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Monday, November 08, 2004

Built to Last: The True Test of Timeless Companies -Part II

Jim Collins is a student of enduring great companies—how they grow, how they attain superior performance, and how good companies can become great companies. Having invested more than a decade of research into the topic, Jim has authored or co-authored four books—including the classic Built to Last, a fixture on the Business Week bestseller list for more than six years, and the New York Times bestseller, GOOD TO GREAT: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t. In this interview with Fastcompany, Jim talks about why Built to Last is not about business performance, why the list doesn't matter, and why the laws of physics will never change . In Part 1 we saw about the timeless priciples that guide the BTL & GTG companies. In the second and conclusing part, Jim elaborates these.

To a query, So could someone ever prove BTL right or wrong? Jim says, "I guess what I worry most about in our work -- my own fears. I think it's unlikely that preserve the core/stimulate progress would be overturned in 50 years, because it's such a deeply human, truthful insight about truly the way humans and systems work. I just don't think it's going to be overturned. It could be, I suppose. You could have simple enough evidence to subvert it. But I think with match-pair method and all that, I'm reasonably confident, I'd never say 100%, but reasonably confident. I'll tell you what I am worried about. I'm worried about what else we're going to discover that will make it such that what we've found so far is only 10 or 20% of the equation. I'm not scared of preserve the core/stimulate progress or Level 5 leadership from GTG being overturned. I'm scared that they're going to turn out to be so relatively insignificant compared to something we haven't discovered yet.
Is that what motivates you to keep researching new areas? - I'm motivated by two things: curiosity and impact. Curiosity means, I don't want to look under the yellow hat, like Curious George, just to prove that I'm right. I want to look under the yellow hat to see what I see. True scientific inquiry. I just love the research process. I love discovering. The other side is impact. You know, I've already had success. I'm worried more about impact long beyond my lifetime. And you know, the only ideas that ultimately have impact are the ones that are right. Coming up with ideas just to have success -- and I never started a consulting firm, I never started a business out of this stuff. Peter Drucker once asked me, so do you want to build an organization to last or do you want to build ideas to last? I said, oh clearly the second. I want to build some ideas to last. And he said, then you must not build an organization. One of my goals in life is to leave behind a few ideas and methods of ideas that last. The only way that will happen is if they're right. History wipes out those who aren't right. So, unless you grasp that that's what I'm up to, you just can't grasp all this stuff. Success has just been incidental. In fact, I wasn't even prepared for success. It's been a complete surprise. In some ways it's been nice. In some ways, though, it's actually in some ways harder to be successful. I was never prepared for the problems of success. And they're a different set of problems and I'm a neophyte in learning how to deal with them".
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