Editorial Views: Competitiveness
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have just been released. They rightfully will receive much attention and will be hugely impactful in years to come. This column is not about the Guidelines, however; it's about competitiveness.
I recently was listening to a CNBC news interview of Michael Porter, professor, Harvard Business School, who was introduced as a "competition and strategy guru." Indeed, I still have one of my favorite business articles, "What is Strategy?" which Porter wrote for the November-December 1996 issue of Harvard Business Review.
In it, he starts by writing, "Companies must be flexible to respond rapidly to competitive and market changes." He says operational effectiveness is essential for superior performance, but not sufficient (for business success); a company can outperform rivals, only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve; and "strategic positions can be based on customers' needs, customers' accessibility, or the variety of a company's products or services."
In his CNBC segment titled, "U.S. Competitiveness Problem?" he suggests our nation's fundamental issue is competitiveness, not creating jobs or the budget deficit. "You can't create jobs...[and] you can't ultimately deal with the budget deficit unless you are competitive."
Although Porter has been feeling better about America's competitiveness, he said "business as usual" no longer works. It is too simplistic to think that if a company makes a profit, that is a good enough contribution to society. Some of the biggest market opportunities come when companies take on profound issues of the day, he said.
He was challenged to clarify what he meant. Porter had used the food industry as an example of what he was trying to say.
"For decades, the [food industry's] goal was to get consumers to eat as much as possible; to fill foods with sugar and salt, so products would be liked," he said. Now, companies are thinking about nutrition. "It's a different way [to make a profit] that's also aligned with social needs."
Prepared Foods' E-dition feature, "Analyzing the Guidelines," by Steven Steinborn (on www.PreparedFoods.com), provides an overview of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. I firmly believe there's an important role for truly indulgent products in a healthy diet. However, the Guidelines also can be viewed as an outline of formulation challenges that open marketplace opportunities, or as a way to achieve "profits, but with a purpose."
I guess this column is about the Guidelines, after all.pf