Michael E. Porter

Bishop William Lawrence University Professor

Michael E. Porter is a leading authority on competitive strategy; the competitiveness and economic development of nations, states, and regions; and the application of competitive principles and strategic approaches to social needs, such as health care, innovation, and corporate responsibility.

Professor Porter is generally recognized as the father of the modern strategy field, and has been identified in rankings and surveys as the world’s most influential thinker on management and competitiveness. He serves as an advisor to countries, corporations, non-profits, and academic circles across the globe.

As the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor based at Harvard Business School, Professor Porter has received the highest professional recognition that can be awarded to a Harvard faculty member. In 2001, Harvard Business School and Harvard University jointly created the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, which is dedicated to furthering his work and research.

The author of 18 books and over 125 articles, Professor Porter received a B.S.E. with high honors in aerospace and mechanical engineering from Princeton University in 1969, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi. He then received 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.


Professor Porter's ideas are the foundation for courses on strategy and competitiveness, and his work is taught at virtually every business school in the world.

His Microeconomics of Competitiveness course at Harvard is open to graduate students across the schools at the university. It is also taught in partnership with more than 80 other universities from every continent using curriculum, video content and instructor support developed at Harvard.

Professor Porter developed and chairs the New CEO Workshop, a Harvard Business School program for newly appointed CEOs of the world’s largest and more complex corporations. Held twice each year by invitation only, the workshop focuses on the challenges facing new CEOs in assuming leadership. His Harvard Business Review article with Jay Lorsch and Nitin Nohria, ‘Seven Surprises for New CEOs’ (October 2004), describes some of the learning from this ongoing body of work.

Professor Porter speaks widely on strategy, competitiveness, health care delivery, related subjects to business, government, non-profit, and philanthropic leaders.



Professor Porter’s core field is competitive strategy, which remains a major focus of his research. His book, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors, is in its 63rd printing and has been translated into 19 languages. His second major strategy book, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, was published in 1985 and is in its 38th printing. His book On Competition (2008) contains his most influential articles on strategy and competition, including the award-winning Harvard Business Review article 'What is Strategy?' (1996) and 'The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy' (2008), a revised and extended version of his classic article on industry analysis. Professor Porter’s next major book on strategy is in process.

Competitiveness of Nations and Regions

Professor Porter's 1990 book, The Competitive Advantage of Nations, presents a new theory of how nations and regions compete and their sources of economic prosperity. Motivated by his appointment by President Ronald Reagan to the President's Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, the book has guided economic policy in countless nations and regions. Subsequent articles have expanded on the concept of clusters (geographic concentrations of related industries that occur in particular fields) and other aspects of the theory.

National Competitiveness. Professor Porter has published books about national competitiveness covering New Zealand, Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland. His book Can Japan Compete? (2000) challenged long-held views about the Japanese economic miracle.

Professor Porter chairs the Global Competitiveness Report, an annual ranking of the competitiveness and growth prospects of more than 120 countries published by the World Economic Forum.

Clusters. Professor Porter’s ideas on clusters, first introduced in 1990, have given rise to a large body of theory and practice throughout the world. Cluster-based economic development thinking has resulted in many hundreds of public-private cluster initiatives in virtually every country. The article “Clusters and Competition: New Agendas for Companies, Governments, and Institutions” and On Competition (1998) provide a summary.

Regional Competitiveness. Professor Porter extended his work on competitiveness to states, provinces, and other sub-national regions. He led the Clusters of Innovation project which developed a framework for economic policy in U.S. regions. He also created the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project, which provides rich data on the economic geography of U.S. regions and clusters on an interactive website and received grant funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration. Professor Porter’s methodology is the basis for comprehensive new data on the economic geography of the 27 countries of the European Union. The article ‘The Economic Performance of Regions’ (2003) summarizes some of the important findings from this data, and a new paper, ‘Convergence, Clusters and Economic Performance’ (2006), with Mercedes Delgado and Scott Stern, presents the first comprehensive statistical examination of U.S. regional performance using cluster data.

