Plaza Euskadi 5, Planta 15 - Oficina 5 - 48009 Bilbao - Bizkaia
08 Apr
Celebrating Porter (Neure Kabuz Column)

On March 27th, we gathered in Boston, a hundred of friends, students, colleagues, professors, classmates, apprentices and admirers of Professor Michael E. Porter, in his beloved “laboratory of ideas, exploration of areas of opportunity and challenges for the future”, as well as -above all- a school of trainers and impact generators, at Harvard University. His long professional life was recorded in a Harvard Business School Case Study (as could not be otherwise, like the hundreds he has written and/or directed): “Intellectual Ambition at Harvard Business School: Professor Michael E. Porter”. Basis of our reflective work to celebrate and thank his enormous contribution, to pay tribute to his legacy, as well as to give sincere testimony, for his intense life of work, generous and active leadership, and generation of impact in different generations, organizations, countries. A long professional life collected in a Case, written by several hands by university professors, business and social leaders. Heads of government, leaders of the different areas of activity and knowledge that have constituted the main nodes of action of Michael E. Porter’s contribution: Strategy, competitiveness, clustering, social progress, value in health and redefinition of health systems, co-creation of value, leadership school, cities (especially their spaces and marginal or abandoned neighborhoods). A whole mosaic of initiatives, models, concepts and frameworks for work and solutions to complex problems and demands, anticipating future spaces and making available the key elements to make possible unique and differentiated strategies for their achievement. Porter contributed value, was a pioneer in facilitating the design of concepts, models, approaches, and original tools that he always made available to all, based on his essential commitment: “To train trainers who generate impact in their own communities“.

Mike has not only provided us with extremely useful models and tools that, for decades, tens of thousands of professionals have incorporated in our work, on which we have updated, revised, added multiple “adaptations” of all kinds, generating a current of innovative thinking, of very wide worldwide extension. Without their books, technical notes, cases, classes and publications of all kinds, talking about and, above all, creating strategy in any type of organization would not be the same. Thus, business, corporate or national strategy has been approached from his conceptual frameworks and countless elements of work and support. Strategy, clustering, competitiveness, analysis of different industries, the unique value proposition, differentiation beyond the price of redefining business models, the value chain and its multiple meanings, local and global, the relevance of Inner Cities, social progress beyond GDP, the incorporation of the Competitiveness Diamond to understand territories, clustering, localization of economic activities, co-creation of value and the new roles of companies in their commitment to society, far beyond philanthropy, the value of governments and entities facilitating interactions between the different actors of the economy, the strategic agenda for the redefinition of health systems from the conception of value-based health, the true determinants of the well-being and prosperity of a country, the correct interpretation of productivity, and the keys to a socio-economic transformation interpreting the benefits of generating local wealth and employment from innovation, technology and internationalization, applying economic and social policies, at the same time, from an essentially microeconomic perspective for true differentiation. Always demonstrating a privileged visionary capacity (worked with rigor) anticipating the different spaces of the future, clearly reflected in one of his latest contributions through the analysis, from his conceptual frameworks, of the rules of industry-diamond of competitiveness to the “industry of politics” in the United States, anticipating its deterioration and democratic decomposition, causing dual societies, between those who are part of and live in that bubble with its own rules of the game and the challenge of the affected populations, or the significant conviction of how companies that make the demands and social needs their business models, will lead the world of tomorrow.

He is the most cited professor and scholar (more than 550,000 in papers and reference books), has published 39 books in more than 20 different languages, recognized with more than 20 honorary doctorates and what he has considered his main reward, an extensive and unique network of affiliates and collaborators generating local impact throughout the world, enriching shared knowledge.

