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.
Topic: The Greatest Generation
Michael Porter: My father and my mother were both alive during the Depression, went through that very difficult period.
I can remember things like, “You gotta invest. You gotta save up. You can’t have instant gratification. You gotta work hard and take the long view, and eventually, hopefully, you’ll be able to succeed.” Those kind of mindsets I think were very important.
I often reflect on that when I’m interacting with all the young faculty that are coming up, and the young people that I know who somehow think that, to get to be a leader in a field, or a prominent player, or a successful player in their field, somehow this happens quickly or easily.
I’m constantly telling my doctoral students how I actually spent seven years sitting in the library reading articles in the business press, and thinking, and grinding away. And it wasn’t glamorous, and nobody was calling, and nobody was interested. But there was a problem and a set of issues that I was fascinated by, and I was determined to kind of invest, invest, invest until I thought I had something unique to say.
And so it’s that kind of mindset that I think parents really instill in a kid, and I was fortunate to have parents that kind of had that attitude, that orientation.
Recorded on: June 11, 2007