Daily Archives: December 13, 2011

Andrew Hill

Harvard Business School has launched its big US competitiveness project. It’s a full-bore research-led effort dedicated to improving “the ability of firms operating in the US to compete successfully in the global economy, while supporting high and rising living standards for Americans”. How will non-American alumni feel about that?

Michael Porter, HBS’s competitiveness expert, is in the vanguard. He talked to me about how the US was starting to lag behind when I interviewed him in September, and he and colleague Jan Rivkin reiterate some of these themes in a video interview for the competitiveness project with Justin Fox of Harvard Business Review. As Porter says:

The US’s vitality and dynamism [are] really very fundamentally important to the global economy.

Fair enough. But the project does underline that HBS, for all its aspirations to attract more international students and faculty, is an American business school, with American preoccupations. There is something a little odd about hearing Nitin Nohria – the first HBS dean born outside the US – declare in another video interview that he “can’t think of a problem that affects everybody in the world, not just in the US, more than this question of US competitiveness”. Really?  

Andrew Hill

Old habits die hard in US corporate governance: Pfizer has just announced it will hand chief executive Ian Read the chairmanship. That re-creates the dual chair-CEO role and goes against the slow US trend towards splitting the two top board jobs.

According to Spencer Stuart, the headhunter, 41 per cent of top US companies now separate the roles (though the chairmanship is too often held by the ex-CEO), compared with 26 per cent in 2001. So, as governance expert Lucy Marcus tweeted on Tuesday, Pfizer’s decision is an “astonishing step backward“.