Clusters and the New Economics of Competition
In this article, Michael Porter, the C. Christensen Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, explains how clusters foster high levels of productivity and innovation and lays out the implications for competitive strategy and economic policy. Economic geography in an era of global competition poses a paradox. In theory, location should no longer be a source of competitive advantage. Open global markets, rapid transportation, and high-speed communications should allow any company to source any thing from any place at any time. But in practice, location remains central to competition. Today's economic map of the world is characterized by what Porter calls clusters: critical masses in one place of linked industries and institutions--from suppliers to universities to government agencies--that enjoy unusual competitive success in a particular field. The most famous examples are found in Silicon Valley and Hollywood, but clusters dot the world's landscape. Porter explains how clusters affect competition in three broad ways: first, by increasing the productivity of companies based in the area; second, by driving the direction and pace of innovation; and third, by stimulating the formation of new businesses within the cluster. Geographic, cultural, and institutional proximity provides companies with special access, closer relationships, better information, powerful incentives, and other advantages that are difficult to tap from a distance. The more complex, knowledge-based, and dynamic the world economy becomes, the more this is true. Competitive advantage lies increasingly in local things--knowledge, relationships, and motivation--that distant rivals cannot replicate.
- 1998 Harvard Business School Publishing - HBR
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