As was expressed in some of the outstanding interventions during the “discussion” of the mentioned case, “the life experience of the vast majority of those present was a kind of shared biography, since their influence on the very different jobs and responsibilities presented mutually enriched, in an extraordinary way, what was done”. Personally, I have had the privilege of knowing him, learning from him and with him, sharing all his lines of action and guidance of his different projects and contribution to academia, society and the professional field. Beyond being his student (always), studying his initial reports and teachings of the 80s, I entered the world of economic clustering and his then incipient theory of the competitive advantage of nations, published sometime later (The Competitive Advantage of Euskadi was the first complete application of a competitiveness strategy, following what was later included in his prestigious and well-known work: The Competitive Advantage of Nations). Thus, in the first Basque government of Lehendakari Ardanza, we set out to redefine a comprehensive country strategy to guide “a new economy and society” and we searched the world for first-class, truly innovative and transformative travel companions, far from the “usual planning policies” that did not satisfy our ambitions. From the audacity of proposing to him to work on the formulation of his work for a competitiveness strategy for the Basque Country, then plunged into a deep crisis (industrial, economic, political, social, psychological, of self-esteem, also hit by terrorism and the consequent burden of negative image abroad, in addition to the destruction of lives and economies). Since then, Euskadi has been accompanied, in one way or another, by Mike, by his advice, opinions, with a positive assessment, a source of communication as a reference to the outside, putting us in value as a benchmark of success, highlighting our ability and good work as a country, highlighting our ongoing commitment to take ownership of our future by building an inclusive, prosperous and competitive society, pioneering and innovative, aligned with cutting-edge ideas, establishing collaborative nodes with the main key areas of development throughout the world. Porter has always valued the work done here, our human and institutional capital and has also recognized the shared learning achieved.

In this long process, we have come a long way, finding ourselves in key pieces and initiatives: we were one of the pioneering university schools in the germ of what would later (until today) be the Microeconomics of Competitiveness Network (the ESTE-University of Deusto, today Deusto Business School, was one of its first pioneering schools to offer the course that today 132 universities worldwide teach), the basis, later, of the Basque Institute of Competitiveness-ORKESTRA, today one of the international benchmarks in the field (and which Porter chairs as Honorary President), committed to training, research and generating impact. From here, interconnecting different nodes, our country has been moving from the different specialties that have influenced the always relevant transformations promoted throughout the world of applied knowledge, entering into the visionary effort to redefine health systems and models and the concept and strategies coined in its academic and practical contribution around the Health-Based Value, the standardization of treatments and clinical and medical conditions, specialized and integral health centers and the necessary integrated practice units, the competitiveness of regions and cities, the co-creation of value and shared value, the indices of social progress, the new roles of companies in society, the local factor as an essential and differentiating element of competitiveness, the source of well-being of inclusive societies or the focused recovery of districts and cities in decline. A whole process that has contributed to reinforce the commitment to a model of human development based on solidarity and inclusiveness, which today is the clear hallmark of this country.

Therefore, celebrating Michael E. Porter is not only a matter of recognizing his legacy. It is our individual commitment that must enhance his value, for the benefit of future generations, beyond the formality or institutionalization of the networks and schools that succeed him. Porter’s teachings, his spirit, outweigh his many concrete contributions. With this legacy, we will each continue “our never-ending journey towards competitiveness and inclusive development”, facing the challenges that give rise to inequality, sustainability, growth, development, wealth and well-being. We know and will know that there will not be another Michael E. Porter. New Institutes will be configured, new frameworks and conceptual models will be generated, extraordinary professors and researchers will emerge, new communicators and new theories and relevant leaders will flourish throughout the world, generating positive impact in different countries. They will be, in any case, different. They will bring new paths to travel and new benefits and results in the service of others. But, unfortunately… it will not be the same.

Thank you, Mike, for giving us the generous opportunity to enjoy your friendship and your greatness. We will try, with great modesty, to continue your purpose, forming trainers and creating impact for our communities, trying to build, day by day, a better world.

Nations are not built by successful individuals, nor do they copy models of others, nor are they the result of various unconnected initiatives in the short term. They are the result of long journeys, decades at least, and of the shared efforts of committed societies that aspire to a better world, day by day, in the service of the common good. People and their individual contributions are relevant and provide differential value, but they require fields of cultivation, ad hoc human and institutional capital and, of course, constant work in solidarity. Yesterday, as today and tomorrow, we have lived and will live through great transformations, enormous challenges, singular difficulties and we will enjoy countless opportunities that we will have to face and, no doubt, we will be able to overcome. But the men and women who work every day of their lives to build this better world, this nation, are indispensable.