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On Competition, Updated and Expanded Edition Hardcover – September 9, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1422126967 ISBN-10: 142212696X Edition: Upd Exp
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Editorial Reviews


On Competition, a collection of works by Michael E. Porter, is a critical examination of the dog-eat-dog international economy. A Harvard Business School professor, Porter is one of the most respected and innovative economists of his time. Author of 15 books, he advises key elected officials and business leaders in all parts of the world. On Competition features 13 of his best articles over the past 15 years, including 2 new ones. The essence of Porter's message is that every company, country, and person must master competition to thrive in brutal international and domestic economies. Competition is the key to excellence. Worried about losing your job or your services becoming obsolete? Porter believes that a little fear is good for everyone. "Companies that value stability, obedient customers, dependent suppliers and sleepy competitors are inviting inertia and, ultimately, failure," he writes in his 1990 study and essay "The Competitive Advantage of Nations." Porter is a longtime critic of the short-term thinking on Wall Street that often stifles competition and hurts the economy. In "Capital Disadvantage: America's Failing Capital Investment System," he calls for much lower capital-gains rates for people who invest for the long term. He also urges investors and businesses to start thinking together. He contends that pension funds and institutional investors should get a greater say over the companies they own. It's wacky to have company directors with little expertise or financial interest in the company, he writes.

Porter is often unconventional and asserts that businessmen must be, too. In his essay "Green and Competitive," he shows little sympathy for businesses that complain about environmental regulations. Rules to protect the environment don't have to strangle companies--they can actually improve productivity with the right attitude and approach. Rhone-Poulenc, a French chemical and drug company, proved this when it stopped incinerating a certain byproduct and began selling it as an additive for dyes and tanning. Readable and provocative, On Competition is vital for business, government, and financial leaders as well as small-business people and investors. --Amazon.com, by Dan Ring, 1998 Review of the original edition

Twenty years of studying industry performance and competitiveness have convinced Porter, a professor at the Harvard Business School and a noted authority on competition and corporate strategy, that a successful company must not only adopt the best practices available but also differentiate itself from its rivals. In 13 essays, some of which have appeared elsewhere, Porter elegantly lays out a sophisticated analytical framework for assessing the challenges firms face in today's business environment. Although Porter offers no magic formula for success, as a starting point for developing a long-term strategy, he does recommend close scrutiny of "factor conditions," "demand conditions," other competing and supporting industries and existing strategies and structures. Porter shows how companies have bested international competitors by forging integrated global strategies, operating with a long-term outlook, investing aggressively and managing factories carefully. He has also come to see the growing importance of geographical location to specific companies and celebrates the benefits of clustersAsystems of interconnected firms and institutionsAfor increased productivity and innovation. On the societal level, Porter's work, with its emphasis on long-term planning, brings a welcome new perspective to perennially thorny policy issues such as environmental protection, inner-city development and universal access to health care. While this book requires a serious investment of time and effort, its expert dissection of a very complex phenomenon is worth it. Line drawings throughout.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --Publishers Weekly's 1998 Review of the original edition

A highly respected academic and authority on strategy and competition, Porter draws together his articles on competition, which together provide a rigorous and useful framework for bridging the gap between theory and practice. The book has three sections. The first takes on competitive strategy, evaluating strategies and weaknesses for business, while the second addresses the role of location in competition experienced by government entities. Porter notes that prosperity in both companies and countries depends on the nature of the local environment in which the competition takes place. With an understanding of domestic and international competition, part 3 offers insight into such societal issues as urban poverty, health care, and income inequality. Porter concludes that competition is certain to be evolving, unsettling, and the source of our prosperity. --Booklist's 1998 Review of the original edition

About the Author

Michael E. Porter is the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School. He is the author of seventeen books and numerous articles.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; Upd Exp edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 142212696X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422126967
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael E. Porter, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, is the author of Competitive Strategy, the recipient of the 1979 McKinsey Foundation Award for The Best Harvard Business Review Article, and a guest columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Professor Porter developed the much praised MBA course on Industry and Competitive Analysis, lectures widely on competitive strategy, and is a strategic consultant to numerous companies in the United States and abroad.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on April 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"On Competition" (2008) is an updated version of Porter's 1998 earlier work by the same title. It begins with an excellent updated version of his 1979 Harvard Business Review "The Five Forces that Shape Strategy" article (covered in a separate review), continuing to explain why many firms evolve away from their original competitive strategies, and separate chapters on diversification's track record, the competitive advantage of nations, problems within American health care (covered in another review), industry clustering, IT's role in competition, and likely surprises for new CEOs. While there is considerable worthwhile material within this new edition, it is also hampered by considerable dated material - the chapter on IT is 25 years old and that on the Internet was written in 2001; meanwhile, the material on clustering (2000) omits analysis of China, and that on the competitive advantage of nations is oblivious to the contributions made by the PRC's industrial policies.

