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Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Good to Great, 2) Paperback – October 26, 1994
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Drawing upon a six-year research project at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras took eighteen truly exceptional and long-lasting companies and studied each in direct comparison to one of its top competitors. They examined the companies from their very beginnings to the present day -- as start-ups, as midsize companies, and as large corporations. Throughout, the authors asked: "What makes the truly exceptional companies different from the comparison companies and what were the common practices these enduringly great companies followed throughout their history?"
Filled with hundreds of specific examples and organized into a coherent framework of practical concepts that can be applied by managers and entrepreneurs at all levels, Built to Last provides a master blueprint for building organizations that will prosper long into the 21st century and beyond.
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About the Author
Jim Collins is a student and teacher of what makes great companies tick, and a Socratic advisor to leaders in the business and social sectors. Having invested more than a quarter-century in rigorous research, he has authored or coauthored six books that have sold in total more than 10 million copies worldwide. They include Good to Great, Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall, and Great by Choice.
Driven by a relentless curiosity, Jim began his research and teaching career on the faculty at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. In 1995, he founded a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.
In addition to his work in the business sector, Jim has a passion for learning and teaching in the social sectors, including education, healthcare, government, faith-based organizations, social ventures, and cause-driven nonprofits.
In 2012 and 2013, he had the honor to serve a two-year appointment as the Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 2017, Forbes selected Jim as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds.
Jim has been an avid rock climber for more than forty years and has completed single-day ascents of El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite Valley.
Learn more about Jim and his concepts at his website, where you’ll find articles, videos, and useful tools. jimcollins.com
Jerry I. Porras is the Lane Professor of Organizational Behavior and Change, Emeritus, at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business where he served as an Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and frequent executive education teacher. He studies ways of aligning companies around their purpose and core values to produce lasting high performance.
- Publisher : Harper Business; 3rd ed. edition (October 26, 1994)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0060516402
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060516406
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.83 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #9,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #82 in Entrepreneurship (Books)
- #146 in Business Management (Books)
- #216 in Leadership & Motivation
- Customer Reviews:
About the authors
Reviewed in the United States on October 20, 2021
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According to Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, it does not matter what the company ideology is, as long as it is passionately believed by the management and employees. I find this a dubious claim, and not supported by the data. The ideological frameworks of the companies that were studied are not interchangeable, not for the trivial reason that the ideology of another company happens not to be the one believed by each of them. Boeing is unlikely to spend money on a program to cure river blindness in Africa. Why does Merck do this? Clearly, a pharmaceutical firm does well to invest in a reputation for medical generosity that flows from a passion for making people well? Merck is purchasing precisely the trust that pays-off in the medical market place. Trust reduces transaction costs, and in some cases is almost as good as a monopoly. Boeing, on the other hand, must buy a brand name attached to their dedication to engineering excellence. It does matter what companies are passionate about.
My company operates on the Internet. Our pledge includes the words: "The tragedy of the commons is the propensity of users to take more from the commons than they give. We undertake to contribute more to the commons than we take. Our presence shall make the Internet safer, more useful and greater fun." Why is this a suitable ideology for our company? The answer is not that this is one we happen to believe in, and feel passionate about - although we do. Rather, this ideology is strategically fitting. We enhance to our brand name, and therefore the value of our software, by adding our reputation to the web applications we write.
In one of our daughter businesses we are a broker of information from merchants to consumer (information about products that are available) and from consumer to merchant (we generate real time demand curves for a large range of commodities). We have pledged not to become a trader. Why? In ethical terms, we should not be a trader because our insider information would give rise to conflict of interest. The trust that we gain by not being a trader, and hence remaining a disinterested supplier of market information, enables us to broker Coasian agreements with reduced transaction costs between the parties on the Internet. The advantage is large. It is on the Internet commons that trust is scarce. We are able to purchase this by foregoing some potentially profitable trades, and that pays us more in the long term in our role as an information service provider.
Our ideology was designed to give us the greatest possible strategic advantage in our markets. That is not to say we do not believe in our ideals, but that the nature of our ideology is important. It does matter what we believe. It matters what you believe, and it matters that you understand that it matters.
I strongly recommend "The Modern Firm" by Roberts. Read this alongside "Built to Last". Roberts is a harder read, but he gets under the logic of corporate dynamics better than Collins and Porras. Because "Built to Last" is characterized by an ubiquitous analytical paucity, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras' interpretations of their data are not always correct. That is a pity. Their findings are exciting, inspiring even, and the book despite its limitations is a good read.
This is another Collins book that is a total game changer, along with Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall. It’s a classic read of brilliant proportions. Any business or organizational leader who seeks to build something that lasts and thrives long after our own tenures passed to someone else, needs to read this book. NOW!
Mr. Collins and Mr. Porras researched many companies and identified several characteristics which identify companies which are built to last a long time. The book is written in a way of discussion on concepts and characteristics which distinguish these visionary companies from the rest of the companies. By highlighting these concepts the authors provide surprising facts and insights and breaking several myths about the reasons for a company long term success.
The authors took a very interesting approach of comparing a visionary (build to last) company to a comparison company. As you read the book it seems as if the "comparison" company should be the one to last. However, after the authors provide the different approaches, characteristics and choices made by the two companies, we, the readers, are slowly coming to the realization it is the visionary companies which lasted. It is often the case the comparison companies do not even exist today.
The book was first published in 1994 and a lot has changed since then. It is interesting to note that today (2012) few of the visionary companies are performing worse than their comparison company. And over the years I have heard readers being disappointed with the selection of companies and even stated, "This book is wrong, you see, these companies were not build to last".¹
I believe the key to understand the book lessons, is not by focusing on the specific companies, but it is by observing the characteristics and concepts which define visionary companies as brilliantly described in this book.
I highly recommend the book for leaders of companies, builders of companies and all who wish to understand how a company can be built (or changed) to last.
Author of "Why do we sell low and buy high? The guide you must read BEFORE you invest"
¹ Mr. Collins researched and wrote about the cause of companies to fail in a more recent book called "How the mighty fall".
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Based on scientific research on “visionary” companies, a lot of interesting findings are formulated. I several times felt like reading thoughts which I have been (subconsciously) thinking for years, and applied professionally. What a relief the see them so nicely formulated ! Why haven’t I read this book before?
Ideas I liked most:
- Preserve the Core and Stimulate Progress: you should separate the Core Ideology (which shouldn’t change) from the drive for Progress (which can change and should never be satisfied)
- No tyranny of the OR: instead of having to choose between Continuity OR Change (for example), you should choose Continuity AND Change. The authors put it like this: “The ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain ability to function”
- Good enough never is: visionary companies always go for better, good enough (or the 80/20 rule) is not enough.