HBS Urges Business to Take Lead
in Reviving US Competitiveness
At an HBS-hosted event devoted to action, not academics, more than 600 New York City business and civic leaders gathered at Lincoln Center Monday evening to explore causes and business-led solutions to the nation's decline in global competitiveness.
The event was an extension of the School's recently launched US Competitiveness Project, a research-based effort to understand and improve the ability of firms operating in the United States to compete successfully in the global economy, while supporting high and rising living standards for Americans.
"Rather than wait for government, we're focusing our attention on what business can do now," said HBS Dean Nitin Nohria in his opening remarks, setting the stage for two panel discussions.
The first featured six HBS faculty members who contributed articles to a March 2012 Harvard Business Review special issue on US competitiveness. Each presented specific ideas for enhancing the nation's competitive standing, including educational reforms, more collaboration between large and small businesses, and a corporate tax overhaul.
Next came a panel of New York City business and civic leaders who described a variety of innovative steps taken to enhance the city's competitive environment, including education and infrastructure projects. The panel included Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup; Robert Steel, New York City deputy mayor for economic development; Rashid Davis, founding principal of P-TECH, a six-year high school that confers associate degrees in computer science; Stanley Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation; and Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of Partnership for New York City.
The panel's comments underscored a key objective of the New York City event, said HBS professor Michael Porter, cochair of the US Competitiveness Project along with Professor Jan Rivkin. "Rather than simply complain about what's wrong, companies can do much on their own to improve the US business environment, whether it is through mentoring local suppliers or partnering in skill training with local educational institutions."
In closing remarks, HBS Professor of Management Practice Bill George reviewed a number of successful competitiveness projects taking place around the country and called on members of the audience to consider what they could do at their own establishments to make a difference. He challenged participants to submit a "competitiveness project commitment form" describing what steps they proposed to take. Results will be posted on the project's website to inspire others to take action.
Check the US Competitiveness Project website soon for edited video excerpts from the New York event.