Innovation. Professor Porter is co-author (with Professor Scott Stern and others) of a body of work on the sources of innovation in national and regional economies, including The New Challenge to America's Prosperity: Findings from the Innovation Index (1999), 'The Determinants of National Innovative Capacity' (2000), and 'Measuring the 'Ideas' Production Function: Evidence from International Patent Output' (2000).

Competition and Society

Professor Porter's third major body of work has addressed the relationship between competition and important social issues such as poverty and the natural environment.

Economically Distressed Communities. Professor Porter offered a new approach to revitalizing distressed urban communities, beginning with the Harvard Business Review article 'The Competitive Advantage of the Inner City'. In 1994, he founded The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a non-profit, private-sector organization to catalyze inner-city business development across the country. Professor Porter is Chairman of the ICIC, a national organization that works in cities across America. Professor Porter has also written on economic development in rural areas.

The Natural Environment. Professor Porter introduced a controversial theory that environmental progress and economic competitiveness were not inconsistent but complementary, first put forth in his Scientific American essay, 'America's Green Strategy' (1991), and developed in more detail in his article 'Toward a New Conception of the Environment-Competitiveness Relationship' (1995). The “Porter Hypothesis” has been the subject of more than 100 articles and has spawned a rich literature. The theory is now gaining widening acceptance and is guiding corporate practice and thinking about regulation.

Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility. Professor Porter has devoted growing attention to philanthropy and the role of corporations in society. His Harvard Business Review article with Mark Kramer, 'Philanthropy's New Agenda: Creating Value' (1999), introduced a new framework for developing strategy in foundations and other philanthropic organizations.

His Harvard Business Review article, 'The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy' (2002), focused on how corporations can create more social benefit with their philanthropy. His Harvard Business Review article with Mark Kramer, 'Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility' (2006), puts forth an approach for companies to think strategically about corporate social responsibility.

With Mark Kramer, Professor Porter co-founded the Center for Effective Philanthropy, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating concepts and measurement tools to improve foundation performance. He also co-founded FSG, an international non-profit advisory firm that provides advice and innovative ideas about social strategy to foundations, corporations, and social service organizations.

Health Care Delivery

Since 2001, Professor Porter has devoted considerable attention to competition in the health care system, with a focus on improving health care delivery. His work with Professor Elizabeth Teisberg, including the book Redefining Health Care: Creating Value-Based Competition on Results (Harvard Business School Press, 2006), is influencing thinking and practice not only in the United States but numerous other countries. Curriculum growing out of this research is being taught at Harvard and elsewhere.

Advisory and Civic Roles

Professor Porter has served as a strategy advisor to top management in numerous leading U.S. and international companies, among them Caterpillar, DuPont, Procter & Gamble, Royal Dutch Shell, Scotts Miracle-Gro, SYSCO, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.

Professor Porter currently serves on the board of directors of two public companies, Thermo Fisher Scientific Corporation and Parametric Technology Corporation.

Professor Porter serves as senior strategy advisor to the Boston Red Sox, a major league baseball team. He has advised numerous educational and community organizations on strategy.

Professor Porter is actively involved in assisting governments in the United States and abroad. He plays an active role in U.S. economic policy with the Executive Branch, Congress, and international organizations. Professor Porter is a founding member and member of the Executive Committee of the Council on Competitiveness, America’s leading private-sector competitiveness organization made up of chief executive officers of major corporations, unions, and universities. He also chairs the selection committee for the annual Corporate Stewardship Award of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Professor Porter advises national leaders in numerous countries on competitiveness including Armenia, Colombia, Ireland, Nicaragua, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. He has personally led major studies of economic strategy for the governments of such countries as Canada, India, Kazakhstan, Libya, New Zealand, Portugal, and Thailand.

Professor Porter’s thinking about economic development for groups of neighboring countries has resulted in a long-term initiative within Central America, including the formation of the Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (CLACDS), a permanent institution based in Costa Rica.

