Michael Porter is generally recognized as the father of the modern strategy field and has been identified in a variety of rankings and surveys as the world’s most influential thinker on management and competitiveness. He is also a leading authority on the application of competitive principles to social problems such as health care, the environment, and corporate responsibility. Porter is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at the Harvard Business and the author of 18 books and over 125 articles. He received a B.S.E. with high honors in aerospace and mechanical engineering from Princeton University in 1969; an M.B.A. with high distinction in 1971 from the Harvard Business School, where he was a George F. Baker Scholar; and a Ph.D. in Business Economics from Harvard University in 1973. In 2001, Harvard Business School and Harvard University jointly created the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, dedicated to furthering Porter’s work.
Michael Porter: If you look at the volunteer programs, what you find is that a lot of the times people are really volunteering their labor and their caring, but they’re actually not utilizing their real skills.
The example I like to use – and I don’t want to pick on them – the U.S. branch of Shell has wonderful volunteer programs. And they’ve got these PhD petroleum engineers out raking trash on the beach as part of the environmental cleanup campaigns and so forth. Okay, on one level that’s very, very laudable. These people are being generous. They’re donating their time.
But are they really using their professional talents? Do we really want petroleum engineers raking the beach? Or do we want petroleum engineers and others thinking about how, in their areas of unique expertise, knowledge, contacts, and relationships, how they can impart that towards addressing the needs of the disadvantaged community, or addressing some kind of social problems?
Our challenge as individuals is to find ways where we can use our most precious talents and our most unique skills to actually add value to society.
Recorded on: June 11, 2007