Good To Great

By: Jim Collins

Jim Collins wrote the book Good to Great and was published on October 16 2001. This book is ideal for anyone who owns or manages a business. It will emphasize what makes a firm great and show you how to improve it even further. 

Collins lays out a framework for transforming a good, average, or even mediocre business into a fantastic one. The book also contains a helpful model that ties the concepts together in a practical manner. Collin’s three main characteristics for a great firm are disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action, as outlined in this overview.

According to Collins, not all excellent company Leaders are well-known or high-profile. Indeed, these leaders have progressed through many levels. They started out as a skilled worker, then a dependable teammate, and finally a well-organized manager. They eventually become a visionary with a captivating message that people believe in, but only a small percentage of leaders reach level five. This level is designed for leaders with extreme humility and resolve. Here are several traits that successful leaders have, according to Collins.

  • Are modest and humble 
  • Prepare others for success and victory by focusing on other people’s achievements rather than their own 
  • Have extreme resolve
  • They are more concerned with the company’s goals than with their own personal advancement – Their ambition is focused on the organization and its goals, not on their own personal progression
  • They have a “ferocious resolve, an almost stoic drive to do whatever it takes to make the company great,” according to Collins.

Collins calls these people the “Level 5 Leaders”:  

A person who combines extreme personal humility with a strong professional will.

Level 5 leaders are always the first to give credit to others, and they always acknowledge the team and the work they do. When things go wrong, they assume responsibility and never blame it on “bad luck.”


The Hedgehog Paradox 

In the most basic terms, the hedgehog concept is a paradigm for creating your company’s strategy. What’s the deal with the hedgehog? Because hedgehogs, as a species, strive to reduce the complexity of the world to a single idea, principle, or concept. Instead of having a multi-faceted and confusing view, they build a basic outlook on the world by doing so. In a nutshell, hedgehogs see only the important and ignore the non-essential, according to Collins.


Collins explains that there’s these three circles that great companies based their strategies. This will help companies to have a clear and simple concept that is easy to digest and adopt. This single concept is easy to adopt and digest as well as it can guide their efforts.

The Three Circles

Jim encourages you to ask yourself the following three questions; 

  1. “What can you be the best in the world at?” 
  2. “What drives your economic engine?” 
  3. “What are you passionate about?”

You’ll know the solution if you can locate the intercepting link between these three queries.

Collins highlights a few important considerations to keep in mind when answering these questions:

  • You must have a thorough understanding of the industry and what you might potentially excel at. And you must adhere to it.
  • You may not be the best at first, but if you have the capacity to identify the potential in your business, you will eventually become the best. And you’ll know how to get there.
  • You’ll never have to work a day in your life if you follow your passion.


Disciplined Action

Create a culture

It is necessary to develop a culture in which disciplined people regularly do disciplined action, which also describes the hedgehog concept, which is a single unifying strategy or concepts. It will be easier to develop this culture if you have the right people on board.


Here’s a rundown of some of Jim’s culture-building advice:

  • Avoid bureaucracy and hierarchy; 
  • Provide flexibility and responsibility to foster a creative and hardworking culture. 
  • Make sure your employees are self-disciplined; they must also be passionate and willing to work extra hard when necessary.
  • Concentrate on the hedgehog notion; the location where the three meeting points intersect is crucial.
  • Keep a “stop doing” list to guarantee that you and others don’t waste time on things that aren’t important.
  • If something doesn’t fit into your created culture, don’t do it; don’t collaborate unless you’re both moving in the same direction for the same reasons. Don’t do any work that isn’t related.

The Good to Great Matrix

Jim’s Fly Wheel & Doom Loop

According to Jim, when you start pushing, the momentum is gradual and hard, just like a flywheel. However, the speed increases with each push, and it becomes easier and easier. Despite the fact that no more strength is required, the effect grows with each spin.


This is how businesses perceive transformations. It never happens on the first try; it takes a constant ‘pushing’ of the ‘flywheel’ to build up enough momentum to propel any business from good to outstanding.


Good leaders are the foundation of any successful company. Their qualities include being humble and modest, as well as caring more about the company’s growth than their own. Instead of giving answers, a leader engages his or her employees by asking questions. In addition, the organization must have the proper people in the right positions. Ensure that your employees are not just self-disciplined, but also passionate and eager to work extra hard when necessary.  Maintain your focus and only work on ‘relevant’ tasks. Do not accept any fluff.

About the Author

James C. “Jim” Collins (born 1958) is an American researcher, author, speaker and consultant focused on the subject of business management and company sustainability and growth.

Collins received a BS in Mathematical Sciences at Stanford University, graduating in 1980.

He then spent 18 months in McKinsey & Co.’s San Francisco office. He was exposed to what may have been an influential project for him – two partners at McKinsey, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, were running a McKinsey research project that later turned into the best-seller In Search of Excellence.

He published his first book, Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company co-authored with William C. Lazier, in 1992.

He published his first best-seller Built To Last, co-authored with Jerry Poras, in 1994.

Collins has authored or co-authored six books based on his research.

Built to Last has been a fixture on the Business Week best-seller list for more than six years, and has been translated into 25 languages.

Good to Great, “about the factors common to those few companies … to sustain remarkable success for a substantial period,” attained long-running positions on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Business Week best-seller lists, has sold over 2.5 million hardcover copies, and has been translated into 32 languages.

His most recent book is Great by Choice.

Before that he wrote How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In.

Collins frequently contributes to Harvard Business Review, Business Week, Fortune and other publications.

Source: Jim Collins From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

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Books by the Author

  • 1992: Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company by James C. Collins and William C. Lazier
  • 1994: Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras
  • 2001: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t by James C. Collins
  • 2005: Good to Great and the Social Sectors by James C. Collins
  • 2009: How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In by James C. Collins
  • 2011: Great By Choice by James C. Collins and Morten T. Hansen
  • 2019: Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great by James C. Collins

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