At the state and local level, Professor Porter has worked extensively in his home state of Massachusetts and numerous others. He has been honored by governments for his work in Basque Country, Catalonia, Connecticut, and South Carolina. He chaired the Governor’s Council on Economic Growth and Technology in Massachusetts during the period when Massachusetts made dramatic improvements in competitiveness.

Honors and Awards

Professor Porter has been widely recognized for his work. Some of these honors (in chronological order) include Harvard's David A. Wells Prize in Economics (1973) for his research in industrial organization. He received the Graham and Dodd Award of the Financial Analysts Federation in 1980. His book Competitive Advantage won the George R. Terry Book Award of the Academy of Management in 1985 as the outstanding contribution to management thought.

Professor Porter was elected a Fellow of the International Academy of Management in 1985, a Fellow of the Academy of Management in 1988, and a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences in 1991. In 1991, he received the Charles Coolidge Parlin Award for outstanding contribution to the field of marketing and strategy, given by the American Marketing Association. Professor Porter was honored by the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1991 for his work on Massachusetts competitiveness.

In 1993, Professor Porter was named the Richard D. Irwin Outstanding Educator in Business Policy and Strategy by the Academy of Management.

He was the 1997 recipient of the Adam Smith Award of the National Association of Business Economists, given in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the business economics profession. In 1998, he received the International Academy of Management’s first-ever Distinguished Award for Contribution to the Field of Management.

In 2001, the annual Porter Prize, akin to the Deming Prize, was established in Japan in his name to recognize Japan’s leading companies in terms of strategy.

In 2003, the Academy of Management recognized Professor Porter with its highest award, for scholarly contributions to management.

In 2005, Professor Porter became an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. That year, he was awarded the John Kenneth Galbraith Medal (presented by the American Agricultural Economics Association. That year, he was also honored by the South Carolina legislature for his efforts in assisting and promoting economic development in that state.

In 2007, Professor Porter’s book, Redefining Health Care, was awarded the James A. Hamilton Award as the outstanding health care book of the year.

In 2008, he received the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the United States Department of Commerce for his contribution to economic development.

Professor Porter has received six McKinsey Awards for the best Harvard Business Review article of the year, including an unprecedented four first-place awards.

Professor Porter has received honorary doctorates from the Stockholm School of Economics; Erasmus University (the Netherlands); HEC (France); Universidada Tecnica de Lisboa (Portugal); Adolfo Ibanez University (Chile); INCAE (Central America); The University of Deusto (Basque Country); The University of Iceland; Universidad de los Andes (Colombia); HHL-Leipzig Graduate School of Management (Germany); Universidad San Martin de Porres (Peru); Johnson and Wales University (United States); and Mt. Ida College (United States).

Professor Porter has also been awarded national honors including the Creu de St. Jordi (Cross of St. George) from Catalonia (Spain) and the Jose Dolores Estrada Order of Merit, the highest civilian honor awarded by the Government of Nicaragua.

Personal History

Professor Porter was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and lived and traveled throughout the world as the son of a career Army officer. He was an all-state high school football and baseball player in the state of New Jersey where he attended high school. At Princeton, he played intercollegiate golf and was New England champion. He was named to the 1968 NCAA Golf All-American Team. After graduating from college, Professor Porter served through the rank of captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. He maintains a long-time interest in the esthetics and business of music and art, having worked on the problems of strategy with arts organizations and aspiring musicians. Professor Porter has two daughters and resides in Brookline, Massachusetts.


  1. The Competitive Advantage of Nations and Regions

    Michael E. Porter continues to extend his study first reported in The Competitive Advantage of Nations. Porter has published books and studies of other countries, states, and cities, including Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and India. A book on Japan (with visiting professor Hirotaka Takeuchi), tentatively titled The Two Japans, is expected to be completed in 1999.

    Porter is extending his microeconomics-based theory of competitiveness in a variety of ways. He is exploring the shifting role of various microeconomic influences as a nation's economy becomes more advanced, and the relationship between macroeconomic conditions and microeconomic conditions in development.

    Porter's examination of the problems of early-stage economic development includes research with Pankaj Ghemawat on India, as well as studies on Central American, South American, and Asian countries.

