I had always wanted to read books about entrepreneurs and ‘how-to’ of building a business. While at grad school, in the summer of 2008, I picked up Jim Collins’ “Good to Great — Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t”. In this book, Collins starts with more than 1400 ‘Good’ companies. Then applies some criterion (beating the general stock market by more than 3X for 15 years), and comes up with a list of 11 companies, which he calls ‘Great’.
I think Jim Collins has beautifully presented his case studies, and when I first read the book, I was quite taken by all of it.
Then, a moment arrived when the world saw 3 of those 11 companies crumble down. Not just that, they were no more ‘Great’ companies, they were wiped out. For me, it was a part of learning the lesson that case studies have to be taken as tips and hints, but not as road-maps to or formula for success.
Built to Last is a very famous book. I hope that those who read it know that the examples do not prove any rule. Because there is none. You can find a counter-example of a successful company for any given CEO/Company Culture trait described in the book. For entrepreneurs, such books are still a good read if they get a kick out of it (I wouldn’t say motivation — I don’t base mine on others being successful or not successful at it). The kick comes from the feeling that ‘so many cool people are doing such cool things, and tomorrow I am going to be one of them’ — that’s about it. You feel like being a part of that large, global community, a feeling of camaraderie if you will.
Eventually I was turned away from reading more such case studies, and more towards learning some scientific, statistical, economics-, and business-related ‘hard’ techniques. A helpful book on gaining the perspective on such ‘recipes’ was ‘Fooled by Randomness’ by Nassim Taleb.
What do you guys think?