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On Competition Hardcover – October, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. --Dan Ring

From Publishers Weekly

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 485 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Pr; 1 edition (October 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875847951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875847955
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gerard Kroese on December 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Michael E. Porter is a Harvard Business School professor and a leading authority on competition. This book consists of three parts - Competition and Strategy: Core Concepts, The Competitiveness of Locations, and Competitive Solutions to Societal Problems - and each of these parts consists of 4-to-5 Harvard Business Review articles which were published between 1979 and 1998. "The study of competition, in its full richness, has preoccupied me for two decades."
In Part I, the five HBR articles outline Porter's strategic concepts. "I have sought to capture the complexity of what actually happens in companies and industries in a way that both advances theory and brings theory to life for practitioners. My goal has been to develop both rigorous and useful frameworks for understanding competition that effectively bridge the gap between theory and practice." In the 1979-article 'How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy', Porter introduces the monumental five competitive forces (from existing competitors, new entrants, customers, suppliers, substitution). This article has had an extensive impact on the field of strategy and is still a starting point for strategic management at any MBA-course. 'What is Strategy?' was published in 1996 and is, in my opinion, a reply to all the critics of his frameworks and models. The 1985-article 'How Information Gives You Competitive Advantage', Porter and co-author Victor Millar write how information technology influences competition. The current impact of Internet and e-commerce provide excellent examples for this article. In the 1993-article 'End-Game Strategies for Declining Industries', Porter lines up with Kathryn Rudie Harrigan to discuss the last stage/final phase of a industry.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a collection of essays and articles by Michael Porter alone or with others. Most of them are collected from his writings in the Harvard Business Review although two are new to this book. Think of this as a "Porter's Greatest Hits" kind of thing. That is a bit misleading because his HBR articles are not exactly the same thing as his Competitive Advantage books although the topics are definitely related.
The essays are grouped into three broad sections: 1) Competition and Strategy: Core Concepts, 2) The Competitiveness of Locations, and 3) Competitive Solutions to Societal Problems. Will you find each article of the same high quality? Probably not (again, like a greatest hits collection), but you will find them informative and thought provoking. It is impossible to study for an MBA nowadays without invoking "Porter's Five Forces" in your discussions of competitive and marketing strategy.
This book can help add to your thinking and understanding of how every aspect of our life is in some way part of a competitive context and the ways it improves our standard of living. It will also help you improve your thinking in how to best strategize for and participate in competitive situations.
It would be a mistake to think that Porter advocates for a Hobbesian nightmare of life being nasty, brutish and short. Rather, he is more or less helping us think through the nature of the way competition arises and how to best think about its sources and how to manage it and the traps to avoid.
While Porter's model is used by some as a hammer that sees everything as a nail, it really needn't be used that way and, in its proper context, is very helpful.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
'Porter On Competition' is 'lighter' to read than his 'Trilogy', but it nicely consists the core ideas of his work & how it evolved during the past decades. It provides reader a nice overview about how competitive strategy & competitive advantage are applicable to a wide range of areas: from corporation, industry & nation, to social issues such as health care & environment.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book when it was first published (in 1979) and recently re-read it prior to reading his most recent work, Redefining Health Care which I will also review in the near future. In the Introduction (which then became the first chapter of Competitive Strategy, published in 1980), Porter observes that competition "has intensified over the last decades, in virtually all parts of the world." That is even more true of competition - especially global competition -- during the 27 years since Porter shared that observation. Nonetheless, the core concepts which he and his collaborators rigorously examine remain relevant...indeed, in my opinion, have become even more relevant. Consider these assertions:

1. Competition shapes strategy

2. Successful strategy creates a "fit" among all organizational activities

3. Information can provide a decisive competitive advantage

4. Declining industries require an "end-game" strategy

5. Successful corporate strategy "builds" on three premises: Competition occurs at the business unit level, diversification inevitably adds costs and constraints to business units, and, shareholders can readily diversify themselves.

6. "Moving from competitive strategy to corporate strategy is the business equivalent of passing through the Bermuda Triangle."

Porter carefully organizes the material within three Parts: First, he focuses on competition and strategy for companies at both the level of a single industry and then for multinational or diversified companies; next, he addresses the role of location in competition; and then he Part III, he addresses some important societal issues (e.g.
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