One of our favorite business school professors, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, recently published a new book titled “MOVE: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead.” While she initially set out to write a book about leadership, as her research progressed, she could not ignore the congested roads, crumbling bridges, slow trains, and endless air traffic delays that impeded her physical progress to and from work every day.

In a recent NPR interview, Kanter noted that “it hurt her patriotic pride” when she rode on Shanghai’s super-fast and efficient subway system, and she wondered “why can’t we have trains like that in America?” Kanter elaborated during a recent interview with Jon Stewart when she noted that “crumbling” and “embarrassing” infrastructure causes the average American to spend 38 hours a year stuck in traffic, and the average American family to spend up to 20% of their household budget on transportation. While many have written about the sorry state of American Infrastructure, Kanter goes a step further. She argues that without investment, the American manufacturing economy will suffer. From a recent WSJ blog-post:

“There are many good reasons for an emerging manufacturing renaissance in America: efficiency and productivity in manufacturing through the use of technology; increasingly competitive wages; and proximity to America’s large markets…. Make or buy all that you want in the U.S., but if the transportation system doesn’t work, your business will suffer. That’s why the U.S. must address the huge problem of decaying infrastructure.”

Kanter believes that policy support from Washington, financial support from large corporations, and a vibrant infrastructure focused start-up community can drive significant progress. Her book highlights plans for an underwater tunnel in Miami intended to streamline port operations; city centers being redesigned by parking apps, bike-sharing programs, and seamless Wi-Fi networks; and dynamic highway tolls meant to reduce our dependence on outmoded gasoline taxes in an electric car age.

According to a recent book review, “It all adds up to a new vision for American mobility, where local leaders shape initiatives without waiting for Congress to act, and ambitious companies partner with governments to tackle projects that serve the public good, create jobs, and improve quality of life while providing healthy sources of investment.”

While America is a long way away from a comprehensive infrastructure overhaul, Kanter’s book offers a compelling and inspiring perspective. We’ve seen first-hand how small businesses are unduly impacted by strains in infrastructure. For instance, while a large multinational can weather delays in product shipments due to transportation bottlenecks, these inefficiencies can be catastrophic for small business cash flow. We hope that Kanter’s message will be a catalyst for our nation to jump into action. In the mean time, we will continue to look for ways to mitigate the effects of poor infrastructure on small businesses.

Wall Street Journal, HBS, Radio Boston, Move

Subscribe to Weekly Thoughts on