Accepting one challenge

In a thread elsewhere, somebody faulted me for suggesting that most Big Business Books, especially those claiming to identify The Secrets to Success through Statistical Analysis of What Works, are largely bogus…especially for not having actually read Jim Collins’ Good to Great, which, I was assured, was The Real Stuff, deeply inspirational and not to be missed.

OK, I’m paraphrasing and probably exaggerating. But…I certainly got the sense that the book would be life-changing and all that.

So I borrowed the book from the library. And read it.

Of course, it got a little odd along the way, frequently being reminded that Circuit City is one of the (only 11!) “good to great” companies assured of everlasting super-success due to its following the set of new cliches offered in the book (there has to be a Snappy Phrase for everything, of course).

Since, y’know, Circuit City is bankrupt.

I wasn’t entirely convinced that Fannie Mae was a sterling example of lasting greatness either. Since, y’know…well, Fannie Mae is a complex story.

And, yes, I’m among those who has trouble regarding a huge peddler of legal poison (lifestyle products that tend to kill their users when used as directed) as being a lasting great company.

But, hey, that’s only three out of eleven. The other eight must be prime examples and prove the theses of the book.

Hmm. One company’s agreed to pay more than $1 billion for illegal marketing. Another no longer exists, having been bought out by another company.  But hey, that still leaves six, more than half of the original group.

But the book only seems to pertain to companies that plan to plod along for 20 or more years, then take on a different path: There’s nothing to indicate that it offers lessons for companies planning to be the next Intel or Microsoft or Apple or… (and at least one of its lessons absolutely, positively rules out Apple or Microsoft!)

And as I was reading and thinking, I started hearing a little voice:

“Correlation does not equal causation.”

Overall? I’m afraid I didn’t find the book life-changing. Nor did I find it a plausible Recipe for Greatness (even if “Greatness” is defined by profitability/stock market success, which bothers me more than a little).

And, well, I think I need to read The Halo Effect.

But I will say this: The book wasn’t quite as padded as a great many Big Business Books are. And Collins is a reasonably good storyteller.

3 Responses to “Accepting one challenge”

  1. laura Says:

    Walt, however do you decide what to make into a blockquote? I’m often mystified by your use of them; I find them nearly impenetrable in this post.

    (Not having read Good to Great, I’ll refrain from comment, especially as I’m highly unlikely ever to read it).

  2. waltcrawford Says:

    A serious question that deserve a serious answer.

    Or two.

    1. Whim.

    2. On odd essays such as this one, I use blockquotes for asides…but also for, well, quotes.

    I’m sometimes mystified by my use of them too (whereas in Cites & Insights, I try to be fairly consistent). The miracle of blogging…especially five-minute posts like this one.

  3. laura Says:

    Huh. Thank you for answering. Given your interest in typography, I was wondering if they were supposed to somehow make the posts more readable. I actually find them incredibly distracting when reading, but then I also don’t like reading textbooks or a lot of magazines or anything else that has lots of little asides and boxes and headers and really anything other than straight text.


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