This week Harvard Business School issued its third annual survey of how its alums view American competitiveness. In a nutshell they are still pessimistic but not as pessimistic as one or two years ago. Alums working in large companies were more optimistic than those in small companies.
What do they think is going well? They speak fondly of universities, entrepreneurship, firm management (a little self-serving?), innovation, capital markets, and property rights. They speak less fondly of K-12 education, regulation, tax code, and the political system.
A strong theme that emerged from the survey was that although businesses are doing well (hello S&P 500 at 2000), most households have yet to share in the recovery. In addition to shoring up K-12, the report points to the need for businesses to rethink their hiring processes and to invest more in training. One point I particularly liked is the need to stop talking about labor markets in the aggregate and a need to focus at more micro levels, such as workers in a particular occupation, industry and location.
If you are not up for the full report, you might find this Fortune interview with one of the lead authors Michael Porter worthwhile. I was actually one of Porter's first graduate students at Harvard all too many years ago.
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