovation. Local authorities are now using the data from the project to make strategic decisions, attract new companies, and create new industries.

Environment, health, and society

In more recent years, Porter started to work in environmental, health, and societal-based contexts.

As early as the 1990s, he was one of the first to posit that increasingly strict environmental standards could coexist with the profitability and competitiveness of a company. This idea was illustrated in the Porter hypothesis, which has since inspired hundreds of scholarly articles in environmental economics.

In the 2000s, Porter shared more visionary ideas on complex topics such as the role of capitalism in philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. In a 2011 paper Harvard Business Review article with Mark Kramer, he argued that some of society’s most wicked problems should be reframed as business opportunities. This the pair called “shared value”, describing policies and practices that increase competitive advantage and simultaneously strengthen the communities in which the company operates.

Since the turn of the millennium, Porter has also been involved in the economics of healthcare. In collaboration with various industry academics, he developed value-based healthcare. This novel approach focuses on patient value and outcomes and clarifies the true cost of healthcare according to specific medical conditions.

Key takeaways:

  • Michael Porter is widely considered to be the leading authority on business strategy and competitiveness. His work forms the basis of many analytical tools and frameworks used by business schools, executives, non-profits, and governments alike.
  • Michael Porter’s earliest work saw him become a pioneer in the application of economic theory to better understand industry competition, with many of his insights still relevant today. He is also behind the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project which helps regional areas become more innovative and contribute to national competitiveness.
  • In more recent years, Porter has studied competitiveness in environmental, societal, and health-based contexts. He has continued to share revolutionary ideas, such as the impact of environmental standards on profitability and the positive role capitalism can play in philanthropy and corporate social responsibility.

 Other frameworks by Michael Porter

Porter’s Five Forces

Porter’s Five Forces is a model that helps organizations to gain a better understanding of their industries and competition. Published for the first time by Professor Michael Porter in his book “Competitive Strategy” in the 1980s. The model breaks down industries and markets by analyzing them through five forces

Porter’s Generic Strategies

In his book, “Competitive Advantage,” in 1985, Porter conceptualized the concept of competitive advantage, by looking at two key aspects. Industry attractiveness, and the company’s strategic positioning. The latter, according to Porter, can be achieved either via cost leadership, differentiation, or focus.

Porter’s Value Chain Model

In his 1985 book Competitive Advantage, Porter explains that a value chain is a collection of processes that a company performs to create value for its consumers. As a result, he asserts that value chain analysis is directly linked to competitive advantage. Porter’s Value Chain Model is a strategic management tool developed by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. The tool analyses a company’s value chain – defined as the combination of processes that the company uses to make money.

Porter’s Diamond Model

Porter’s Diamond Model is a diamond-shaped framework that explains why specific industries in a nation become internationally competitive while those in other nations do not. The model was first published in Michael Porter’s 1990 book The Competitive Advantage of Nations. This framework looks at the firm strategy, structure/rivalry, factor conditions, demand conditions, related and supporting industries.

Porter’s Four Corners Analysis 

Developed by American academic Michael Porter, the Four Corners Analysis helps a business understand its particular competitive landscape. The analysis is a form of competitive intelligence where a business determines its future strategy by assessing its competitors’ strategy, looking at four elements: drivers, current strategy, management assumptions, and capabilities.

Six Forces Models

The Six Forces Model is a variation of Porter’s Five Forces. The sixth force, according to this model, is the complementary products. In short, the six forces model is an adaptation especially used in the tech business world to assess the change of the context, based on new market entrants and whether those can play out initially as complementary products and in the long-term substitutes.

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