Into the Book


I generally steer clear of business books. But coming out of high-school, and trying to start up a business of my own, I decided to pick up what many consider one of the best beginning business books in the industry. I can say that after reading this, my opinion is very favorable.

Jim Collins evaluates six characteristics that can propel a business from mere average stats to true greatness. These are listed below: Level 5 Leadership, First Who…Then What, Confront the Brutal Facts, Hedgehog Concept, Culture of Discipline, and Technology Accelerators. Though all of these concepts are valuable and highly necessary to a successful business, I believe the most crucial concepts are “Level 5 Leadership” and “Hedgehog Concept.”

Level 5 Leadership is a part of Good to Great the research team found confusing. The results seemingly clashed with what businesses usually look for in a CEO. Collins writes:

Level 5 Leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, and not themselves. ~p. 39

What Collins is recognizing is that these leaders are truly good leaders: dedicated to the company, not themselves. It’s a fascinating development, and the chapter dives more in depth with contrasting these Level 5 Leaders with many CEOs in companies today.

The other concept, and the most directly applicable to my small business is what Collins terms the “Hedgehog Concept.” He gives the illustration of a fox, seeking to a attack a hedgehog by various wily plans. On being attacked, the hedgehog simply curls up into a veritable land mine. Collins then applies this concept to running a business.

Collins identifies three major areas of focus for every business: What you can be the best in the world at, what you are passionate about, and what drives your economic engine. The overlap of these three areas is what he’s termed the hedgehog concept. As others have termed it, “Putting more wood behind fewer arrows.” Basically, in this chapter Collins admonishes us to focus on where these three areas intersect, to produce products which will beat out competitors.

The other four concepts are equally interesting and applicable, but for the sake of brevity I only outlined those few which stood out to me.

The author closes with a heartening concept: these changes always happen gradually. Like tiny pushes to a giant flywheel, changes to your business build up gradually. Over time, the flywheel’s momentum carries it far further than the little pushes we give it. By following the concepts in this book, Collins leads us to push our flywheel forwards in various ways.

So. Do I recommend this book? I recommend it to a specific audience. If you are leading a small business, I highly recommend this book (For that matter, if you are leading a large business I recommend the book, but I suppose you’ve already read it). Its principles, taken from eleven of the most successful Fortune 500 companies, can help you to see what companies are doing right, and wrong, and then apply these concepts in your own business. If you’re not involved with business at all, don’t waste your time with this book.

~ Andrew J.

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Published on 3 September, 2011. Last updated on

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