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Built To Last Recommendation May 27, 2009

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Organizational dynamics, strategy.
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Jim Collins has just come out with another book called How The Mighty Fall And Why Some Companies Never Give In. I’ve read excerpts in the most recent issue of Business Week, and it looks like another winner. I’m heading to the bookstore this weekend to get a copy.

I wanted to take this opportunity to praise one of his earlier books, Built To Last, written with Jerry Porras and published in 1994. This is a great book and one of my all-time favorites. I strongly recommend it to anyone who cares about business strategy.

I’m not going to use this space to go into details on the book’s revelations about successful companies. What I do want to highlight is my admiration for the authors’ methodology and disciplined research techniques. Unlike many other popular business publications, Collins and Porras did not start with a theory about what makes a great company, then using historical data and anecdotes tried to prove their case. What they did instead was generate a list of commonly-accepted successful companies (from interviews with business leaders), then a list of “control” companies. The companies in the control group were each founded at roughly the same time and doing business in roughly the same industry as its counterpart in the successful company list. Finally, they looked for characteristics that the successful companies had in common that were lacking in the control group. The suggestion is that these characteristics, found in the successful company list but missing in the control group, have something to do with success.

It’s a very elegant, scientific approach, and I find the conclusions to be much more compelling and credible as a result. Again, great book, please read it.

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