    Porter is also conducting statistical research on the microeconomic foundations of economic development. An initial paper "The Microeconomic Foundations of Economic Development" (in The Global Competitiveness Report 1998, Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum, 1998) examines the role of microeconomic variables in explaining per capita income differences among 52 countries. A paper with Mariko Sakakibara (UCLA) examines the link between domestic rivalry and international competitive success in a sample of Japanese industries.

    Porter is also conducting research into appropriate forms of economic cooperation within regions (including countries), for which a major project involving the presidents of seven Central American nations is serving as a laboratory.

  2. Clusters and Competition

    Porter is conducting ongoing research on the theory of clusters, or geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field. This work includes further development of cluster theory and its implications for management and public policy (see On Competition, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1998 and "Clusters and the New Economics of Competition," Harvard Business Review, November-December 1998). Porter is also conducting statistical research on the incidence, growth, and decline of clusters in the U.S. economy. With Claas van der Linde of St. Gallen University in Switzerland, he is also conducting a meta-study of clusters drawn from almost 350 known studies of individual clusters.

  3. National Innovative Capacity and the Ideas Production Function

    Joint research with Scott Stern (MIT) is exploring the determinants of innovative capacity across countries using time series/cross-section data ("Measuring the "Ideas" Production Function: Evidence from International Patent Output," draft working paper, July 1998). Using international patenting as a weighting variable, Porter and Stern have devised an index of national innovation capacity. The data has also been employed to directly estimate critical parameters of the ideas production function, a central element in economic growth theory.

  4. Sustainable Inner-City Economic Development

    Michael E. Porter is using the framework he developed in The Competitive Advantage of Nations to examine the economic development problems in distressed inner-city areas. He seeks to understand the potential of inner-city businesses, government policies, and private-sector initiatives to contribute to sustainable economic development. Porter's project has yielded a series of articles (see "The Competitive Advantage of the Inner City," Harvard Business Review, May-June 1995) and led to the development of a private-sector organization called the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, which is catalyzing inner-city development efforts across the nation.
  5. Environmental Policy and Competitiveness

    Michael E. Porter has been exploring (with Claas van der Linde of St. Gallen University, Switzerland) the relationship between environmental regulation, industry competition, and international competitiveness. He finds that many forms of environmental pollution reflect inefficient resource utilization and poorly developed technology, suggesting that better environmental performance is often consistent with enhanced competitiveness. This perspective recasts the role of governmental regulation, highlighting the importance of regulatory and corporate approaches that foster innovation and improve resource productivity rather than simply abate or prevent pollution
  6. Capital Markets, Investment, and Competition

    Michael E. Porter's research into issues of capital allocation, first published in the report 'Capital Choices,' is the basis for continuing research that examines how U.S. capital markets distort competitive behavior and investment. A report to the Competitiveness Policy Council, 'Lifting All Boats,' contains recent research and policy recommendations.
  7. Competitive Strategy

    Porter is engaged in a major new body of work on the theoretical foundations of competitive positioning and the underpinnings of sustainable competitive advantage. This research highlights the distinction between positioning and operational effectiveness; the fundamental role of differences in company activities in positioning; and the central importance of tradeoffs in delivering different types of customer benefit to the sustainability of differences in positioning; the role of fit among a firm's activities (or activity systems); competitive advantage and sustainability; and the relationship between strategy, organizations, and incentives.

    He is exploring his ideas in theoretical papers, mathematical models, and company studies. An early discussion of this body of work appears in "What is Strategy?", Harvard Business Review, November-December 1996 and Activity Systems as Barriers to Imitation," Harvard Business School Working Paper #98-066.

    Porter's next book on strategy, focusing on these ideas, is nearing completion.

    Michael Porter and Anita McGahan are completing a series of statistical papers on the sources of company and industry profitability. Based on large new database on the profitability of U.S. business segments between 1981 and 1994, their research examines topics such as the relative importance of industry; business segment positioning; corporate parent effects on superior or lagging profitability; the persistence of profit differences over time; and how high and low performers differ along such dimensions.