Following his "The Five Forces that Shape Strategy" chapter, Porter continues by pointing out that many firms lose their way over time, adding product lines, product extensions, even new new businesses that make it difficult to understand what is underlying strategy is. Reconnecting can be helped by answering questions such as Which of our offerings is the most profitable, distinctive? and Which our customers are most profitable? A company's history can also be instructive - What was the founder's vision?, What were the products and customers that made the company.

Losing sight of strategy often occurs through becoming caught up in the race of operational excellence, and managers mistaking 'customer focus' to mean they must serve all customer needs or respond to every request from distributors.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. Keeler Cox on June 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a big ol' book - not just by volume, but by scope - and somewhere between Parts I (on developing strategy at the individual business level) and II (on the competitiveness of locations) it dawned on me that On Competition bears similarities to On Liberty, On Democracy in America, and On Human Nature*.

Like those classic tomes, this, too, cuts across disciplinary lines, tackles big subjects, and offers powerful insights into a wide variety of social problems.

Mr. Porter's been called "the world's most important business thinker" but, as I kept learning while reading Parts III and IV, his work touches on more than just business. His own big subjects are value creation and competition; the frameworks he's developed over the years have practical implications for organizations of all kinds. (think of government and non-government organizations)

You don't need to be a social scientist to understand the work. You *do* need to have a taste for academic-style writing and argument - and it'll no doubt help if you enjoy diagrams, activity maps, data tables, matrices, and other sorts of inserts. You should also have more than a passing interest in the interplay between business and society. If that's 'you', you'll find the articles in On Competition richly rewarding.

Maybe now more than ever. I think the book's most important message is that competition has the "staggering power to make things better - both for companies and for society." What better time than the midst of an economic crisis to learn that?

*by John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville, and E.O. Wilson, respectively
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Oswald on October 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read Porter's major books: Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance and Competitive Advantage of Nations when they were first published. When I saw this was available, I had to read it to see how he had updated the material and if his perspective was as compelling today as it was almost 30 yeas ago.

The updates, while not qualifying as a total re-write, definitely freshened and extended the material in important ways. Chapters 7 (Clusters and Competition: New Agendas for Companies, Government, and Institutions) and 8 (Competing Across Locations: Enhancing Competitive Advantage Through a Global Strategy) were especially good in their explication of the implications of clusters and their impact on competitive advantage.

The material in Parts III (Competitive Solutions to Social Problems) and IV (Strategy, Philanthropy, and Corporate Social Responsibility) was new to me and I found it to be extremely worthwhile. These chapters reflect what I think of as essential Porter, which is applying his deep understanding of competition rooted in economics to complex problems and coming up with innovative solutions.

In summary, whether you have read Michael Porter's earlier books or not, you should read this book. Michael Porter's writing is, to use Deming's term, "profound knowledge" on competition that everyone should be familiar with.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Achmed McGillicuddy on March 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In these collected articles, which appear to have been written mainly for a practitioner's audience, Michael Porter shows he is willing, however minimally and indirectly, to acknowledge the mounting significance for business strategy of the scholarly Theory of the Firm. Porter has had little alternative. His theory of strategy, which derives from the Industrial Relations school of thought emphasizes the inter-firm market context: industry structure-function and firm market conduct. This perspective is widely regarded by many scholars as having insufficient explanatory power, since it pays little regard to intra-firm behavior and how it affects firm marketplace conduct.

By contrast, of the notable developments in economics over the last 15 to 20+ years (and in management consulting thought leadership), the scholarly thinking which has most interested economists and strategy practitioners has emerged from the Theory of the Firm.

One illustration of the strong scholarly interest in the Theory of the Firm is that Google Scholar brings up 28,000 links for the phrase "dynamic capabilities", which is but one branch of the Theory, and probably the one now receiving the greatest attention. Whereas the "five forces" concept, the key element at the core of Porter's theory of strategy, brings up just 12,900 links. (YMMV.)

Another illustration: There are 10,600 links for the scholarly paper, "Dynamic Capabilities and Strategic Management" (downloadable), which originally circulated in 1995 and later appeared in the Strategic Management Journal, authored by David J. Teece, Gary Pisano, and Amy Shuen. This paper was the most cited scholarly work across all academic journals in business and economics from 1995 to 2005, according to Science Watch.
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