01 Jun 2015

Fast Forward

Tracking the growth of the US Competitiveness Project
Re: Jeff Immelt (MBA 1982); Rosabeth Kanter; Mihir Desai; Joseph Fuller; Jan Rivkin; Michael Porter; Karen Mills
by Dan Morrell


Illustration by Chris Gash

The School’s US Competitiveness Project launched four years ago with a simple but ambitious goal: figure out how companies in the United States can better compete in the global economy while raising living standards for the average American. Today, the aim remains the same, but the scope has expanded from just research to helping business leaders take action to make America more competitive. The number of faculty involved has grown from 15 to almost 25, and a host of HBS alumni and corporate partners across the country have joined the effort. Here’s a look at several of the new research tracks the project has produced and how a few of these ideas are being put into action.

Transportation and Infrastructure
After organizing a transportation summit in February 2014 that featured everyone from GE CEO Jeff Immelt (MBA 1982) to US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx discussing America’s infrastructure challenges, Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter last month released MOVE: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead to offer a road map for a more mobile future.

Tax Code
In an effort to draw attention to the role that the US tax code plays in dampening productivity, Professor Mihir Desai addressed a Senate finance committee in July 2014 and again in March 2015, offering lawmakers an action plan. “This combination of reforms has the potential of addressing significant changes in the global economy in a revenue-neutral way that will advance US welfare,” Desai noted.

Middle-Skills Gap
Senior Lecturer Joe Fuller worked with consulting firm Accenture and workforce analytics company Burning Glass Technologies to produce a report highlighting the ways employers can foster the development of much-needed middle-skill talent. Their work has had tangible results: The Walmart Foundation cited the research as part of its announcement of a new five-year, $100 million effort to address the skills gap. The initial competitiveness research also inspired the HBS Club of New York to launch a project that connects community college students in Queens with New York tech firms and medical centers.

Public Education
An HBS team led by Professor Jan Rivkin has partnered with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on three reports that collectively offer best practices for forging productive partnerships between businesses and educators. In addition to a November 2013 summit that brought together more than 100 leaders in both fields, the work spawned a new effort focused on changing local education ecosystems, including a survey of organizations that focus on collective impact to see how business can effect deeper change.

Professor Michael Porter and BCG have partnered on research into how the country can maximize the opportunity presented by America’s unconventional oil and gas resources in a responsible way. In March, an HBS energy summit huddled industry leaders in an effort to build consensus and identify a “win-win” path forward.

Federal Policy
Professor Porter has met with members of Congress on numerous occasions to press the case for improving US competitiveness via policy. The project’s congressional advocates now include California Representative Scott Peters and his colleague from South Carolina, Representative Tom Rice—both of whom have included the US Competitiveness tenets in their respective agendas.

Shared Prosperity
To help address stagnant middle- and working-class household incomes, Senior Fellow Karen Gordon Mills brought policymakers and leaders from private industry to a campus conference earlier this month to focus on four issues: forging effective business- educator partnerships, creating a better marketplace for middle skills, developing entrepreneurial ecosystems, and defining success in cross-sector collaborations.


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