Learn the key ideas of the book by Jerry I. Porras , James C. Collins

Built to Last

Habits that set visionary companies apart

As part of a 6-year study conducted at Stanford University Graduate School of Business,James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras analysed eighteen visionary companies,  measuring them against their main competitors, and asking: “"What makes the truly exceptional companies different from the companies compared and what were the common practices that these enduringly great companies followed over time?”. Built to Last is filled with examples and practical ideas that can be applied by managers and business owners of all levels, providing a blueprint as to how to build a prosperous and visionary organisation that stands the test of time.

Built to Last
Read in 18 min.
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Many useful tips to:

  • Learn the main management principles followed by visionary companies.
  • Understand how to create a successful organisation that will prosper over time.
  • Learn how to introduce change without compromising the company’s core values.
  • Find a balance between respecting fundamental values and charging forward, both professionally and personally.

The author of the book:

Jerry I. Porras is an American organisational theorist, focusing primarily on how companies can improve and maintain high levels of performance by focusing on their core values and a clear goal. He has numerous qualifications, including a BSEE from Texas Western College completed in 1960, an MBA from Cornell University, and a PhD from the University of California. He started his academic career in 1972 at Stanford University, becoming a professor at the Graduate School of Business, where he was Associate Dean from 1991 to 1994. He retired in 1988 and was nominated Lane Professor Emeritus of Organizational Behaviour and Change.

James C. “Jim” Collins is a researcher, author, speaker, and consultant on company management, growth, and sustainability. He graduated in 1980 with a degree in mathematical sciences from Stanford University, before going on to complete an MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business. It was here that his research and teaching career started, leading, in 1992 to him receiving the Distinguished Teaching Award. He has worked as a product manager for Hewlett-Packard, a senior executive at CNN International, and with several organisations within the social media industry. In 1995, he founded a management workshop in Boulder, Colorado, where he conducts research and teaches executives from companies in social media. He is author and co-author of numerous books based on his personal research, including the bestseller Good to Great. He also contributes to various publications, such as The Harvard Business Review, Business Week, and Fortune.


The characteristics of visionary companies: top notch organisation, continued success, and global impact

What makes great companies different from those around them? What are the management principles that, over time, have set these companies apart from others? The answers to these questions as provided  by Built to Last are rooted in a six-year, in-depth study during which 18 “visionary” companies (including 3M, American Express, Boeing, Hewlett Packard, Marriott, Procter & Gamble, and Walt Disney) were compared to 18 competitor companies.

One of the common traits amongst big enduring companies is the ability to consciously manage continuity and change: these companies all have a strong core identity, as well as the desire to change and adapt, but never let the latter interfere with what the company stands for. Let’s start by defining what visionary companies actually are: they are leaders in their fields, that have been operating for at least 50 years, and have experienced steady success throughout. They are admired by experts in the sector and have a long history of making a significant impact on the world.

These companies prosper over long periods of time as a result of multiple cycles of product releases and numerous generations of proactive leaders. That’s not to say that they don’t make mistakes, release products that flop, or go through hard times: what separates them from the rest is the way in which they manage setbacks. They are well consolidated and capable of learning from their mistakes and getting better.


The key ideas of "Built to Last"

The characteristics of visionary companies: top notch organisation, continued success, and global impact
Visionary companies are not the product of big ideas or great leaders
Visionary companies are founded on core value-based ideology and on a purpose that goes beyond simply making a profit
Refusal to limit your vision and the dynamic between core ideology and drive for progress
Visionary companies are never satisfied and set daring goals to drive progress
Visionary companies focus on experimentation, but working in this kind of environment is not for everyone
Visionary companies look within for new CEOs
Take-home message

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